Santander’s CMO on how its ‘Cycles’ sponsorship has boosted brand engagement

Santander took over sponsorship of the London Cycle Hire scheme last summer and claims it is already seeing a boost to brand metrics, with the deal helping the brand better engage customers and help them get ‘under the skin’ of the brand.

Speaking to Marketing Week, CMO Keith Moor said the brand has seen an uptick in brand scores, particularly among those that use the Santander Cycles scheme in London. And despite concerns that people would continue to label the scheme as ‘Boris Bikes’, Moor says awareness of Santander’s association with the programme is already high.

He points to figures that show 67% associate Santander with the scheme. In comparison awareness of previous sponsor Barclays’ tie-up peaked at 72%, despite the brand sponsoring it for almost five years.

“Scores on our brand are improving. It is very early days but these are encouraging signs – people seem to like the fact we are involved,” he said.

“We came in at a great time. We wanted [a sponsorship deal] that would give us more engagement on a day-to-day basis and increase brand visibility so we have more of a connection with our customers.”

Santander is sponsoring a new cycle hire scheme in Milton Keynes
Santander is sponsoring a new cycle hire scheme in Milton Keynes

One of the main aims of the scheme has been to encourage more people to cycle and Moor claims it had its biggest day ever over the summer during the Tube strikes, when more than 70,000 people used the bikes. However, he admits there are still challenges.

“The big factor that varies – you can have the greatest scheme in the world with the best infrastructure but we are still at the mercy of the great British weather. That is a big factor that drives usage.

“What we want to do is extend the current hardcore usage of the scheme away from the summer months and to get people to think about taking a journey with a bike rather than another mode of transport,” he said.

Safety also remains an issue in encouraging more people to cycle and Santander is investing in improvements in this area with the introduction of Blaze Laserlights that improve visibility. It has also updated the app to show availability of free spaces where people want to drop off bikes, not just where they are picking them up and make maps more interactive to encourage usage.

The deal with Transport for London is part of a wider sponsorship strategy at Santander that has seen the brand use its Formula One tie-up to drive brand awareness globally and then more local deals to help consumers “get under the skin of the brand”.

“Globally Santander is a relatively new brand. We haven’t been around for hundreds of years and have only been on the UK high street since 2010. F1 delivered massive high speed awareness gains and associations with innovation, dynamism and technology. But it was less good at driving understanding of what the brand is about,” Moor explained.

“More local sponsorships show how we help people on a day to day business and that it’s not just about money but about helping people get on in life.”

Keith Moor, CMO, Santander

“People can get a little bit of extra help in their day by using Santander Cycles and it provides more of an emotional connection.”

Connecting with staff has also been key. Santander has cycle champions across its London branches who offer help to customers and advice on how to use the scheme. They were also out on the streets during the Tube strike giving people maps of the docking stations.

This strong engagement is why Santander has now extended its association with bike hire schemes to Milton Keynes. Santander has its biggest offices in the city and the ready-built cycle network in the area made it an ideal way to extend its association.

Moor said the focus for Santander now is on making both schemes “better”, whether that is through safety improvements, developments to its app or expansion – such as the recent extension of the London scheme to the Queen Elizabeth Park in East London.

“We want to help people get on every day and to see they can get a little bit of extra help in their day by using Santander Cycles.

“Our brand’s slogan is ‘simple, personal, fair’ and the cycle scheme is the embodiment of that. We have only scraped the surface of what we are going to do.”

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