Friday, May 24, 2013

Fight for Pink? Looks snow white to me... Il Giro d'Incompetence.

"...and all the king's euros and slick suited men, couldn't put pro cycling together again."
      - Father flahute nursery rhyme.  Legend has it written on a cafe wall in Eeklo, but it might be Moorslede.

The only relevant question to ask this morning:
What will the Gavia summit look like on June 8?
Today should have been the kind of day cycling fans wait for all year.   The battle over the Gavia and the Stelvio. 

Instead, it's a massive disappointment.   Massive.

Blame the weather?  Climate change?   Not me jongen.   I'm blaming the collective caste of dopes that manage professional cycling.    

It's official.  They're all completely full of shite.   While UCI leadership this week applauds itself for doing a 'great job managing cycling', their management policies and decisions are precisely the reason why the world's wielerfans are sulking over their wheatabix this morning.   Well, you can largely thank Verbruggen, McQuaid and a complicit RCS for this year's Giro-as-ice-station-zebra.  

The fact is, by artificially manipulating the traditional pro cycling calendar - and progressively moving the Giro to a much earlier calendar dates since 2000 or so - the UCI - and the RCS by their googy eyed globalization mirage acquiescence, have taken what should have been perhaps the peak summit of the professional cycling season...put all the chips on 7, and spun the meteo-roulette wheel.    

Ooops.  

Some historical perspective from a cranky old guy for you cycling management morons:  Between 1947 and 2000 the Giro's traditional calendar slot fell somewhere between.. roughly eyeballing the average dates of my crude put-together-in-15-minutes-of-research-infographic below... from May 17 - June 9.    This year the race was scheduled to end on May 26.    Safe to call it a two week shift - earlier from tradition.   

I'll say it again for emphasis.  TRADITION!     

                                GIRO D'ITALIA DATES:  1946 - 2013


Now here's some more logic for cycling's brain trust:   I'll type slowly so you can follow and understand.  The Dolomites and Alps are usually in the last week of the Giro... which traditionally was well into June.    This year?  Huh?  Hey wait, there's still another week of May to go!   Two weeks' difference = that much lower chance of cold and snow in the mountains, jongen.  

So go ahead Pat, keep waving around that inane Deloitte 'stakeholders report' propaganda piece like Moses coming down from the mountain with tablets.  Keep telling us "Cycling has an extremely bright future" and what fantastic progress you're making.  And why restructuring the pro cycling calendar is a top 6 priority.   

How's that restructuring working out for ya now Pat?  

Groan...
And go ahead, Mr. Michele Acquarone.   Tell us again how under your stewardship the Giro is becoming a global brand.  How it so needs to reach out beyond Italy in scope.   How by adopting an English slogan ("Fight for Pink") you've become more viable, more valuable, and so much more relevant to a global audience.   Go ahead, keep tinkering with this cycling sporting monument like a toy.   

While I applaud you for reaching out to fans in your research, I question your interpretation of the findings.  The fallacy of market research is that the data is very often mis-interpreted, leading to disastrous actions and unintended consequences.   

And - speaking marketer to marketer - 'tinkering' with a proven, popular product formulation is the biggest fatal error in the brand and business management handbook.   Ask the (ex) President of JC Penney.  He drove that retail chain onto the rocks by trying to attract a new customer, and ignoring his core customer.    Hey... isn't that's kind of just like what you're doing now?  Chasing new markets while your 'product' increasingly disappoints core, traditional supporters?      

Example:  I'm an Irish-American, but I shudder at seeing the Giro slogan in English.   We stranieri love the Giro because it's uniquely and completely, 100% Italian.   It's the Giro d'Italia.  Not Dublin or Belfast.  Make the pilgrims go to to Mecca, Michele.    
  

This is part where Vincenzo Torriani (or Cher) comes back down and gives you a slap.   Snap out of it.  Stop the anglophone madness, please.

And tell us again Michele how (quote)  ‘I prefer to eat a smaller slice of a bigger cake.’ We need to understand how the cake can become bigger for everyone.”  I think you should be on a crossroad out of Alto Aldige today.  Try repeating that pap to the legions of disappointed tifosi driving their camper vans home.          

If you said it to me, I'd respectfully reply that as a supposed businessman (not cycling guy) you should be ashamed of yourself.   That statement confirms that you don't really understand the principles of marketing strategy, positioning, nor Il Giro's place in the pro property pecking order.  That would be 2nd, by the way.  Behind ASO,  the market leader.  

'Growing the pie / growing the market size' is a strategy only effective for the market leader.   The Giro is not the leader of the pro cycling market.   It's in P2.   Conversely you should deploy a flanking or niche positioning strategy to solidify that 2nd position, and increase value in your franchise that way.     

You do this by becoming more Italian.   By controlling your own destiny, come hell or high water.   And by holding the race when it's best for the Giro, not playing along with a newly contrived global cabal that's playing you for a chump, convinced it would be in your greater interest to shift your race two weeks earlier than it ought to be...  

