CAMPAIGN: Londoners get on their free Halfords bicycle

Halfords, which sells around one in every three bikes sold in the UK, was concerned that Evans Cycles was gaining greater exposure in London. It wanted a PR campaign that would raise the profile of its stores in the capital, while highlighting its environmental and CSR credentials.

Campaign Borrow the Bike
Client Halfords
PR team Seal Communications
Timescale July-October 2006
Budget £22,000

Halfords asked retained agency Seal Communications to develop an integrated media relations campaign. It created ‘Borrow the Bike' to give Londoners the opportunity to experience cycling for free and record their experiences online.

Objectives
To make Londoners view Halfords as the number-one cycle retailer, and build relations with key influencers.

Strategy and Plan
With the backing of Transport for London, ten branded Halfords bikes were placed at sites across the capital.

Commuters and visitors were giventhe opportunity to take a free ride on the bicycles, which were named after British Olympians - such as ‘Seb' (after Lord Sebastian Coe) and ‘Denise' (Lewis).

The campaign was advertised with specially produced postcards, while a dedicated website, www.borrowthebike.com, allowed users to write about their free cycle ride.

Meanwhile, a Meet the Media programme saw Seal briefing more than 50 environment journalists. One of the news hooks was London Mayor Ken Livingstone launching a £60 fine for cycling on pavements.

By the end of the campaign, all ten of the Halfords bikes had gone missing. The bikes had originally been promised to charity Bikes4Africa - a pledge that Halfords is going to keep by sending ten replacement cycles.

Measurement and Evaluation
Coverage included The Sun, London Evening Standard and London Lite, as well as Time Out and various cycling titles. Regional coverage outside of London included Birmingham Mail, Birmingham Post, Manchester Evening News, Newcastle Journal and Yorkshire Post.

Broadcast highlights included London Today and London Tonight, as well as Capital FM and Classic FM. Online exposure included allinlondon.co.uk, viewlondon.co.uk, mbuk.com and thefridayproject.co.uk.

Results
Halfords estimates the value of coverage to be £380,000, with an opportunity to see of 30 million. The dedicated website received more than 280,000 hits during the campaign.

Following Borrow the Bike, a poll of 160 Londoners was conducted to gauge awareness. Thirty-five per cent were aware of the campaign and knew of Halfords' involvement.

Halfords head of PR Barbara Cadd says: ‘The campaign wasn't designed to drive footfall, but to create a buzz around the brand and reinforce our position as the country's leading cycle retailer. The project certainly achieved this in London.

In addition, the Borrow the Bike website was responsible for a clear increase in visits to our online store. It was one of our campaign highlights of 2006 and helped our relationship with cycle network charity Sustrans, Transport for London and several key national media.'

Evening Standard consumer affairs editor Jonathan Prynn says: ‘This was an interesting social experiment with a laudable aim. It made for two fun stories, one of which being Londoners' dishonesty in not returning the bikes.'

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