On a recent trip to New York I saw a plethora of blue bikes around the city. Emblazoned with the Citi Bike moniker dozens of racked bikes were stationed waiting to be ridden while a platoon of two wheelers ferried commuters, tourists and residents around town. The concept is an extension of the sharing society that has become prevalent in this country with car sharing services in urban cities. However Citigroup’s foray into this space is a social impact marketing strategy that is part environmental stewardship, part transportation infrastructure project and part good will as a result of Citibank’s tax payer funded bailout. For a mere $41 million dollars Citibank literally branded Manhattan.
Citi Bike currently has 4,725 bikes that support the mobility aspirations of 94,000 registered members who have ridden 9.4 million miles since the bike sharing debut this past May. By all accounts its been a remarkable success. There are on an average 35,000 daily riders, peddling a little over two miles per trip in a little under 19 minutes. Part of a recent corporate trend in collective well-being, this bike share program reduces traffic congestion, reduces carbon footprint while at the same time increasing transportation alternatives and public health-wellness. This public/private infrastructure project was implemented without any tax dollars and is on track to break even after its first nine months of operations.
Bottom Line: The $41 Million marketing investment, or .008% of Citigroup’s $400 billion bailout, has landed the company the naming-rights juggernaut as the primary bike share corporate sponsor. This makes buying the naming rights to a stadium look like amateur folly. The concept represents a guerrilla marketing campaign that will cause every marketing department to rethink how their marketing dollars are being spent. While social media and content marketing may be all the rage there is nothing like a Platoon of Blue brandishing the Citi Bike logo around Manhattan and the boroughs on 35,000 daily journey’s.