Can Earned Media Mean Victory for USA Cycling?

Jessie Berry

This year in Rio, USA Cycling took home five Olympic medals, including three silver and two gold. While they emerged victorious from the Games, how do they achieve success off the racetrack for their organization through a strong emphasis on earned media and PR?

One of the nation’s most popular, and oldest, sports is dealing with aging athletes, declining membership and a disconnect between amateur riders and their elite counterparts. That is perhaps the biggest challenge facing USA Cycling this Olympic year.

USA Cycling’s CEO Derek Bouchard-Hall knows change is needed. “There is no doubt we need to adapt as an organization,” he stated in an interview earlier this year.

In order to to get the non-profit back on track, Bouchard-Hall strategized three ways the organization could start to turn things around:

First, he is championing a renewed emphasis on amateur cycling, rather than funneling so much of USA Cycling’s resources to elite athletes. The idea is that by fostering growth at the grassroots level, the sport in the U.S. will become more robust in the long-term.

Second, he decided to broaden the coverage of USA Cycling to include the everyday cyclist, not just professional racers. For example, the organization now covers mass events such as RAGBRAI and Gran Fondos, as these pseudo-races have gained recent popularity.

Lastly, he is championing the organization to be more open, transparent and agile with data and a customer-focused approach.

But the road to fixing these issues won’t be easy. As a non-profit, USA Cycling relies a lot on fundraising, and it’s not always easy to raise money. Things tend to ebb and flow with seasonality around the Olympic Games, or even with very popular athletes, like Lance Armstrong. The 2012 London Games helped the cycling org earn a minor increase in funds, after snagging four cycling medals. But the company is hopeful that Rio will have proven to be a better year for American fans to tune-in, with a lesser discrepancy in time zones to contend with.

USA Cycling will undoubtedly need to work hard both off and on the racetrack this year, as building stories and visibility without the Lance Armstrong stardom to lead the way will be more difficult. But Rio also provided both the brand and the CEO’s vision a prime opportunity to put his plan to the test.

From Fortune 500 to non-profit organizations, earned media is crucial to brand success. And monitoring and measuring its value is even more vital to analyzing its efforts.

Our client case study with USA Cycling explores how we helped them keep track of their PR, storytelling and Olympic branding efforts in order to better optimize their messaging and resources. Read the case study to see how.

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