Shimano hires SHIFT Communications for largest business unit

WATERTOWN, MA: Shimano, a global manufacturer of cycling and fishing products, has hired SHIFT Communications as its US AOR for the cycling component.

WATERTOWN, MA: Shimano, a global manufacturer of cycling and fishing products, has hired SHIFT Communications as its US AOR for the cycling component.

SHIFT principal Todd Defren said the company issued an RFP, and there were three finalists in a competitive pitch. He declined to disclose the account billings, but called it a "huge" account, given that 75% of Shimano's global business comes from US cycling components, worth about $1.5 billion.

Shimano previously worked with Stanwood and Partners for seven years. Thorpe said the relationship ended amicably after it had run its course.

The bulk of SHIFT's work will be based on establishing partnerships with like-minded companies to promote bicycling in general.

Jasen Thorpe, PR manager at Shimano, said the company looked at firms of all different sizes.

"SHIFT did a great job in learning about our business and showing enthusiasm for dong that work," Thorpe said, adding the firm "wasn't afraid to disagree with me."

Defren admitted that the agency did not have any particular experience in cycling. However, he said bicycling enthusiasts on staff immediately pressed for the agency to vie for the business.

"We also did a lot of market research," Defren said. "We went to bike shops and even stopped [riders] on the bike trail, asking them why they got started in cycling and why they take it seriously."

Kristi Kilpatrick, account director, will lead a team of six. The agency began work last month and has thus far enticed a Forbes reporter to spend an entire day at the Shimano offices.

"If you strike up a conversation with a bike enthusiast, they know about Shimano without question," Defren said. "The man on the street, however, is probably not going to know about it."

About 90% of bikes from the top three brands in the US, Trek, Giant, and Specialized, contain Shimano parts, according to a August 2004 Business Week article.

In that article, John Burke, Trek president, called Shimano, "The Intel of the bike business."

As such, Defren said his agency looked at Intel's approach to PR and marketing - which is largely about ensuring the success of companies like Dell and HP.

"Shimano has a similar approach that the quality of the components will drive your [biking] experience," Defren said.

The company is currently working with fitness publisher Rodale on events that encourage people to bike to work and promote it as both a fitness and family activity.

Thorpe said that SHIFT would help the company emphasize the variety of reasons to bike, outside of traditional competition.

"There's plenty of uses besides racing up a hill in France," Thorpe said.

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