Inside Brompton Bike's International Brand Growth Strategy

A new creative campaign, and the opportunity in China

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In an era when the environment can heavily influence purchase behavior, bicycle ownership is a sustainability play.

The global bike market, according to SkyQuest Technology Group, will grow over the next five years by 6.1% to $89.8 billion as more people move away from cars for various reasons.

Now in 46 countries and producing 100,000 bikes a year, the U.K’s largest bicycle maker, Brompton, is on an awareness-building mission. A global marketing campaign and new creative platform, “ab ra ca dab ra,” are just the start.

“We’ve got different levels of awareness throughout the world,” global marketing director Shelly Pearce told Adweek. “It’s an exciting opportunity now to be able to really explain to people what Brompton can bring to their lives—it’s much more than just a bike.”

The company has just produced its 1 millionth folding bike this month and has its first department store partner in John Lewis, one of the U.K.’s biggest department stores.

Following a healthy period of growth during the pandemic, the company has seen profits squeezed by rising inflation. This led to the global brand-building campaign.

What makes a Brompton Bike?

Underpinned by the concept of “transformative freedom” and highlighting the “magical engineering” behind its standard and electric folding bikes, the brand aims to connect with “urban outsiders,” described as “people with an urban mindset living and exploring the city outside.”

The product-led brand campaign, developed through creative agency ScienceMagic alongside the brand’s in-house team, references the vision of founder Andrew Ritchie when devising the idea of the Brompton Bike in 1976. He described it as “a magic carpet” to take people across London.

This is reflected in breaking up the iconic magic word into five syllables—”ab ra ca dab ra”—as a bike unfolds in five motions, as well as other five-word phrases such as “love out-doors and in” and “watch me fold in five” across four short videos.

[Sustainability] is no longer a nice to have, it’s a need to have.

Shelly Pearce, global marketing director, Brompton Bicycle

“It’s really bringing to life all those benefits that a bike—or certainly the Brompton Bike—can deliver for you that I just think that people around the world haven’t realized because we haven’t really been talking on a global scale. We’ve been very focused on the U.K.,” continued Pearce. “There’s a massive climate crisis going on in the world, so we need more people to get on bikes.”

The campaign will run in the U.K., U.S., Germany and France, with media planned through Havas Market across out-of-home, connected video-on-demand, social media, digital and retail to grow brand awareness and consideration, as well as drive sales.

Measurement of success and awareness building will include monitoring website traffic following the release of the campaign and search volumes while asking visitors to record how they heard of the brand.

The opportunity in China

Growing the brand internationally will come down to Pearce and her marketing team, based in the U.K., with local teams also set up across New York, Germany, Paris, China and APAC.

“Once we see that there is growth in a market, then we put boots on the ground and we act as a center of excellence here [in the U.K.]. And obviously, when we start to grow a market, our team would start that and then pass the baton over to the local team,” she explained.

China, where Brompton is seen as a luxury brand, has become its single biggest market, overtaking the U.K. So confident is Brompton that its future growth lies in China that earlier this month it sold an 8% stake at $24.7 million (20 million pounds) to investment firm Business Growth Fund.

“China’s a really exciting market for us at the moment, as it’s a really popular product where it is seen very much a part of an aspirational lifestyle,” said Pearce. Brompton Bikes are viewed as a “stylish British icon” that people use for both leisure and fitness purposes, encouraged by the government, she noted.

The campaign in China will be “pretty much the same,” she added, as it aims to provide “a solution” to city life and relaying the various electric bikes available across its pricing funnel.

The brand also continues to host the Brompton World Championship, which was introduced in 2008 and this year was held in Turin. Alongside the main 10k race and a Best Dressed Competition, the event also includes a speed folding contest.

A sustainable product with a message

Pearce said sustainability is “at the heart of everything we do.” Reminders are written on factory walls and on the brand’s website. It’s also the main message of chief executive Will Butler-Adams.

“The product itself is a sustainable product,” Pearce added, explaining that the campaign mechanism of using short phrases could extend to include environmental messages and the health benefits of bike riding.

“It’s important to not greenwash. That’s a big issue,” she said. “It goes back to ‘do first then say,’ that’s where our view is on this. And it has to be at the heart of our business. It should be at the heart of every business, and we should be able to move to a place where it’s not something that we need to talk about because we should all just be doing it.”

Consumer awareness of sustainability has made the bicycle sector all the more competitive, with bike rental firms popping up in cities all around the world. This has led Brompton to introduce its own hire scheme with docks across the U.K. at busy commuter areas.

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