Volvo – a mountain biking ‘partner’
21 September 2016
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Hello and welcome to another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast. Thanks for downloading, I’m Gerald de Kock. As ever, it’s mountain biking that we’re talking about, people who are passionate about it, people who have an interest in it. Who take part, who get involved for all manner of reasons. I suppose one of the primary reasons is that it’s such a popular sport and it is attracting such attention from a wide variety of South Africans and participation is what it’s all about.
One of the areas of growth is events and one of the reasons for that is that there’s a great interest in people taking part in those events and therefore great interest from people wanting to get involved at those events from a sponsorship perspective. A relatively new participant in sponsorship in mountain biking is Volvo South Africa and Michelle Naude, Marketing Director from Volvo SA is here with me now. Michelle, tell me how Volvo are going to get involved in mountain biking?
Michelle Naude: Thanks Gerald, hi. Let’s start at the beginning. We love people. At Volvo things work like this: We start with people, we end with people and we are the most human centric brand. If you do that, this interaction that you’ve just mentioned of us touching and interacting with cyclists is then something that we just simply have to do.
Because we are, in my opinion, one of the most perfect enablers of the lifestyle, with the range of cars that we offer and also the cyclist detection that we offer in our cars. Makes us one of the unique, I suppose, participants or partners in cycling. Is that we are protecting cyclists, which I don’t think many brands can say.
GDK: We’ll get to that, but let’s just first get to what it is that you’re going to be involved with in mountain biking, what events?
What Volvo is backing at this stage
MN: We have decided and we’ve chosen very carefully. Because as a brand, Volvo does things in a bit of a different way. We do it our way. We were looking for credible partners. The two partners that we chose were very specific. Berg & Bush, because of how they do the event, the ethos of the event and what they offer in the event.
Then secondly the TransCape which is luxury, I suppose, epitomised, in the cycling world. Those are the two entities that we’ve started to partner with. But that’s not the only partnership we’ve got. We also have a partnership with TREAD Magazine where we are sponsoring their skills clinics.
GDK: What will your involvement in both the events be? Are you going to be the full naming sponsor? How are you involved there?
MN: We are the official vehicle partner, which means that we basically are enabling the event to do certain things. At Berg & Bush they’ve got the famous or infamous Spioenkop Sprint, which is now going to be called the Volvo Summit. So we’re sponsoring that and also sponsoring some of the prize money there.
Throughout we are the vehicle partner and hoping to make a difference at Berg & Bush to the rider as well. Trying to find little touch points where we can actually interact and make life more fun and then the same applies for TranCape. Here we might have an even bigger presence because we’re also going to be helping people be transported between their places of where they stayed. To the start or from the finish to a place where they can get a hot shower.
GDK: The vehicle industry has been attracted to mountain biking and you’ve made the point earlier about your vehicles being assimilated with mountain biking. But many of them have jumped in quite a while ago. Volvo have clearly taken a lot of consideration over this involvement?
Volvo giving added benefit
MN: Yes, we have. We don’t jump in and do the same as what everybody else does. You need to stand out because we’re a small brand, we’re a boutique brand, we’re an individualist brand and therefore we possibly have to do things that stand out a little bit harder than anyone else has to do it. Also finding a credible partner, the brand has so much integrity. We don’t want to be a sponsor.
You’ll see in every press release, everything that we talk about the event, we’re always saying that we’re the vehicle partner. Because it’s a partnership for us rather than a sponsorship. Sponsorship means you just throw money at the problem and it goes away. A partnership means you really want to get involved and you really want to make a difference to the event. Being there people should afterwards say: Hang, Volvo did something really cool here and I really enjoyed it more for that.
GDK: Bottom line is you’d like to sell cars as well through it, that’s involvement. Is there a tangible way of seeing if that delivers?
MN: Yes, obviously this is our first time that we’re trying to do this. I should mention this maybe upfront, we do offer a specific cyclist discount for our cars, 5% off. So any cyclist that reads TREAD magazine with probably find that they know about this already.
