The Women Who Cycle blog has been running for nearly a year and a half now. When it began in August 2011 I wondered if I could find a new topic to write about every week but amazingly they continue to flow. I guess when you’re really interested in a topic like me it becomes endless.
To celebrate the start of the new year I commissioned a logo for the site. Up until now there’s been no logo or attempt at branding the site and I’m hoping that my regular readers approve of the new look.
This step in the evolution of Women Who Cycle made me reflect a little on the whole area of brand and image management. I’m actually a public relations consultant in my working life so I have spent many years helping others develop a public persona, most of these are organisations but there’s also been individuals.
Within the cycling world there’s not a lot of sophistication around image and brand management. There are a few exceptions but on the whole most professional cyclists and bicycle companies just let it happen rather than make any attempt to manage it.
In the world of women’s cycling I often lament the sexualisation of female athletes. Some female cyclists participate willingly and seem to like to be portrayed as ‘sexy’ rather than ‘athletic’, while others just get dragged along, particularly if they are perceived as very attractive women.
An example of a women who seeks to be portrayed as an athlete but also a good citizen is track cyclist Anne Meares. Anna clearly puts a lot of thought into her image and how she’s perceived by others. Her own website is a great reflection of what she’s all about with talk of subjects like ethics, role models and citizenship. I’m not suggesting that Anna is manipulating her own image, she’s just being herself and letting that come through in her communication with the world.
And of course an athlete can spend a lifetime attempting to build up a squeaky clean image which can all come crumbling down if they are involved in a drug scandal like Lance Armstrong. Interestingly the cyclists who have confessed, taken their punishment and repented seem to have come out of the Lance scandal relatively unscathed. The image of Lance Armstrong the person has suffered irreparable damage because he continues to deny the charges against him and the evidence is insurmountable. But enough of that overdone subject.
Another cyclist who is in fact the same age as Lance Armstrong but seems to have come out of the ‘drug era’ unscathed is the perennial favourite of all cycling fans – Jens Voigt. The Jensie as he’s known, is seen as a wholesome father of six who has earned his living as a professional cyclist, mostly as a support rider for many years. Also interesting is the fact that he’s German and from what I’ve heard from many German people the general public in Germany gave up on cycling many years ago after a series of drug scandals. Like Anna, Jens isn’t manipulating his own image, he’s just being himself and letting us all share his quirkiness.
From an overall perspective, women’s professional cycling also has the challenge of being noticed at all. The only time that the general news media pays any attention to women’s cycling is during the Olympic Games which is only every four years. The general sports media covers it only during the World Championships which is an annual event or perhaps if there’s a bad crash in a race and they have the footage to release. However, there are minor improvements happening with women’s cycling and I’m confident that women’s cycling will improve and raise its image over time. We can all have a role in that.
I’d love to hear from others on this subject. I’d also love to hear any feedback on the new logo. It will be featured soon on the new Women Who Cycle jerseys and knicks. Stay tuned.