An interesting little tidbit came out of Bike Europe the other day involving Taiwan's second largest bicycle manufacture, Merida Bikes, and the company's interest in placing their equipment under the asses of some of the world's top cycling talent as a pro team sponsor.
More factories, more models, especially in 29-ers and racing bikes, as well as more marketing support. There was even talk about participating the Tour de France with a professional team. That will probably happen with the new Merida Scultura SL Team (photo) which, together with a new series of 29-ers, was launched at last weekend’s Merida Dealer & Press Camp in Mallorca.
Merida is better known as a major shareholder in Specialized and the manufacturer of Specialized equipment.
The company's expressed interest in supporting a pro cycling team shows that Merida is looking to jump into the limelight as a stand-alone brand rather than be complacent as simply a Taiwanese OEM/ODM.
As much as the Tour de France is a display of both team and individual cycling prowess, the Tour is also the world's largest vehicle for bicycle marketing. It is in the Tour de France that consumers ogle their favorite teams as the riders splash logos across the television screens for six hour stints.
Several of the bikes in the pro peloton were simple OEM frames a couple years ago or at least much less regarded... until they made their debut at the Tour de France and saw their stock, in the eyes of the consumer, shoot to the stars. Much of the "cred" carried by the Giant TCR Advanced SL revolves around their use by Team Rabobank. It is not that these bikes are any more advanced than many others. It is because the companies have made the expensive investment in branding an image.
It will be an interesting interesting case study as our "little" Taiwanese brand shows if the marketing coup of a Tour appearance can rocket a company into becoming one of the world's more coveted brands.