Because there’s a little piece that they can tear out of the magazine and take it to a dealership. Great stuff, that’s one part of it. Obviously as a partner to the event, what we’d like to do is to showcase what our cars can do. That doesn’t mean that someone has to get in and necessarily go for a test drive.
If they want to it’s obviously available, but it’s more for us to have a look at, at us demonstrating and lifting the top of mind awareness. For a cyclist that sees, hang on, these cars I never even considered because they weren’t maybe on my immediate list of the top of mind awareness.
GDK: Is there a culture, some corporates that get involved with mountain biking, there’s a personal attachment to the sport by someone who is involved in the company. He’s a mountain biker or whatever it is, is there that sort of thing at Volvo?
MN: This is where I have to confess –
GDK: You mean you don’t ride?
MN: I don’t ride!
GDK: Not yet anyway!
MN: I have an absolutely mad, crazy cyclist in the house though. Louis my husband is a very keen mountain biker and he’s introduced me to the sport. I did ride a long time ago, but certainly not to the level as what I should. No, I’m actually by proxy, I suppose, an absolute enthusiast.
I love the mountain biking and what it offers, that lifestyle, active people. It is really the Volvo target market, if I can take it back to the brand. But I personally like walking and trail walking. It’s basically in the same places as where people often cycle. So it’s that enthusiasm that has rubbed off from Louis’s side and then take it to the next level I suppose.
How we know this is for us
GDK: There is time of course for you, because you’d have to get on your bike one or two of the days at the TransCape or something. You talk about the type of person and I suppose it takes a lot of research to find. As you’ve identified it, Volvo has taken time in identifying this sport, what research goes into that?
MN: Generally, we take a lot of cues from our head office. But you’re also trying to find local touch points with people that are like-minded, if you like. The research that we put in is quite often based on an ownership profile, one part of it. You’re always looking for new people to conquest into the brand.
What globally is the case, is we’re looking to find people that live that active lifestyle. It’s not just in South Africa and quite often people think we’re the only people that love sunshine, the Swedes love it even better, that I can tell you. Because they don’t have as much of it.
It’s looking for that person that wants to live the active lifestyle. It’s a progressive person. Some of the research that we’ve done is very clear that that group of people that generally are interested in the brand are people that are caring people.
They care about themselves, but also about other people and about making sure that people are safe inside their car. That’s why they were interested in a Volvo in the first place. Then the next layer is with us having cyclist detection, pedestrian detection. Those are things where we’re trying to make the road safer for other users who could potentially be there.
That goes to product research rather than necessarily only, it’s human behaviour that we’ve researched. If you look at the target market and the lifestyle, it all becomes various sources of research that you have to mesh together. Put a profile and a picture of a person in your head and that’s kind of where it’s gone.
GDK: So we sit down this time next year and say well, what made you happy about your involvement. What are you looking for, short term and then after that three years.
MN: Of course, if I have to take the cold, hard fact of the measurement, it means to have sold cars. I needed to have that success tick behind the box. Or in that box where I’ve said, okay, we’ve sold cars. Because of this, people believed in our genuine involvement, it was credible. It made them think something different about the brand. That they may not have been exposed to or reinforced something where they said; now really I should consider this.
That’s obviously number one, but it’s also the association with really. I think, stand-out events that are in their own right, have got the credibility, have got the ethos that works with the brand. I wanted that to have then been a success from that point of view. Where the cyclist that was there said, okay, I really now have noticed the Volvo brand. I can see why they were here and not just, oh, I’ve done the event, who was the vehicle partner? I can’t remember. I really want people to have a positive brand experience with the Volvo brand whilst they were at the event.
GDK: Michelle, thanks very much, we’ll see you on a bike soon.
MN: I’m not going to promise that Gerald, but thanks for having me.
GDK: Michelle Naude from Volvo South Africa who have got involved as a vehicle partner with the Berg & Bush which takes place in October over three events. The TransCape Mountain Bike Race which takes place the first week in February from Knysna, finishing in Franschhoek, it’s the third edition of that. It’s a fairly limited field, a luxury event, so if you want to get to know more about Volvo’s involvement, just enter those two events and get riding. Thanks for downloading another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast, until next time, ride safely, cheers.