CovidComms Awards

Halfords gets people back on their bikes

Winner: Best integrated campaign
CovidComms Awards 2020

​​​​​​​Within days of lockdown in March, it became clear that cycling would play a key role in keeping people active. Indeed, it was one of three forms of exercise, along with walking and running, suggested by Prime Minister Boris Johnson while bicycle shops were designated essential businesses, and allowed to stay open.

But cycling would also play a crucial part in the strategy to get people back to the workplace.

This spike in interest provides Halfords, Britain’s biggest cycling retailer, with an opportunity to support its strategy to inspire and support a lifetime of cycling, by promoting services such as fittings and repairs.

Agency Powerscourt Group was tasked with devising a campaign to support Halfords’ servicing offering. Its solution was to focus on those neglected bikes languishing in the nation’s sheds and garages, which its research put at about seven million, and to ‘own’ the conversation about lapsed cyclists and, in doing so, ensure that Halfords’ voice was prominent but also encourage would-be bikers to visit their local stores before they hit the roads.

On 11 May 2020, Get Back On A Bike launched – one day after the Government announced a £2 billion package to put cycling and walking at the heart of its transport strategy. The campaign was intended not only to encourage lapsed cyclists to take up the sport again but also as a rallying cry to the nation to get back to, something approaching normality, on a bike. Central to the campaign was an offering from Halfords to conduct a free 32-point check on neglected bikes so that their owners could be reassured they were in roadworthy condition.

Halfords’ chief executive Graham Stapleton appeared on BBC Breakfast, Sky News, BBC Radio 5 Live and LBC News to promote the campaign, which was also covered by several media outlets, including The Guardian, Financial Times and The Sun.

The campaign was also promoted on social media by Olympic gold medallists Victoria Pendleton and Chris Boardman, whose by-line appeared on an op-ed in The Times’ Thunderer column, in which he asked why cycling statistics were not presented at the Government’s daily press briefing, pointing out that in May there had been a record 170,000 extra bicycle trips in Greater Manchester in just one day. Letters were also sent to leading government figures, such as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, asking for the statistics to be included. (They were included from 4 June.)

What did the campaign achieve? On the day of launch, Halfords’ share price ‘pedalled ahead’ more than 25 per cent while the number of customers requesting bike checks rose five-fold over the following weeks. These are still running a much higher level than normal. The judges felt this entry was ‘a great example of PR having a direct impact on business performance’.