Doing the same. Expecting a different result…

In this day and age sports tend to have some kind of pathway from grass roots to global superstardom. In an ideal world that pathway looks like a smoothly paved superhighway, purpose built to get the talent from where it is to where it needs to go. When it comes to cycling, here in the uk at least, our pathway resembles more one of those rickety rope bridges found in scooby doo. Many of the steps are missing, some fragile, some broken. It hangs together as a whole but it could collapse at any time.

Anyway, enough of the analogies.

British cycling (note the lower case c folks) is having a bit of a moment currently (in terms of mens road racing at least) with a number of familiar teams from recent years disappearing. There’s plenty of opinion right now about how to go about raising the money to rescue the sport.

It’s time to stop doing that.

The sport keeps repeating a cycle of growth and collapse, it’s been going on since forever, more likely because the model is wrong than because no-one has asked the right people to sign a cheque yet.

If there was underpriced attention available by sponsoring cycling in the UK, sponsors would be swarming over the sport, but there isn’t, and they’re not. Think about that – cycling is expensive and it isn’t delivering returns in line with what it costs.

So rather than add to the pile of ideas about how to make the pig fly. Here’s an idea, how about we build a different model for the sport.

Here’s my idea:

Professional Cycling Clubs

Yep, clubs not teams.

A set number of clubs (call em franchises if you want to be posh), each with a defined regional area (like a British Cycling Region perhaps?) and a responsibility to run a set number of days of racing per year. Each club has a team that participates in the (men’s and women’s) races they organise.

Professional Cycling Clubs could sit above traditional amateur clubs, span greater geographical areas and operate with a clear remit – to provide a tier of teams and events that are the basis of the domestic sport for men and women.

By representing and harnessing the collective interest of a greater area, professional clubs could attract a larger membership who would also be the fanbase of the professional team. Each club has a database of members that’s big enough to matter to a sponsor and the scale to employ people to run events, teams and raise sponsorship. Being a club would encourage it to retain resources from year to year rather than spending everything it has in the knowledge it has a finite lifespan.

By linking the teams and the events, the fortunes of one becomes intrinsically linked to the other. If lots of sponsors want teams, they’re bound into the delivery of the calendar they’re going to race.

The other half of marketing:

Sometimes it’s really hard to describe what you do….then:

…then someone comes along and writes a really nice, concise, humorous piece about the things that you consider yourself to be good at and you go ‘aha, so that is an actual thing and people make a living from it!’

To read the full article by Margo Aaron click here.

But if you don’t have time or don’t want to tear yourself away, here’s the highlights:

  • There’s another side to marketing
  • doesn’t have a road map. It’s a sloppy messy series of things you do that may not work.
  • You need to learn people. Study people. Pay attention to people
  • You’ve been asking, “How do we market this?” – The real question is: “Who is this for? And why should they care?”

If that’s the bit of marketing you’re struggling with. Get in touch.

Take a good look at Norm and decide if you like him.

“Let’s get things back to normal”, I bet you’ve heard it said and I bet you’ve said it yourself once or twice over time.

Normal feels like a perfectly, er, normal thing to crave, it means familiar and familiar is, we like to think, preferable to unfamiliar, unexpected, unforeseen and lots of other un’s too.

But just because somthing happens all the time (and is therefore normal), it’s not exempt from being dysfunctional, inefficient, damaging. Do anything often enough and it becomes normal.

So, next time you find yourself longing for things to get back to normal, give some thought to what kind of normal got you here in the first place and ask yourself if it might be time to show norm the door.

Go ahead, drop the ball.

I was a pretty obedient student at primary school, unremarkable in lots of ways but the sort of kid you could leave holding a compass without anyone getting stabbed.

I vividly remember one occasion though where I disappointed my teacher and its stuck with me ever since, not least because I’ve found myself repeating it (or if I’m good, about to repeat it and stopping myself) a few times in the 30 or so years that have since elapsed.

Here’s the scene: We, a small group including myself wanted to kick a ball around but didn’t have one, so we asked the teacher in charge of the store cupboard to loan us one. To our surprise our request got a positive response and off we trotted, ball in hand.

Thing is, the ball never got played with over that long dinner hour because we couldn’t find a place where we could play that didn’t have other kids in it who might steal the ball or even just want to join in, diluting our small group’s fun and enjoyment.

Before you know it, the bell is rung and it’s time to go back to class where the teacher who has been watching our comical prevarications takes the ball back and tells us we won’t be borrowing one again.

The lesson, better to have the joy of kicking the ball and seeing what happens next than to hold on tight with the certainty that nothing interesting is going to happen anytime soon.

So go ahead, drop the ball once in a while.

Slowing down not taking off?

Business has slowed down, maybe even stalled completely, what do you do?

“We need a rebrand” shouts the marketeer, “a publicity stunt” says the PR bod, “new website” says the techie. Perhaps they’re all right, perhaps not, but if you go and ask a brand agency, they’ll gladly do that rebrand and the PR agency will pitch stunts and stories to you till the cows come home. For the plane to take off it might need more thrust or less baggage. Or perhaps it needs to turnaround and take advantage of the prevailing wind. Each comes with its own set of choices and in the day to day running of our businesses its easy just to keep pushing the throttle.

So perhaps you’ve missed something and maybe I can help you see it. That’s what Leadout does.