Sarah Clark is the Chief Marketing Officer of Rapha, the British cycling brand known and loved for celebrating cycling as a sport and culture.
Rapha is a prime example of how a brand can build an authentic community around a clear purpose: it runs its own cycling club with thousands of members, operates 22 clubhouses around the world, organizes weekly rides that anyone can join, produces movies, has a beautiful print magazine and a ton of other projects that help people discover their passion for cycling.
We met Sarah at Rapha's London headquarters to find out how it all came about: how Rapha got started, how her vision of the brand evolved and Sarah's advice for people who want to start their own mission-driven brand.
5:55 "I think the reason why we’ve succeeded because everyone genuinely wants the mission to succeed. (…) The people here see the value of the bike. And that becomes much more compelling as a mission for a company rather than just sell more stuff.”
7:24 “Suffer is a company value, which is often very polarizing in people’s minds as to what it really means. Inspire others. Think for yourself. Love the sport. We actually write down these values and we judge ourselves against them.”
13:28 “We’re trying to make our clubhouses community hubs. Even when you join the Rapha Cycling Club the coffee is free, so you can come in every day and enjoy the clubhouse space. So we feel like we’re incredibly fair for what we’re trying to create and what the commercial return is for that.”
17:55 “We stopped being in wholesale two years ago. That means that everything is direct through our website or our clubhouses. That is incredibly important because we want to be the ones to help deliver the whole holistic experience to the customer. It isn’t about the relationship of buying another jersey. It’s about a relationship of the customer on a journey with cycling.”
25:18 “We’re famously polarizing because we’ve celebrated that road cycling is the greatest sport in the world. It’s a massive statement to make. There’s lots of ways you can unpick it : Why is it road cycling? Why isn’t it mountain biking? What’s going on with doping? We’ve taken something which is very problematic but we’ve remained incredibly determined to help to unpick it and to help people to understand."
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