Google+ Consumer Psyche: R A P H A


Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Pros take on America's eight-stage, 780-mile answer to the Tour de France. But, for one week in January, the course belonged to a half-dozen speedy amateurs testing their limits. Cameras recorded the whole crazy ordeal, from the ride itself to the small towns and larger-than-life characters. As if on cue, cyclists whipped around the corner, a blur of yellow and black. You'd never know this was marketing, except for five cursive letters on the riders' clothing: R a p h a.

A small British company, Rapha makes expensive, high-performance cycling gear. The mother ship opened North American headquarters last year on Portland's North Mississippi Avenue and hired three thirtysomethings, who could've introduced Rapha to the United States with magazine spreads, say, or online banner ads.

Instead, they invested in a project called the Continental. A band of cyclists -- fast but not pro, thoughtful but not geeky, a touch wacky -- embarked on America's most epic rides. They pushed hard, but not so hard they missed wildflowers and cafes. They fixed their own flats. And their journeys were documented online, creating a real-life sports drama. Eventually, the stories might be published as a travelogue and guidebook.

The Continental is an extreme example of a national advertising trend. Consumers don't want to be manipulated; they want to be part of the adventure. So Adidas invites women to share training sagas. Red Bull stages contests for human-powered flying machines. 

The idea took root a couple of years ago, before Rapha had a Portland connection. Pasley, an avid rider who worked in sports marketing here, got hooked on the company. About one-third of Rapha's sales come from the United States, but Mottram hopes to boost that to one-half. 

Non-traditional advertising defined and implemented! Sometimes this pays off more than the regular methods.

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