When we were tasked with implementing a promotional strategy to introduce the Calabria Cycle Route to the cycling public, we all looked at each other very puzzled: it’s been a decade or so that we’ve been involved in promoting cycle tourism, and that trail we had not only never seen it, we had never even heard of it.
One of the unwritten rules of cycle tourism is that it only works when it is combined with an existing tourism product. In this case, therefore, the challenge was particularly complex: here we were talking about an itinerary that passes through places historically divorced from tourism.
The Pollino Park, Sila Park, Serre Park, and Aspromonte Park are unspoiled places that rarely figure on a tourist’s top priorities. Calabria in the common imagination has always been associated with the sea and the beach. Here it was a matter of convincing people to go cycling in the toughest part of the Apennines, where there is a lack of tourist tradition.
Moreover, the average bicycle tourist requires reassurance and predictability-the last thing he or she wants is to find themselves with a mechanical failure in the middle of a forest where they may not get cell phone reception and don’t know how to get out of the way. What’s more, the Calabria Cycle Route is no joke: it is a 545-kilometer route with 11,000 meters of elevation gain. To tackle it, you need legs.
The challenges were many.
The strategy adopted
After some thought, we decided to abandon the target audience of the average cyclist and turn to the left side of the Rogers Curve: where there is that 1 percent of pioneers and innovators who want something original and are looking for exotic destinations and do well without the 5-star resort with the spa and restaurant on the ground floor. If we had worked well on this first pedaling community, in a year when health restrictions made traveling abroad very complicated, we would have grafted a flywheel effect: hard-core cyclo-adventurers would have taken up the challenge, creating an initial buzz by sharing photos of their “feat” on social media, engendering an emulation effect that would infect even the far right side of the curve.
At the same time, the presence of cycle travelers in the area, if properly signaled to the local population, would have led to the creation of a dedicated range of services so that the area would be able to become attractive even to less adventurous individuals.
To achieve these goals, we agreed with the client on a series of actions that included:
- Important organic social media presence;
- Content creation and visibility on specialized platforms in SEO and SEM key;
- Creation of an evocative promotional video;
- mail marketing towards cycloadventurer communities;
- presentation to the generalist press.
Here is, point by point, how we did this work in a time frame of just over a year.
Important organic social media presence
In order to create a pre-buzz, we organized several cyclo-explorations aimed at riding the trail in its entirety, entrusting the task to people more or less recognized in the field of “adventure” cycling. These created content from the live socials that told the story of a nearby but unknown territory for the first time.
Initial reactions have been enthusiastic. As a result of these cyclo-explorations, we provided photo materials to the client who was able to use them in their institutional communications. The different tone of voice of the testimonials who spoke enabled the target audience to be reached in different ways.
The involvement of ultracyclist Paola Gianotti, in particular, who is engaged in a campaign to promote road safety throughout Italy, also brought the news to the national and local generalist sports media.
We also involved a professional photographer, Paolo Ciaberta, to have the highest quality photos.
Content on specialized platforms
The first cycloexploration also resulted in a series of articles that we first published on Bikeitalia.it and then turned into a guidebook entitled “The Parks of Calabria by Bicycle,” which we delivered to the commission for a printed spread and uploaded the Digital version on Bikeitalia.co.uk for free distribution upon registration.
In 6 months the ebook has been downloaded 3582 times by potential cycle travelers.
Creation of an evocative promotional video
When it comes to promotional videos, the greatest risk is that of mannerism: very often videos are exercises in style that serve more to demonstrate the skill of the director/videomaker rather than the qualities of the territory.
But in a country like Italy, to make a beautiful area unique, more than beautiful pictures, you need beautiful stories. For this, instead of the usual emblazoned communications agency, we turned to Sergio Borroni, a video communications craftsman and historic cycle traveler, and constructed a story that would bring together some of the influencers already mentioned. Thus was born ” the Predators of the Lost Cycleway,” a 16-minute short film that would make the Calabria Parks Cycleway not the subject, but the subject of the story.
In the narrative journey, we carefully avoided presenting the destination as “suitable for everyone” in order to aim for a less national-popular and more niche concept.
You can see the final result below.
The video, posted on the Youtube channels of the director, Bikeitalia.it and Ciclovia dei Parchi della Calabria, has been viewed more than 10,000 times in a week since its launch.
From now on, the short film will be screened at bike festivals and film festivals for further dissemination.
As a corollary, we leveraged our database of more than 65,000 profiled cyclists to periodically convey to them content created around the Calabria Parks Ciclovia. This constant communication ensured that the idea of a Ciclovia that did not exist came to dominate the public’s imagination.
Presentation to the general press
The achievement of the 2021 Cycle Tourism Oscar (for which we are in no way responsible) has certainly made a big contribution to creating the name of the Ciclovia Parchi Calabria. Much, however, was also done by the press office activity we conducted with the Turin-based company Bici-T.
On September 22, on the occasion of European Mobility Week, we held a press conference in Milan to officially present the Ciclovia Parchi Calabria and related short film to the press.
Below is an updated press review as of October 4, 2021 of the releases obtained:
- The Press
- Life on Two Wheels
- Si Vuaggia
- Premium Weekend
- Mountain TV
- Calabria Corriere
- Climate Icon
- Io Donna
- Green Me
- Radio Popolare
Personally, we are very happy with the work done with the Calabria Parks Ciclovia, not only because we had fun and because we had the opportunity to work with an area characterized by unexpected professionalism and passion, with exceptional partners, but above all because we could see the enthusiasm with which our interventions were received by the community of reference.
We have had further confirmation that our “Bikenomist method” for promoting bicycle tourism works, but more importantly we are seeing depopulated and disadvantaged areas that are trying to revive thanks to bicycle tourism. Whether they succeed at this point will no longer depend on us, but when they do, it will be a pleasure to be able to say we did our part.