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Women and cycling – 2016 marketing I love

I’m always interested in how women are portrayed in cycling media, and I talk about the bad, of course, but also the good – and I was already collecting examples of great advertising, when this popped up in my twitter-stream:

This is such an amazing move!  For years, the ‘Assos Girls’ – topless models wearing bibshorts and caressing their boobs, jerseys allegedly advertised to women with a woman on her knees in stilettos and spray-on PVC leggings (check out the 2nd photo here, and read the post, it’s hilarious!) have been an embarrassment to cycling for years.  My post about the Assos Girl, and cycling companies who market well to women has had one of the biggest number of hits since I posted it in 2013 (despite all the pictures having disappeared because they’re all gone from the sites now).  So of course I immediately clicked through to the Ella Cycling Tips article to see what’s going on – and I loved the quotes from the new Assos CEO Phil Duff, including:

“Yes, I am quite painfully aware of how Assos has portrayed women in the past,” said Duff, who had been an Assos customer himself since its founding days.  “Not only do I know that from the market place, but in my first few weeks of getting involved with the Assos, I’d come home every night and my wife would say, ‘when the hell are you getting the naked women off their website?’”


“There are some things that are changing, particularly with respect to the customer-facing side of this company, one of which is that everyone here is now fully on board that we are now going to portray women the same way we portray men –as athletes,”

So hooray, Assos is now off my personal blacklist!  Their site is completely down, in development, but you can sign up to get notified when they’re back.

And one other good thing to celebrate?  It’s clear from Duff’s comments, and the comments from USA Cycling about their relationship with the company, that public opinion played a big part in this too – so when we see terrible advertising (‘I hate Jeffsy‘, #Sockgate, Six Six One’s kneepad imagery, the Maxxis calendar, to name some recent examples), talking, writing and tweeting about it may not have an immediate effect, but it does help effect change – isn’t that great to know?

So, onwards to more good that I’ve seen so far this year.  I’ve talked about these in podcasts and elsewhere on the site, but they’re so good, they deserve to be celebrated.  As always, if you’ve got 2016 examples of cycling marketing featuring women, please do share with me, in the comments, on twitter or on tumblr, and I’ll put up a second post.  And as usual, I get no benefits, incentives or rewards for talking about these – it’s just things I personally like.

Liv Cycling’s #ActuallyICan

The most recent advert I loved was from Liv Cycling, part of their #ActuallyICan campaign.  In my defense, I was feeling ill when I saw it, but it really did give me a lump in my throat – the moment when the cyclist stopped, looking exhausted, and then carried on.  It sounds so cheesy, but done so well.  I love the different kinds of women, and the way it shows what’s awesome about achieving in sport.

Digging into the campaign site, it’s full of amazing stories about how cycling can change lives, from the Afghan Cycling team to helping get through cancer, and things like learning MTB skills.

I’ve always liked Liv’s website, from  using the Rabo-liv team in their films and ads, to this essay on how cycling helped Meg Valliant get through post-natal depression, but this is great.  They’re also inviting women to tell their own #ActuallyICan story, with monthly prizes, so if you’d like to get involved, click that link and you could win a bike.


Adidas StellaSport

I always remember Adidas’ #MyGirls campaign as total genius, and every now and then I go back to the ads when I’m feeling blue, they’re just delightful.  And this year they have a new campaign, for their StellaSport range, including a Tumblr, which includes a whole subsection, On-and off-track with cycling’s coolest girl gang, featuring the Velociposse club.  I love that they talk about the community, and how easy it is to get involved, so it makes cycling seem accessible and friendly.  It’s bright and young, and I’m not the target audience, but it still made me smile.


In a very different vibe…

SealSkinz’ #IAmEndurance campaign

SealSkinz sell various waterproof, breathable endurance clothing and accessories, and they have an Ambassador programme, which lead to their #IAmEndurance series of film-ettes about people who use their stuff – not marketing it, just featuring it in the background of their stories about what sport means to them – Sandy Plenty talking about how MTB helped him overcome illness, Claire Steel on her passion for duathlon – and this, with Traharn Chidley telling us about how MTB and fell-running helped her overcome domestic abuse.

It’s so powerful to me, that thing about how sport can help with bigger things, and her strength and bravery shine through.   The film has got a ton of recognition, and is currently short-listed for a Women’s Sports Trust #BeAGameChanger award in the Imagery of the Year category – they’re decided by public vote, so if you like that, please do click through and vote for them before 1st May.  You can read more of Traharn’s story (and get support if you need it) here.


Specialized Riprock Rippers

It’s not technically “women’s cycling”, but the Specialized ad for their kids Riprock MTBs is full of happy little girls getting onto the trails, and I adore it!  If I had a daughter or a niece, I’d be running out to buy them one right now, and I’d probably end up starting to mountain bike myself, so I could get her into it – it really made me smile


Finally, not videos, and not specific to 2016, but two cycling clothing companies that always make me smile.  I talk a lot about Velocio.cc, founded by women’s racing legend Kristy Scrymgeour, and especially their bike kit collaborations with Helen Wyman and Tiffany Cromwell.  It’s awesome from top to bottom, and I love their imagery, and especially anything that involves current and former pro riders.

And I’ve always loved the Vulpine.cc marketing, and the way the women’s range is front and centre.  They’ve grown so much, in such a short time, but that’s always stayed the same.  And their 2016 Spring/Summer Lookbook for their Hoy range just made me smile so much – it’s silly, and fun, and I’m grinning back at them all – which is basically my idea of perfect marketing!


UPDATE!   I saw this after I posted, but this little promo, of Go-Where Scotland MTB holidays, really made me want to ride in Scotland.  Well, that’s do it’s job right, of course, but what I like about it is the promo’s made by Juliana Bicycles, who, like the Sealskinz ad, don’t actually name their product, they just show it in action.

And I just want to make a note about how cool it is that so many of these are including women who aren’t just white.  Of course, if you ride leader isn’t white, that’s going to happen – but so much cycling marketing is completely whitewashed, so it’s awesome that so many of these don’t play that game.  I know marketing is aiming to sell me things, but it’s also the billboards of cycling, and demonstrating that everyone rides, not just the white MAMILs, or young white hipster men, makes cycling a happier place.


Shout-outs to the awesome cycling women of twitter who I talk about cycling and marketing with, including (but not limited to!) Adele Mitchell, Alice Staniford, Amanda Batty, Chris Garrison and Hannah Dobson, and who I saw some of this through, or chatted about it with.  They’re all awesome, follow them!  And apologies to anyone I’ve missed off the list, it’s all my fault.

If I’ve missed anything that’s happened this year, please do share it – and as the year goes on, I always love it when people send me things that make them smile.  You can always find me here, and on twitter.

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