New global cycling chief Brian Cookson to drive "openness" culture

New International Cycling Union (UCI) president Brian Cookson will focus on "increasing openness" at the doping scandal-dogged organisation, according to the PR agency that aided his campaign.

Brian Cookson: New ICU president (Credit: Brian Cookson Images)
Brian Cookson: New ICU president (Credit: Brian Cookson Images)

Cookson was elected this weekend at the UCI congress in Florence on a transparency ticket, beating incumbent Pat McQuaid by 24 votes to 18.

Campaigning on a manifesto to restore cycling and the body’s own credibility, he turned to Vero Communciations in June to help shape the bid.

Cookson will now seek to help the organisation move on from doping scandals which have rocked the sport and led to modern cycling's biggest star, Lance Armstrong, being banned for life.

Vero directror John Zerafa pointed to increasing the UCI’s stakeholder engagement as a key part of this.

He said: "Alongside messages around anti doping, the campaign narrative emphasised that corporate governance had to be led professionally, properly and openly, and historically that’s not always been the case. We will see a move towards increased openness, with more dialogue with riders, teams, sponsors and fans," he said.

As president, Cookson yesterday announced that he would work to make anti-doping precudures independent, and hinted that Armstrong might be able to return to the cycling fold if he revealed all he knew about drug taking in the sport.

For the election campaign, straplined "Restoring Trust, Leading Change", Zerafa worked as part of a three strong agency team which included founder Mike Lee.

This included comms around Cookson’s engagement with ICU delegates ahead of a vote marked in its final hours by confusion as to whether McQuaid was even eligible to stand for office.

Backing McQuiad for the campaign was Ian McClure, of McClure Media & PR, while Burson-Marsteller handled the retained account for the UCI.

In the months running up to the vote Cookson presented himself as international candidate for the global organisation, with media work piggybacking onto a travel schedule which included the Americas, Australasia and Africa.

Another key aspect was showing the commercial imperatives behind the ethical stance,  Zafara added.

"Part of Brian’s campaign narrative was also saying that by rebuilding trust in the UCI, cycling will start to benefit from new investment, greater broadcast coverage, more cities wanting to host events and ultimately more riders and fans being drawn into cycling."

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