The California Bicycle Coalition is a state-level advocacy organization promoting sustainable and equitable transportation policy. The organization was planning their fifth-annual California Dream Ride, a fundraising bicycle tour event. California Dream Ride is a five-day event, with touring routes through Southern or Northern California on alternating years. The ride is supported by staff and volunteers and is designed to be inclusive of riders at all experience levels, with overnight stays in hotel rooms. For each of the first four years, the event attracted fewer riders than needed to meet the fundraising goal, but the riders involved loved the event and the event had frequent return riders. The fifth year’s event results were to be the make-or-break decision on continuing this event.
California Bicycle Coalition, which goes by the moniker CalBike, sought marketing help, starting with research, for the event.
For the first four years, California Bicycle Coalition had focused its marketing message on its bicycle advocacy. In comparison to other bicycle tour events, the California Dream Ride was competitively priced and featured user-friendly payment and fundraising options. The Dream Ride differed from other advocacy rides by offering hotel stays for participants, rather than stays at campsites.
Finding the optimal message for the potential rider group was critical to message development.
Ladley & Associates developed a survey to uncover message opportunities to promote the ride. CalBike distributed the survey to its email list. More than 1400 Coalition members responded to the survey.
In our analysis of results, Ladley & Associates focused on those respondents who expressed an interest in participating in a five-day ride. The results were clear: “fun” was a stronger motivating message than advocacy.
Ladley & Associates collaborated with marketing partners to develop new marketing and messaging, which was then used in emailers and a revised website. CalBike volunteer Allan Crawford contributed great photographs from earlier CalBike rides that illustrated great fun, camaraderie and great scenery.
With the right message, images, and marketing guidance, the ride:
- Achieved its ridership and fundraising goal: 49 riders enrolled, double the ridership from previous years
- Armed with a successful marketing message, CalBike established California Dream Ride as an on-going fundraising event.
- In its fifth tour and using the “fun” messaging, CalBike rider count and fundraising exceeded all previous years.
“Maureen and her team helped us figure out how best to market our fundraising bike ride. Her in-depth survey revealed what appealed to people about the ride. I thought our marketing was already pretty good, but Maureen and her team helped us focus our messaging on our target audience’s needs and desires, and not just our organization’s mission. We were able to double our ridership, thanks to Maureen’s research and advice. “
– Jenn Guitart, Development Director, California Bicycle Coalition
*Photo courtesy of Allan Crawford