Velo Media

Brand Refresh for SHIFT ACTIVE MEDIA

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Late last month at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey California, the cycling marketing agency Shift Active Media unveiled their fresh new brand identity with the addition of ‘The Great Outdoors’ to their claim.


When I saw this I immediately wanted to write about the omnipresent cycling creative firm. Could the addition of outdoor category be a sign of crisis or a long term expansion play?


For those that work in the industry, SHIFT is known as the 500 pound gorilla cycling marketing agency. When I hear someone mention that they work with SHIFT, it’s often accompanied with a moment of beaming pride.


SHIFT Active Media is headquartered in Bath, UK and was founded in 2010 by Simon Wear.

Wear worked for 18 years in the publishing industry before starting Shift. After working his way up through the ranks at Future publishing, a global leader in specialist publishing, Wear had the foresight to create a truly unique agency at a time when cycling really began growing in the early 2010s. Simon and his team were also uniquely strong in video production. They eventually went on to start GCN in 2013. 


Since their founding SHIFT has built an impressive list of clients that are among many of the top brands in cycling such as Rapha, YT, ZWIFT, Campagnolo, and Bosch.


The complexity of navigating the global market, as nearly all cycling brands are forced to do, means that services from an agency like SHIFT will always be in demand. But aside from their dominance in the cycling industry, I always wondered how scalable this business model is in the long run. 


Since cycling is so niche it makes perfect sense that an agency like SHIFT exists, but at the same time there is a rather low ceiling for growth. Any way you slice it, cycling is small compared to other industries. In addition, brands often require category exclusivity. An agency can work with only one bike brand, one shoe brand, one helmet brand, at a time. Could this be the reason for the brand identity update? 


Surely the hangover from COVID has not helped their business and a pivot to the outdoor sector makes perfect sense.


In terms of innovation over the last year SHIFT has been leaning into the UPLIFT program which provides mentorship opportunities for women aspiring to work in the industry. The website states: “Given the current demographics of the cycling industry, which remains predominantly male – we’ve observed an unmet need for young aspiring female talent to have female leaders to speak to, and learn from (especially where this can’t be done within their existing organisations).”


Although there are undoubtedly headwinds in the cycling sector, the long term outlook is positive and I count on SHIFT being around for a long time. This latest tweak of their identity to include outdoor seems logical although they have quite the hill to climb to build the trust in outdoor that they currently possess in cycling.

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