The Department for Transport has provided £60k to fund a consultation process aimed at devising an overarching marketing strategy for cycling. The eventual marketing plan will include input from all cycle groups and organisations and is being coordinated by Circus, the London communications agency that created Floodline for the Environment Agency, a service with 85 percent public awareness in the UK. If the project won commercial sponsorship, the DFT might stump up a serious amount of cash by way of support.

Cycling to get a Floodline-type marketing makeover

The Flood awareness campaign has been developed by Circus from 1998 and has been hugely successful in putting flood risk on the national agenda and making the issue relevant locally to people at risk. The Floodline logo is typographic design at its very best, and it came with a strapline: "Flooding. You can’t prevent it, you can prepare for it”, which has evolved into “Be prepared for flooding.”

Of the 15 people who work at Circus, four are cyclists and they are keen to work on a campaign to raise awareness of cycling in the UK. Now the agency has three months in which to work its magic. The ‘encourage cycling’ project was commissioned by the national cycle strategy board (NCSB) and will be part funded by the Department for Transport.

Phillip Darnton, executive chairman of Raleigh through until April, has an industry and consumer marketing role on the NCSB and he was already seeking to appoint a marketing agency when "by coincidence, or what today is known as synchronicity, Circus contacted me first, saying they had some good ideas for promoting cycling," said Darnton.

He’s keen to stress that the overarching marketing plan will be inclusive and will not throw the baby out with the bathwater:

"This project won’t step on anybody’s toes. The marketing plan will create a core thought that all cycle groups and organisations will be able to get behind. There’s a great chance for unity here.

"We won’t be ignoring the enormous amount of good work that’s gone before us, we just want to stitch it all together."

Groups and organisations to have offered their support and encouragement to the project so far include Sustrans, British Cycling, CTC, the National Byway and the ACT. The Bicycle Association will be updated on the project at a meeting on February 26th. Halfords is also in the loop.

Bike Week’s Nick Harvey has promised to incorporate the project’s key messages in this year’s Bike Week publicity materials.

Should the Bicycle Association be successful in resurrecting the levy, some of the cash raised could perhaps go to the marketing cycling project, which could lever further cash from the Department of Transport.

The overall aim of the initiative will be to develop marketing programmes, which reinforce, co-ordinate and publicise the joys and benefits of getting about on bicycles, acknowledging that cycling is appropriate to different audiences in different ways.

There’s no shortage of positive vibes emanating from the disparate world of cycling but, says Andrew Croasdale of Circus, consumers would benefit from coherent key messages and knowing where to find information about cycling.

Circus plans to bring together some key core messages, look closely at schools and skills development, and investigate the role of a web-portal for cycling.

The four key elements of the plan will be presented at the National Cycle Forum meeting at the DfT in London on March 11th, at which all the major ‘partners’ in the project will be represented.

Darnton said: "This will not be a fancy, research-led strategic exercise, taking years to come up with a proposal. It is a concerted three month effort to show the NCSB members, the Department for Transport and influential commercial sponsors, just what can be achieved by marketing cycling."

Darnton is not paid for his work on the project; he’s doing it because it’s a "challenge".

"We have a chance to create a real sense of common purpose throughout the whole cycling community. Everyone we’ve spoken to so far says they want it – and the sooner the better. Now, thanks to the Department for Transport’s help, we’ve got the chance to do it."

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