Whether you’re an avid outdoorsman, corporate exec, young professional or an emerging twenty-something like me trying to find your way; chances are pretty good that you’ve heard about NYC’s bike sharing program: Citi Bike. Media outlets like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and HuffPo, and audiences on Facebook and Twitter, have been validating and scrutinizing Citi Bike’s arrival to the Big Apple.
New Yorkers won’t accept Citi Bike… Citi Bike’s here to stay. Citi Bike won’t have enough riders to make the program worthwhile… early Citi Bike passes have already sold out. Citi Bike’s saving the planet… it’s leading to New York’s demise. Citi Bike, Citi Bike, Citi Bike. And when you hear Citi Bike, you’re hearing Citibank, the program’s key financial sponsor.
That’s right. When New Yorkers and tourists hop on the blue two-wheelers and head down Broadway, they’re doing more than riding a bike; they’re actively strengthening a brand by becoming a mobile advertisement.
In today’s society, where sustainable activities are becoming increasingly popular, bike shares allow residents and visitors in urban areas to access alternative, eco-friendly, quick and easy transportation. Likewise, these same programs are becoming an increasingly popular way for forward-thinking brands to generate more attention.
More and more of you see banks, corporations, universities and non-profits sponsoring bike sharing programs in developed urban areas throughout the country. Even hotels, such as Starwood’s Element Hotels, are offering bikes to their guests as a part of their Bikes-to-Borrow campaign. The hotel is not only providing a quick and easy mode of alternative transportation to their eco-loving patrons, but also introducing a fleet of mobile advertisements that allow the hotel’s name to reach all corners of an urban area.
So, the decision to sponsor a bike share should be pretty simple, right?
Businesses are given the opportunity, for a fee of course, to purchase a fleet of bikes, develop specialized “bike parking depots,” and then advertise that they are offering such a service. Though the preliminary expenses may appear daunting to a fledgling brand trying to market itself in an urban area full of distractions, the benefits can greatly outweigh the cost.
Recent studies have shown that the majority of bike share participants are millennials. You know, the young people who are willing to pay a fee to ride a bike during their commute before they support buses and taxi services that add to congested city traffic while emitting who-knows-what into our air supply. They, along with their trendsetting, early-adopting friends and co-workers, are riding these bikes to bars, restaurants, parks, concerts and the office with ease. The more people that see the bikes, the more people ride the bikes. And the more people that ride the bikes, the more people introduced to your brand.
In addition to getting their brands out to a large audience, the sponsors who choose to support bike shares enjoy particular financial benefits in the end. For example, Citi Bike, despite its mixed reviews at start, has sold 10,000 memberships, put its corporate logo on over five hundred Citi Bike depots and generated countless hours of earned media mentions and exposure.
Recent studies show that a brand sponsoring even the smallest of bike share programs in a metropolitan area could equate the sponsorship opportunities to a total of $2.8 million in annual media value. Some may say that those numbers alone make sponsoring a bike share a no-brainer, and we tend to agree.
Andrea Learned, an urban bike enthusiast, marketing professional and sustainability communications strategist, sums it up best.
Learned says, “Branding your corporation through bike share (or sponsoring bike events) these days is a powerful way to reflect awareness of what is hip and what is smart, without having to put out a press release about how hip and smart your brand is.”