Whether you think the print ads are sexy or sexist, Universal's promotional campaign for Muddy Fox is sure to be a talking point. And it's good to see a mass-market player spending serious cash on the marketing of what, let's not forget, was the first MTB 'brand' in the UK

Universal to spend £500k on Muddy Fox relaunch

In the mid-80s, Drew Lawson and Ari Hadjipetrou founded what was to become Muddy Fox during a card game in an ex-pats bar in Saudi Arabia.

Lawson was the marketing brains, creating memorable print ads (Jaqui Phelan’s naked back with pawprints, and the bike-on-a-shimmering-lake ad) as well as a short-lived TV advertising campaign.

He’s now a bar owner in Fuerteventura. Hadjipetrou, of course, operates Welsh contract assember, Citi Cycles of Bangor.

Muddy Fox itself has been through numerous hands.

When Universal bought Muddy Fox in March 2001, the word on the street was that the Essex company would, to coin a phrase, shag the brand. It didn’t.

And now Universal MD Gavin Marksheffel is relaunching the brand – still IBD only – with a £500 000 package of print ads, PoS and a cable-channel-through-cinema film advert.

The print ads are very different to the TV treatment. Muddy Fox get some skimpily-dressed Marzocchi-type ‘girls’: Charlie and Vikki.

Charlie is a ‘page three girl’. Vikki will soon be seen on Spy TV, a BBC hidden camera show fronted by Ian Wright.

The ‘Muddy Fox’ girls are available for IBD open days and star in raunchy/bad taste ads (delete as appropiate) with unsubtle headlines such as ‘Do you want to go down on me?’

These ads will start to appear in the usual lad’s mags (Loaded, FHM, MBUK) from the end of March onwards.

The raunchy/bad taste theme is not carried over to the 30-second TV ad. This, instead, is a thrilling chase: a fox-hunter is seen being run to ground by a a bunch of never-really-seen MTBers. This is in much more keeping with the original Muddy Fox promotional ethos.

No doubt Universal will be able to test which promotional strategy works best for the target market.

Yet whilst the marketing is all testerone-fuelled, the new range is not all full-suspension MTBs. There are road bike and trekking bikes in the 27-model range. The white road bike could very well appeal to thirtysomething owners of mid-1980s white Muddy Fox Couriers, the bike that pretty much brought MTBing to the masses.

And Gavin Marksheffel is hoping the £500k he’s splashing out on the Muddy Fox relaunch will catapult the brand to the front of the queue once again.

"We’re bucking the trend," he said at last week’s product launch at the Harrogate show.

"There’s not much money being put into promoting cycling. This campaign will get noticed."

In other news...

ACT calls for united front in demanding changes to how Cycle to Work is implemented

The Association of Cycle Traders (ACT) has been approached by a large volume of cycle …