Oh, I know my outrage, no matter how logical, is so easily be positioned as the radical view of a old retro-tifosi outlier.  I'm the cycling equivalent of a conservative tea party member.  "They're all radicals."   Yeah, sure.   

And I'm sure the great unwashed and casual cycling fan will wring their hands and accept that this weekend's party cancellation is the fault of greenhouse gas emissions and too many plastic bottles.   And that the UCI and RCS will go with that spin, and explain it as an atypical weather event beyond anyone's control.   (That's right...it's all our own fault!!).    

But not me.   I think those that run major businesses like the Giro ought to be smart enough to realize the folly of shifting a sporting event held over 2000 meter + Alpine passes to a slot two weeks earlier into the spring.  They should have known they were playing with fire and would get burned badly sooner rather than later.   For all the polished PR-speak, I swear, there's so little common sense.    

Well, here's two words of the day to add to your business speak repertoire:   Risk mitigation.
  
Managers of major events are responsible for taking prudent steps to minimize the possibility of catastrophic events affecting their event. 

But careful Pat, Michele:  Don't misinterpret that message and jump to the wrong conclusion.    Please don't start telling us in your post-mortem that the Stelvio and Gavia are too risky to include in a 'modern' Giro anymore.    That would be another misinterpretation of 'customer feedback'.  You guys seem to do that a lot.     

So I'll put it in plain English, seeing as that's now in vogue at the Giro. 

Schedule the event back where it used to be.  And keep the Gavia and Stelvio in.  Frequently.  

And don't go blaming the weather for ruining the Giro grande finale.   

Blame your own blind stupidity, and poor management.  

5 comments:

  1. There's a bigger picture here behind the date shifting - the role of Verbruggen and Plant to coerce the Vuelta (at that time a troubled tour financially) to move to September to free the May time slot for the US Tour: DuPont. DuPont was to be an annual Grand Tour....like every other Medalist event that arrives with promises to endure.

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  2. Great rant! Larry agrees with 99% of it but must point out Giro stages were cancelled due to weather only in 1969, 1989 and 2013. That's all. The dicey weather is and has been part of the challenge of La Corsa Rosa since the beginning. Our clients didn't much like not being able to ride their bikes but will talk about this Giro with "I was there!" for the rest of their lives. We'll be back in 2014 with any luck.

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  3. While I understand the thought behind your rant, I think you are being a bit too harsh. RCS is more than just the Giro; they have loads of other races that need calendar spots too. The date negotiations run along with the agreements between the UCI, ASO, RCS, etc, vis-a-vis the Pro Tour debacle from a few years ago. Remember what a mess that was? Keeping the race purely Italian hasn't been working either. This is a business, and there are plenty of customers (spectators and sponsors) based in other countries. In a sport where sponsors are leaving and race disappearing, it really is a case of evolve or die. This isn't an instant event, it is a process. In terms of web presence, social media, and even live streaming, the Giro has been much more forward thinking, enabling many more of the Tifosi abroad to follow the race.

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  4. Hi Touriste-Routier! Thanks for sharing your viewpoint. Maybe it's a bit harsh, but RCS are big boys! C'mon, they have the muscle to keep the race in the old slot, and should use it. What's on their plate could possibly be a higher priority? Sorry, I don't buy the often used 'evolve or die' logic when it comes to shifting the date, or putting the start of race in far flung markets. That's often an excuse to justify any change... How exactly are these 'improvements?' How are they in the Giro's long term best interest? I think both measures, over time dilute and harm the core brand, and the core Giro product. Marketing the Giro to grow the 'business' does not necessarily require major 'product (e.g. race) changes' (e.g. shifting dates earlier than tradition). Conversely, making the product (as distinct from its marketing and promotion) more 'Global' in nature is also a confusing and diluting influence on their brand (e.g. 'Gran Ciclismo Italiano').

    I don't buy that Giro's business growth (and global appeal) and remaining 100% Italian are mutually exclusive. Nor that they need to be less Italian to attract spectators and viewers. I'd wager the converse is true. Reaching out to new revenue streams does not require changes to the traditional proven formula. Growth should (and does) involve promotion such as Gran Fondo's associated in far flung regions, merchandising, TV rights, etc. - but shifting the race dates that sacrifice or risk the ability to complete the sporting competition is not evolution. Net effect is devolving the product, and destructive to it. It's number 2 on the Grand Tour list. It's a monument.

    They're making the 'New Coke' mistake while we watch. RCS should work on the marketing and promotion, but be very careful about changing the race too much.

    To grow a brand and a business you should never go 'broad'...countless business books show how this is always a fallacy....You should go 'deep'.

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    Replies
    1. Larry shares the same fears, designing and running La Corsa Rosa based on social media opinions risks alienating the true fans in pursuit of a fickle generation with short attention spans. History seems to show the passion and singular vision of one crazed person (ala Vincenzo Torriani as described in "Stars and Watercarriers" or was it "Greatest Show on Earth"?) is key to creating legends and lasting success. Marketing mavens have their place, but running the Giro is not it...bring back Zomegnan!!!! He's a man who bleeds pink rather than the color of money.

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