The former Future COO tells all about the foundation of international media company Shift, boasting a list of top-name cycle clients

INTERVIEW: Simon Wear, Shift Active Media

Checked your phone lately? Maybe you looked at Twitter or Facebook? Or did you browse the net for news or check your email?

The media landscape and how messages reach people has broadened so drastically now that getting your message out to your customer is simultaneously easier and harder at the same time. Which is where the likes of Shift Active Media comes in.

“It is a challenge, the amount of media connections someone has in one day,” Simon Wear, CEO and founder of Shift Active Media explains to BikeBiz. “The number of times a normal human is hit with communication is exponentially higher than ever. For the bike industry the challenge is to get hold of a consumer’s attention and hold it.

“Part of the reason Shift Active Media is here is to improve the quality of those communications so there is a better chance of binding ourselves more tightly to those individuals. And keeping them hooked.”

Back to the Future
Simon Wear set up Shift after a high-flying career with Future that saw him work up to the role of chief operating officer. 

“I was always a hobbiest cyclist and loved the sport,” he explains. “I felt I’d like to get into media so started doing commercial photography, but I didn’t enjoy it. The other thing I loved was magazines…”

Wear spotted an advert in the Evening Post to work on the launch of Cycling Plus and so joined Future in April 1992. Wear moved up the ladder and into roles that took him away from cycling: “I became a media professional rather than a cycle enthusiast. I think Future make some brilliant magazines and Chris Anderson [Future founder] was so inspirational – he was my mentor. I love specialist media as you are communicating with people that really love something and had taken years to form a deep relationship with, unlike on say FHM where it’s more of a transient relationship.”

Wear’s journey with Future saw him go on to set up licenses overseas before becoming COO – a corporate role that saw him develop “a yearning to get back to the creative end of things”. Wear left in September 2010 and after being regularly asked for advice on how to deal with digital and social media, Shift was born.
“If you go back to the ‘90s marketing was a lot simpler for a bike company – you did a couple of trade shows, took an ad in the press, did some sponsorship…and it was very national. I thought that we had an experience around communication and knowledge of international media and business and had the opportunity to create a different kind of company that was complimentary to what Future, IPC, and all the rest were doing. A proper marketing communications agency that had an absolute laser focus on cycling.”

Shift got off to a flying start with some premium brands, including Colnago, fi’zi:k, FSA, Santini and Orange MTBs. “I’ll be always incredibly grateful and privileged to represent those companies. I guess we had a reputation as serious business people and those companies believed in us enough that we’d do a good job for them right from the start. Their support allowed us to build a team of experts.”

To start with, Shift was just Simon Wear (“I was literally sat at my kitchen table”) then a couple of fellow ex-Future heads – Peter Stothard and Manolo Bertocchi – joined once they’d got some business and finances to put people in place. “Those guys are incredibly experienced internationally and across different areas. Then it was about building a team of people with specific skill sets.

“Everyone in the building rides a bike and loves cycling – I think that is important, but we are media professionals first. And the business has just really evolved.”

Shift is an international company with staffers that speak Italian, Spanish, German, French…and English. “We all know the business has become more international over the past ten years. Websites don’t have barriers.” Speaking of which, Shift’s own site is getting a revamp in the near future.

Through its knowledge of the market Shift has created marketing appropriate for the brand, like a website for Colnago that emphasises the brand’s heritage. Shift doesn’t just create a website and hand it over either, Wear clarifies: “We have a joined up solution. Every client is different; for some we do their media buying, but for others we do everything including designing packaging.”

The Shift boss admits the firm occasionally takes its clients on an uncomfortable journey: “What does your brand mean? That’s a starting point for us. If we don’t understand what they’re trying to achieve then everything ends up in different directions, all their distributors deliver slightly different versions of the brand… The modern media world is international, you have to do things in a comprehensive professional way, so the website looks like the brochure, which looks like the packaging…the brand values have to go all the way through.

“I could be wrong, but I don’t think there is a specialist offering in the bike business that goes to this kind of level of offering.”

Proudest moment at Shift? “I think I’m most proud of the people who have come to work here. There’s an amazing energy here and we have a breadth of great, talented specialist people. Shift wouldn’t be anything without them. 

“I’m proud of our clients too – we won’t represent companies that we don’t think are good companies and believe in. We need to believe we can add value to that brand. It’s not about the money. We’re not doing this to get rich – it is the bike business!”

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