When Corporate Sponsorship Backfires

BicyclePhoto: Ian Sane

From the Wall Street Journal:

When British bank Barclays PLC agreed to shell out ?25 million ($39 million) to sponsor London’s new public bike-rental program, it envisioned the marketing benefits of seeing its sky-blue logo draped on thousands of cycles around the city.

But this week Barclays’ prime marketing opportunity quite literally turned into a curse.

Londoners woke up Friday morning to find obscene stickers affixed to a number of the rental cycles. Attached to the bikes just above the bank’s logo, the decals delivered a one-word message that, combined with the bank’s name underneath, succinctly conveyed many Britons’ anger toward the banking sector: “F- Barclays.”

“There are fairly resourceful people out there, even if they’ve got potty mouths,” said Matt Brown, a spokesman for Transport for London, which runs the city’s extensive network of public buses, trains, boats and now bikes.

Even more powerful than unbranding, it would appear. I particularly like the Transport spokesman’s comment. The Brits do have a different sense of drollery, don’t they? I cannot see a U.S. spokesman waxing quite so entertainingly …


James Jamieson

Ironic that this has backfired in that everybody calls these bikes "Boris Bikes" after the london mayor, rather than the corporate sponsor...