CAMPAIGN <b>Product Relaunch:</b> Schwinn restores its Sting-Ray with an updated model

The Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycle was an icon for American kids of the 1960s - everyone could recognize its distinctive banana seat and high handle bars.

The Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycle was an icon for American kids of the 1960s - everyone could recognize its distinctive banana seat and high handle bars.

Pacific Cycle, which now owns the Schwinn brand, decided to resurrect the Sting-Ray in a more up-to-date design modeled after customized motorcycles. Public relations led the way as part of an integrated marketing campaign designed to support the April launch of the new bicycle model. Strategy To generate consumer interest before the introduction and once the new Sting-Ray was in stores, the PR team used key message points that emphasized the heritage of the Sting-Ray name while also discussing how the bike had been updated for today's youth. PR efforts set out to target parents and the 6- to 11-year-olds likely to ride the updated bicycle model. The new Sting-Ray was positioned as the first new bike design to hit the youth market since mountain bikes in the 1980s. Tactics The Today show was given an exclusive to unveil the new Sting-Ray on its March 12 show. B-roll was created and distributed to other broadcast outlets. Media efforts also extended to Spanish-language outlets because the company saw the Hispanic market as an important one for the new product, says Mo Moorman, corporate, media, and PR manager with Pacific. Print media relations efforts began with vertical trade magazines for bike retailers that needed to be convinced to stock the new model. Next, major dailies were targeted. Big Production, Pacific's PR agency, sent out 2,000 press kits, says Cindy Krupp, a partner at Big Production. A new website was created at SchwinnStingRay.com. Four company executives were made available for media interviews, and a 30-second informational spot was prepared for Schwinn's consumer hotline. Sting-Rays were sent to Shaquille O'Neal's children, singer Justin Timberlake, and other celebrities to gain exposure in the entertainment media. Blast e-mails were sent to employees to keep them up-to-date on media coverage of the new model and to give salespeople press-coverage information that could be used to support sales efforts. Moorman created key messages and developed an overall strategy for the campaign using his agency to handle media outreach. "I looked to them to do the heavy lifting on the pitching," he says. Results Broadcast coverage included more than 500 television outlets, reaching 25 million viewers. In addition, more than 150 newspapers ran stories on the new Sting-Ray. Traffic to the new website averaged 10,000 visitors a day. Calls to Schwinn's customer service line rose 60% in April, compared with that month last year. Traffic to SchwinnBike.com rose 35% in April, compared with the previous April. Sales of the $180 bike surpassed expectations. The company has increased production of the bike to five times the level it had anticipated needing. "It's been an unbelievable launch," says Moorman. Major retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Toys 'R' Us, are offering the new model, even selling them online at their websites, where demand has been stronger than expected, Moorman says. The media attention on the Sting-Ray has benefited the entire Schwinn brand, notes Moorman. "The halo effect this is having on the Schwinn brand is really exciting," he says. Pacific Cycle bought Schwinn, which had gone into bankruptcy, in 2001. Pacific was bought by Dorel Industries, a Canadian company, in February. Future PR efforts will try to keep the Sting-Ray in the public eye by placing it in parades and other events. Grassroots PR will be used to position the Sting-Ray as a category leader as competitors come out with similar bikes modeled after motorcycles.

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