Five Minutes with Scott McCubbin
Scott McCubbin, associate director at Uniform, the agency behind the 2023 UCI World Cycling Championships brand strategy, speaks to Transform magazine about the process and most important elements behind creating a solid brand for something intangible like an event and how it fits with the wider picture of making Scotland a healthier nation.
What were the most important elements to consider when Uniform created the brand strategy for the 2023 UCI World Cycling Championship?
Legacy, legacy, legacy. But not as we know it! Reinventing the legacy model for major sports events - legacy from today, prior to the event and for a long time after the event. Legacy at the heart - not as an after-thought!
There was a realisation that the CWC in Scotland is a true opportunity to change a country’s views, attitudes and behaviours to cycling. So the brand strategy is about getting more people on their bikes, whether it be a rickety old racer hidden in the back of the shed to a pride of joy, new birthday present. Who cares? The Dutch don’t care. We needed to adopt that attitude and embrace it.
The team saw an opportunity to build out on the back of a cycling trend, emerging due to Covid lockdown. Bikes have found a new lease of life. They’ve enabled people to feel free, even with current restrictions. We realised that the strategy needed to garner grassroot support to make a real difference.
It couldn’t be a ‘lycra lover’s guide to cycling’, it had to reach out to everyone. So this idea of celebrating those falls off your bike and repairing your puncture in the pouring rain, but also the exhilaration of freewheeling down a hill at full pelt (helmet on of course…) - you only get that feeling on a bike. It’s total freedom. That’s what led to the positioning of the power of the bike - in all senses.
How do you create a strong brand strategy for something intangible like an event?
Our Strategy team’s approach is based on turning a business issue into a human issue through insight and providing a clarion call that will cut through the noise, stand out as different and engage the audiences we want to influence.
How does the brand work with the greater event strategy of making Scotland a great cycling nation and improving the population’s general health?
The Scottish government hasn’t just stated it as a ‘policy catalyst’ to turn Scotland into a cycling nation, they’ve been investing for years in the infrastructure so people can actually do it. It’s such a big issue in the UK. I was speaking to someone at a major cycle brand in Europe last month and they were talking about the boom on the back of the pandemic, but they made a point of excluding Britain from the conversation - people just don’t feel safe cycling on our streets and roads - we’re not set up for it so Scotland, and particularly Glasgow, has picked up that mantle and they’re running with it. This is positive and exciting!
They’re investing more than £100m in infrastructure in Glasgow alone. The Scottish government’s health policy sees cycling as a driver to improve wellness, tackle obesity and add social value - and they need to if the country is to meet its own targets and improve on those journeys by foot and by bike (active travel is the term). Change is not happening fast enough.
More than ever, you cannot justify the cost of hosting an event on this scale for the tourism and profile alone. The CWC event has to have a direct impact on everyday lives. Scotland still performs badly in health tables. The strategy is focused on the long term with the event being the point we work round. It gives us a focus - it’s not an end point, but people will understand that if the country is to celebrate the biggest multi-cycling event ever to be held, we need to harness that excitement and energy and get involved in the sport.
How did you make sure the Championship’s brand strategy was inclusive and appealed to a wider audience, not just athletes and cycling fans?
The framework highlights the unique and positive power of the bike and encourages everyone to experience the freedom riding a bike brings to their lives. The uphills and the downhills. The wind in your hair. The first puncture patch up. And the commitment to the commute. The bike becomes a vehicle of optimism, experiences, everyday wins and opportunity for everyone.