Breaking free: four bike brands using content to get ahead of the peloton

Content is a powerful positioning tool for brands that want to stand out. Here, we look at the way bike brands use content to target different sectors of the market; the everyman, the aspirant, the traditionalist and the elite.

Rapha – content for the aspirant

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Rapha has been the dominant force in cycling-related content for years – its huge range of channels means it can be nearly all things to pretty much everyone. As long as their wallet matches their ambition.

The brand has been criticised for the prohibitive costs (to some) of its gear and Rapha is often characterised by snarkier riders as ‘nice but pricey’. This does nothing to diminish the brand’s appeal to its core consumer though – the well-paid professional with a passion for the finer things.

Rapha’s site is bursting at the seams with high-quality content, often leveraging the brand’s association with British cycling team Team Sky or simply exploring the sport’s rich heritage. Content is grouped largely under three strands; ‘Stories’, which are essentially long-form features; ‘Films’, where the brand posts both product-driven seasonal range videos and richer, less sales-focused shorts (see below); and finally ‘Blogs’, which are fairly self-explanatory.

In Rouleur, Rapha also created a truly impressive case study on the power of brand content to become recognised as a brand in its own right. The glossy printed magazine was so popular with affluent riders that it became an editorially independent media entity in its own right, sitting alongside other newsstand titles.

What consistently comes through in all of the brand’s content is the focus on quality, whether it’s Tiziano Zullo explaining on camera the painstaking efforts he puts into building every frame, or Rapha founder Simon Mottram trailing the years main product releases and explaining the story behind each in the ‘Stories’ section. This fixation on quality and detail is what justifies the hefty price tag, and speaks to the aspiring pro in each of us.

You can read more about Rapha’s content here.

Hoy Bikes – content for the everyman

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The popularity of cycling is booming and more people than ever are interested in the sport, with those who might not previously have considered getting on their bikes coming round to the ‘la vie à velo’. However, as a result of cycling’s (until recently) very niche appeal there are a whole raft of technical specifications and jargon to catch out the interested newcomer.

In a sub-culture where the initiated use phrases like Campag shifters, derailleurs and MAMILs with careless ease, becoming a cyclist is a daunting prospect. That’s where Hoy Bikes comes in, offering quality performance at reasonable prices, all backed up by a name that even the least-interested cycling fan will recognise and trust. Here’s Sir Chris introducing the brand and explaining his reasons for working with Evans (which has the exclusive right to distribute Hoy Bikes products).

It’s the Hoy name that is leveraged time and again in the brand’s content, both through its digital channels and through features in newsstand titles. Here’s his Knightliness talking to Cycling Weekly about the new line.

The launch of the brand also saw a nationwide events tour where Hoy introduced the products to packed out Evans stores up and down the country. The events were free-to-attend and booked up pretty much instantly (we couldn’t get a ticket for any of the London ones) – a clear indicator of what a draw Sir Chris is for pedalling punters.

At a time when more people are taking up the sport than ever before, Hoy Bikes is proving accessibility is everything.

Brooks England – content for the traditionalist

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Founded in 1866, Brooks England has a proud pedigree in British cycling and uses its heritage effectively to convey enduring quality. As a result Brooks is seen as the de facto saddle and accessory choice for more casual or touring cyclists.

The Brooks website is what we in the trade refer to as ‘content rich’, with several different strands comprising features, films and photos. The content covers Brooks products, cycling craftsmanship and the sport as a whole. All of it is deeply rooted in the brand’s historic lineage, backing up that promise of quality developed over time.

This film looks at a typically ‘Brooks-y’ event, the Retro Ronde in Flanders, an event which blends the sartorial style of the early 20th century with a deep passion for cycling’s Spring Classics. On its YouTube channel Brooks has also uploaded films about L’Eroica and the Tweed Run, two more bike events with a distinctly vintage-bent.

Then of course there are the words to go with all those dancing pictures.  As well as an email newsletter and a couple of blogs, Brooks also produces an annual magazine every December called The Brooks Bugle, which reviews the year just past and looks ahead to the next. You can read the back issues on Issuu here.

(Our editorial director, as a cynical ex-hack, insisted we point out that while the Bugle looks on the surface like a great publication, the writing and editing is often patchy – but we aren’t going to let that spoil an otherwise jolly good showing from the brand)

What draws all Brooks England’s content together is the reassuring weight of more than 100 years of experience, clearly conveyed in each piece of content it produces.

Neil Pryde – content for the elitist

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Deep down we all love going really fast on a bicycle. Whether you’re dropping another racer on a Cat 3 climb, or simply gunning past a tourist on a Boris bike, it feels good to go fast!

Aiming to appeal to the speed demon in all of us is Neil Pryde, a high-performance bike manufacturer that places a firm emphasis on top quality precision engineering, with content that backs up that promise.

Especially enjoyable for fans of road racing are the brand’s behind-the-scenes videos of the UnitedHealthCare pro team, who all ride NeilPryde machines. Here we get the rarely seen ‘team car’s eye view’ of things as riders in the Tour de San Luis swelter their way up a serious climb. We think the video would work better with a running narration rather than the on-screen captions, but you can’t have everything. Unless you’re Rapha (see ‘the Aspirant’).

With content that lets us see into the world of the professional bike rider, Neil Pryde lets us all believe we could turn pro one day.

Finding your brand’s niche

Whether your brand is related to cycling or not,  when it comes to content the most important element of your strategy is to find a niche, or voice, tied to your brand’s customer base. Doing this will ensure both consistency and distinction and help you on the way to a podium finish.

Which are you, aspirant, everyman, traditionalist or elitist? Tell us in the comments below.

Author: Tom Owen

A strategic storyteller and compelling content creator, awash with acuity and adept at alliteration. I work for Speak Media.

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