In Bicycle Based Businesses, community, Portland, sponsors, Transportation

When you think of New York City, there are usually a set of images that come to mind. The Statue of Liberty, Central Park, 80s saxophone solos, traffic jams, and yellow taxis stuck in said jams. It’s a big city, and there’s a lot of people trying to get to their destination in a big East Coast hurry. Getting around in New York can be a hassle unless you’re willing to take the subway (scary), walk (tiresome), or take a bike (now we’re getting somewhere).

Biking had historically been non-existent in New York until the start of the CitiBike program. With that, CitiBank is starting to bring another common image to the table: six thousand blue bikes along with three hundred stations meant to help New Yorkers get around their crowded city.

The bikes have been gaining interest throughout the city. Bruce Willis, the man who patented walking away from explosions in slow motion, rode a CitiBike to the Letterman Show, Leonardo DiCaprio has been seen riding through the streets on one of the bikes, and Jon Stewart spent a portion of his show mocking critics of the program.

During the first five months of the program, more than ninety-thousand people signed up for annual passes with the program. More than five million rides were taken, covering a total distance of over ten million miles. This alone saved approximately three hundred and seventy thousand gallons of gas which would have been used getting through dense city traffic. That’s a lot of gasoline.

“That’s great, but why do we care?” you might ask. Portland is way ahead of the country in the use of bikes, considered one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the nation. You’re right of course, but the success of CitiBike isn’t just a ethical or conservational one; CitiBank has experienced a huge jump in public opinion.

I don’t need to help you recall that banks haven’t necessarily upheld the best image in the last couple of years. Less than three years ago, Citibank was was facing angry protesters trying to close their accounts. Some bank names were almost dirty words, and a lot of banks still hold a stigma. And yet now, CitiBank is becoming a preferred bank brand in New York. As Eric Shaal from Advertising Week reports, “One CitiBike rider said it took about 25 rides before he walked into a CitiBank ATM in order to withdraw cash. The surprising part was that he is a Chase Bank customer. Interacting with CitiBikes had led him to consider CitiBank his own.”

Much of the success has been chalked up to this new type of “Non Ads” or “Un Ads.” Instead of trying the standard damage control by airing empty commercials (Remember AIG and their “Thank you America” bit? Ugh…) CitiBank is creating functional advertising, making a win-win situation. Riders get an easy, fast ride from point A to B, and CitiBank gets some minor advertising. Not a bad trade off.

Does any of this sound familiar? It’s probably because Portland Pedal Power has been doing something very similar to this “Non Ad strategy” since 2009. Our own bikes are out on the streets, making deliveries and interacting with customers. We’re not just spouting empty banner ads; anyone can do that. We’re putting our money where our mouth is, and that kind of effort is what counts.

And as we’ve proved in the past, this kind of interactive advertising works! On average, we get 275,000 total impressions and 198,000 unique impressions per bike per month. Our banner ads get a minimum of 30 observable hours per week. We hand out flyers, give out samples, and our riders can talk about who we’re sponsoring because we know your company is something worth knowing about!

So here’s to you CitiBank, for illustrating something we’ve known about for a while. It’s not about what you say, it’s how you say it that counts.

(In case you’re wondering, this is us saying “We were doing non ads before it was cool.” We live in Portland, we’re allowed to let the inner hipster out from time to time.)

Is this something your business may consider taking advantage of? Contact us at “[email protected]” or on Facebook and Twitter! We would love to talk to you about rates and packaging information to help get your business on the streets!