Bradley Wiggins: Building the brand – BBC News

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Between the heights of “Wiggomania” in the summer of 2012 and now, Sir Bradley Wiggins has slowly transformed himself as a public figure, preparing the road for his post-Rio career, writes Alex Murray.

In 2012, “Wiggo” became the first British man to win the Tour de France and Olympic gold in the same year. Not bad for a working-class son, raised by a single mum in north London.

The haircut, sideburns and long frame, the dry British witticism and spiky, rock’n’roll personality – as well as the litany of achievements – in brand words, it’s a win combination.

But while other sporting starrings swapped the golden glow of London for endorsing everything from mineral water( Sir Chris Hoy ), to meat replaces( Mo Farah) and life insurance( Jessica Ennis-Hill ), there were very few products associated with the Wiggins name.

It wasn’t that he didn’t have relationships – fashion brand Fred Perry and his team sponsor Sky, among others – it’s simply that he’s not a face-on-a-cereal packet type of sportsman.

Image caption Suits you, Sir: Wiggins is well known for his love of fashion, including the clothes of British designer Sir Paul Smith

But instead of enjoying the heights, what arrived next were “the hardest two years of my life”, he says.

‘I’m a racer , not a fundraiser’

A key part of his public image immediately after the Olympics was his charitable foundation, established with the aims of “encouraging participation in sport” as well as supporting the next generation of athletes.

It hosted a lavish Yellow Ball to raise funds in October 2012, which fitted perfectly with Wiggomania – a “best clobber” dress code, his favourite bands, a boozy rock’n’roll festivity of Brad.

Image copyright Bradley Wiggins Foundation
Image caption Tickets started at 495 for the Yellow Ball

It also organised “Ride With Brad” charity events, but the rides struggled to cover their costs and the Charity Commission raised concerns about how funds were being spent on sponsoring athletes. Wiggins had to cover losses from his own pocket.

While preparing for the Tour of Britain in 2014, he told the Guardian that he was winding down activities. He would afterward acknowledge: “I’m a racer not a fund raiser you know.”

For a starring trying to build a reputation as inspiring and supporting the next generation, the negative capital attached to the foundation’s activities was a heavy price.

From Wiggo to Sir Bradley

Behind the scenes Wiggins fell out with his management company, MTC, leading to reports in March 2013 that he was to join XIX Management, the home of David Beckham, and who had also helped transform Andy Murray and Lewis Hamilton.

Image copyright AP
Image caption 2013 was not a happy year

By the summer of 2013, Wiggins faced another tricky problem: he appeared increasingly unlike a challenger in multi-day races after an ill-fated attempt at winning the Giro d’Italia.

In July, he lost his unique position as Britain’s merely Tour de France winner as teammate Chris Froome succeeded him in Paris, while he sat at home injured.

When he was knighted for services to cycling in December 2013, he said: “It’s simply the end of the road in a sense, in that it tops off the closure of last summer as it were, even though it’s more than a year ago.”

Image copyright AP
Image caption “I’ve won a motorcycle race, you know, and I feel a little bit inferior to everyone, really” – Wiggins on being knighted for services to cycling

With that, Wiggo became Sir Bradley, and he started to look for new ways to present himself to the public as a cyclist.

Froome rivalry

2014 got off to a poor start as details of his dispute with his former management company surfaced after legal action. The lawsuit was eventually resolved out of court but it defined the tone for a final period of uphill struggle.

The first mountain to climb would be selection for the 2014 Tour de France. XIX began work to deflate claims of a conflict with Froome, and Wiggins made conciliatory noises in interviews about supporting his rival’s title defence.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Chris Froome( L) helped Wiggins win the Tour de France in 2012. The pair did not compete together in the race again

Wiggins and Team Sky started to pick races where it was unlikely there would be a conflict and where he could reassert his status as Britain’s best-known bike rider, such as the historic Paris-Roubaix, in which he finished ninth.

Any hopes of Britain’s two Tour de France winners taking on the world together were punctured by Froome’s own account of the difficult dynamic between the two. Wiggins was not selected .~ ATAGEND

He then targeted and won a time trial title at the Road World Championships in the autumn, filling a notable gap in his achievements.

Media captionSir Bradley Wiggins wins world period trial title

After two years where it looked like his flame had gone out, the rainbow jersey reminded people that he was a winner.

Wiggins told La Gazzetta dello Sport “my time as a Grand Tour rider is over” as he set out his 2015 goals of winning Paris-Roubaix and violating the hour record.

For the first time since 2012, Sir Bradley Wiggins had new aims that he could use to tell his story.

Cometh the hour, cometh the rebrand

Covering the farthest distance possible on a way in one hour has been how cycling’s great champions leave their mark – Coppi, Merckx, Anquetil, Indurain all violated it during their careers.

And Wiggins knew he could take the record too after the standard rules change by cycling’s governing body, permitting the use of endurance track bikes.

He closed his Team Sky road career by coming 18th in Paris-Roubaix and then went on to establish his own eponymous team.

The hour record attempt in June 2015 would be under his own flag, in his hometown, at the London Olympic velodrome.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Wiggins attempted the hour record in front of a passionate home mob

In case there was any doubt, the biggest name on the kit was his own, emblazoned in golden letters. In a sport where showing off your sponsor is a key idea, it was a bold statement.

Visually, Wiggins was his own man.

In front of an expectant and passionate crowd, Wiggins delivered. He set a new record and drew a astonishingly big audience for the live coverage on television and online.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Wiggins celebrates his new hour record of 54. 526 km

The replica kit eventually devoted fans a chance to own a branded piece of the Wiggins story and has proved a popular scope for luxury cycling brand Rapha.

Many existing sponsors transferred their association to the new squad in order to maintain their link with Wiggins. The squad name gives him a place in the sport that will endure beyond his own career.

“I want it to be a legacy now, I want this team to be here 10, 15 years down the line, ” he said in a recent documentary, adding that he hoped it would “inspire a lot of people along the way, simply to even get on their bike”.

Rio and beyond

Finally in July 2016, Wiggins delivered the most obvious product for a famous cyclist: a range of bicycles. But merely for children.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sir Bradley Wiggins tries to persuade Lewis McEvoy, aged 7, to buy a bike

The branding matches the identity generated around his squad. It focused on values he had sought to emphasise since 2012.

A man not just inspiring cycling, but constructing it accessible to everyone – a message that he can carry beyond his final Olympic Games.

Image copyright Halfords

By focusing as much on inspiring others as his own accomplishment, Wiggins has ensured that his name comes with more than simply a yellow jersey or gold medal attached.

A medal in Rio is almost incidental.

Records can be broken, but reputations are harder won.

Sir Bradley Wiggins vies in the men’s squad quest in Rio. Qualifying takes place on Thursday, 11 August, with the finals on Friday, 12 August .

Read more: www.bbc.co.uk

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