Events have a special place in the heart of a PR professional. They’re a whole lot of work for hopefully the big pay-off.
The latter is usually indicative of the effort put into the former.
Brandnation’s trip to Verbier for a stage of the Giro D’Italia started off with a partnership announcement. SunGod announced their long-awaited partnership with Team INEOS Grenadiers. The multi-grand tour winning team (formerly Team Sky) were leaving behind their Oakley’s and joining forces with SunGod.
It makes sense doesn’t it? Two British powerhouse brands, British riders in an inherently British sport, focused on high performance and delivering top notch results.
And in a quirky work of fate, this year’s Giro is riding through Verbier – the home of SunGod’s flagship store. Fate seems to have merged with business!
The object of the event – invite 5 journalists to SunGod basecamp, get a feel for life in the famous Alpine town, watch the Giro and get 1-1 time with the riders and senior leadership of INEOS Grenadiers. Sound like fun? All in a day’s work I guess…
If you’ve run a marathon, you’ll know the phrase, “you’re not running a marathon, you’re just running the last 26.2miles of your training plan.” Welcome to event management. It’s a lot of hard work to get here, but now you’re on the flight to Geneva for the final 3 days of effort.
Expect an early start to get to an event location. 4:45am wake up will do the trick. Your flight is in 4 hours, but lots could go wrong on British roads – so make sure you’re there with the other airport parents, boarding passes printed ahead of time.
Count them all in and out. Bags dropped and through security, an airport breakfast and strong coffee will whileaway the time before the flight. If timings have gone according to plan, you’ll have more than enough time for everyone to get what they need, relax and get to know each other. Pick a location near a gate announcement board and take charge by getting drinks and food in before anyone asks.
A collaborative client is a blessing. The team at SunGod were there to meet us on the other side of customs and we hopped on the reliable Swiss train to Verbier. Quiet, comfortable and on time.
Bags are dropped and get the product plugging in early. The guests came to the SunGod flagship store and got the first hands on look at the glasses exclusively worn by Tour winner Geraint Thomas. He’s wearing the leader’s famous pink jersey and the glasses are in his signature bold statement white. A new item in the SunGod range, SunGod’s Head of Product talks through the design process, the feedback and meetings with Geraint and how a process which normally takes 9 months was fast-tracked in 4 months. It involved a lot of late nights and R&D I’m told.
Drinks and dinner – a well deserved rest at the end of day 1.
Verbier is famously a ski-resort, 1500meters above sea level, and home to a 13-switchback 7km road with 1800 feet in vertical climbing. A morning ride gets the guests’ legs and lungs moving with the team at Haute Velo taking us on a 50km ride, with 5000ft climbing. Down the valley, up the valley, back down the valley and back up the hill. You can tell these are cycling journalists as Charlie Allenby completed the climb back up to Verbier in just 32 minutes! He had the fastest time of the day… that was until the pro peloton followed a few hours later.
A private bar with food, champagne and beer allowed the guests, SunGod staff and INEOS’s MD, Head of Racing and Head Partnerships Manager time to watch the Giro’s amended stage in leisure. 1-1 interviews were conducted, chat of this year’s race was had, and shouts of ‘Allez Allez’ as the pros rolled through town, seemingly putting our efforts up the hill to shame. We watched the drama unfold with Thibaut Pinot the Frenchmen battle it out with Einer Rubio and Jefferson Cepeda – only to lose the stage win in the final 200 meters. Commisérations.
The evening was a Q&A with John Allert (MD), Roger Hammond (Head of Racing) and Elia Viviani (Team INEOS rider). Questions previously submitted and an open forum made for a fascinating discussion. The final question of ‘why do you work in cycling’ left the room inspired by John’s answer – an incredibly simple message that ‘we all remember that first feeling of riding on two wheels and the sense of adventure it gave us’. Dinner was another classic Swiss tradition of fondue in a wood-wall-clad restaurant – followed by brandy sorbet.
Day 3 and maybe there’s a few tired eyes – but the prize on the horizon is with the pro-riders. Geraint remains in Pink, SunGod glasses are on, and with the Covid protocols returned and media trips cancelled across the peloton, it is remarkably quiet in the press area. We had access to Rod Ellingworth (Deputy Team Principal), Diego Costa (Mechanic), Clement Briscadieu (Performance Operations Coordinator) and Aitor Viribay (Nutritionist). British super stars Geraint Thomas and Ben Swift offer the journalists some moments of their time before they go into the day’s stage, focused on their goal to maintain the team jersey and Thomas’ 2 second marginal lead. It’s a tough ask and it’s a privilege to watch. Hopefully it’s still there by the time this blog goes live.
We take the train back to the airport to begin the long journey home. Things don’t always go according to plan and contingencies have to be made. Like the pro-tour in the face of adverse weather, crashes and illness, a press trip only runs as smoothly as your ability to make it so. It should seem so natural and organic to those taking part. In reality, there is the effort of planning, amending and coordinating with an exceptional eye for detail which makes it seem that way.
When all is said and done, coverage should come. If you’ve controlled the controllables, accounted for the unpredictable, and remained flexible and can adapt to when things inevitably stop going well – then you’ve done all you can to make it a success. Rest easy, you’ve earnt it.