04-09-2019 - Blog

Reach New Heights: A new brand position as the Haute Route prepares for the future

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Since the 2011, the Haute Route Cycling Series, which is owned and organised by OC Sport, has been dedicated to providing amateur cyclists from around the world with an unparalleled experience on and off the bike. Nine years later, and now comprised of 11 events spread across the globe, the Haute Route has grown from strength to strength off the back of its flagship first event in the Alps.

Originally sold as ‘the highest and toughest cyclosportive in the world’ unsurprisingly the Haute Route has attracted some extremely dedicated amateur riders as well as professionals over the years.

As the event itself expands – there are now two seven-day events and nine three-day offerings around the globe – so too does its customer base, with around 14,000 riders from all over the world making up the pelotons on the roads of Europe, north America, the Middle East and China.

But with this growth comes a series of challenges, not least how the Haute Route can continue to expand its client base and remain relevant in line with the events growth.

Philippe Jullien, Haute Route Sales and Marketing Director explains: “The Haute Route was originally built around the concept of seven-day events, first in the Alps, then we introduced the Pyrenees and Dolomites in quick succession. Then in 2017, we introduced the three-day events.

And today, eight-years after we originally launched the Haute Route, we’re in a position where we recognised an evolution of our positioning was required in line with our growth and to set us up for the future. If I can sum up everything we are doing in one sentence, it would be that we’re moving from an event-centric company to a customer-centric brand with a cohesive vision and mission at the centre.”

And what exactly does this mean? “It’s about making an evolution of the corporate culture, because today the level of delivery is considered by our clients to be very high, so we now need to improve what is going on around the event. And I really think our major differentiation point is our brand.”

Philippe joined OC Sport, (the global sports management company that creates unique sporting experiences in sailing, cycling, running, ultra-trail running and triathlon), 18 months ago after spending 11 years at the international tennis equipment company BABOLAT, most recently as Global Brand Activation and Partnerships Manager. Since then he has worked with the Lausanne-based Haute Route team to lead the cycling series through this evolution and develop a new brand identity, which was launched at the end of August. It has been a complex process, which Philippe says has now positioned the brand for it’s next phase with an identity which best reflects its values and what its riders want.

“We gave the wheels to the peloton, so to speak, and invested a lot of time in a market survey earlier this year.”

This market survey, which included both existing alumni and potential riders, provided some key insights into the factors riders consider when choosing an event, as well as a more detailed profile on who the audience is, a clearer understanding of their motivations and the perceived barriers to entry.

“Prior to that we were making some assumptions – all be it informed assumptions – about our riders’ motivation,” Philippe explains. “For example, we thought the events were potentially too hard to allow us to really increase our client base. Thanks to the market survey, we realised that wasn’t the case and it wasn’t a matter of fitness, but more about preparation. We could continue to position ourselves as the highest and toughest multiday cycling event in the world – that is spirit - but we needed more differentiation between our events. And we needed to help riders meet their own personal goals. That is where the concept of ‘Reach New Heights’ came from.”

What may seem like a fairly subtle shift in messaging is intended to communicate the brand values of the Haute Route more effectively and to engage riders at a worldwide level. Beyond ‘just’ creating a new brand identity and position, a new marketing offer has been developed with a new visual identity at the centre – one which Philippe says caused much debate.

“We wanted the design to be different. When you remove the event logo, what makes it look different to our competitors? I don’t think we need to show bikes, bikes bikes. We wanted to take it in a new direction, it’s not a male centric, ego-driven tough event; it’s a challenge that is accessible to everyone. That’s why we used the two women as our main image. Some people were a bit surprised by that. But what we’re communicating is the spirit and the achievement.”

Having taken on board the survey feedback, a new website has also been launched, which has a strong focus on training solutions for riders – both digital and physical – to provide them with the support they need to prepare for an Haute Route. And from a practical sense, a new CRM has also been developed, allowing the Haute Route team communicate in a much more targeted way to their customers and to tailor the messages people receive.

Internally, the team have also optimised their structure to allow them to work in the same way, no matter how many events take place and in what locations. Short-term, Philippe explains his team is focused on informing the cycling community about the series’ new positioning; that it is more than just a communications tool, but a practical evolution that will really make a difference to their Haute Route experience.

And what’s next for the Haute Route? “The focus is on expanding the franchise model. The idea is to have 1 or 2 additional franchised events per year. We will focus on locations that already have a strong cycling community but practically speaking, are probably too far away to invest straight away in travel to one of our European or north American events.

“For example we’ve just launched an event in Brazil for 2020. There is a growing cycling community there. For them the best customer journey is to understand the value of the Haute Route as an experience in their home market – so it removes logistical and cost restraints – and then the next step is for them to have access to a new destination outside of their country. ‘Reach new Heights’ and the support we will provide riders through training is a message that works on a global level.”

What is clear is the driver behind this new positon is the riders. And with the right support, the team at the Haute Route believe anyone can exceed their expectations for performance and success.

If you’re looking for your next challenge, in a supportive environment with world-class services, then visit the website to find out how you can achieve more than you thought.

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