To bring a poorly-known German bike share brand to the UK market at a time when Boris bikes and the big-spending Chinese companies Mobike and Ofo had entered the market.
It was an incredibly competitive time – a client under huge amount of pressure to deliver but with vast budget constraints. It couldn’t match the spending power of the Chinese operators so creativity was key, and while Nextbike had bikes in more than 150 cities around the globe, its UK operation was minute.
One of the aims was for Nextbike to not only be part of the wider bike share landscape, but to be leading the debate and push for an increase in cycling across the UK. It also wanted to be firmly positioned as the bike share firm with a strong moral compass, dedicated to improving the communities in which it operates.
Making a noise locally
Nextbike wanted to make a difference locally and for communities to see them as being part of the furniture. With vandalism of ‘street bikes’ at worryingly high levels, it was hoped that community buy-in would save Nextbike from a similar fate.
We launched a number of initiatives in the various cities Nextbike operates within, aimed at rooting the company in the community as well as engaging with ‘bigger’ stakeholders such as the NHS and various local authorities, including Glasgow City Council and Cardiff Council.
We organised mass bikes rides for residents and journalists to mark scheme anniversaries to put Nexbike firmly at the heart of the community by sending out the message that we believed that the schemes and bikes belonged to the communities, rather than to Nextbike.
Targeting specific groups
We also needed to target underrepresented groups – women over 40 and ethnic minorities, who traditionally saw bikes as a lower class way to travel – and enable Nextbike to put pressure on Parliament to improve cycling access and safety.
To show how Nextbikes are for the masses rather than the few, we searched for stories highlighting the various people who used each scheme and how it had benefited them, including one Glaswegian woman who lost six stone in weight after swapping her car for a bike on her daily commute.
A national angle
We’ve also invited journalists to ditch their cars in favour of a Nextbike – and even got a reporter from The Sun to replicate his normal commute on a Nextbike, in a taxi, and on public transport to highlight our messages.
The bigger picture
Not only have we provided PR support but also creative direction and strategic advice throughout our ongoing contract with Nextbike. Our tie-up with the NHS in Cardiff was particularly noteworthy – again an idea our team came up with, put together, chased and saw through to delivery.
After a conversation with Cardiff’s Director of Public Health, we identified a great opportunity to help push an important public health message in the city. The plan was to bring the health benefits of cycling into the NHS armoury and offer Nextbike memberships to get vulnerable patients fit.
Nextbike on prescription
The resulting scheme, ‘Nextbike on prescription’ was the first-ever bike share available on NHS prescription as part of its social prescribing scheme. It generated huge amounts of coverage and interest from around the world, which was worth £580,182 and reached an audience of more than 22million people.
When the unexpected happens
Of course, not every business we work with succeeds in each chosen market and our worth is often proved when things don’t go right for the client. This happened in glorious technicolour when Nextbike was awarded the contract to provide a landmark bike share scheme for the West Midlands. We worked closely with several of the seven WM local authorities that were involved in the project, in addition to a team from the Mayor of the West Midlands’ office, to generate a raft of positive publicity when the contract was awarded, with a press launch including Mayor Andy Street riding a Nextbike outside his office for the waiting cameras.
It would have been the biggest project of its kind anywhere outside of London but the onslaught of Brexit, which brought with it an increase in costs and complicated deliveries, saw the contract perish and it was stripped from nextbike.
Amidst all the acrimony, we not only positioned Nextbike strongly with the Midlands’ media thanks to our long-standing connections in the area, we also helped soothe the main stakeholders, who at one stage were threatening legal action.
In the last two years alone, we’ve generated:-
Our success at delivering Nextbike into the UK market was rewarded with a contract to look after the entire global PR and comms for the scheme, creating a global newsletter for all partners to keep-up internationally and leading to the further expansion of the service – now up to 215 cities worldwide.