THURSDAY NOV 14 / 2019 / by Andrew Talati

MAAP in the Australian countrysidePhoto couresy of Maap

Ollie (Oliver) Cousins is a well known face for cycling enthusiasts. He has built a brand that doesn't just provide people with riding accessories, but he's also given riders memorable moments. MAAP, Ollie’s renowned store for cycling apparel is ‘committed to developing the art and progression of cycling by approaching his customers in a unique and innovative style.

The original plan was just a pop-up shop in Adelaide to activate the brand. Ollie gradually turned his focus on building his brand by actively and directly engaging his customers.  The initial years were tough but, it’s hard to demoralise someone as determined as Ollie, who has built his brand step by step through active customer engagement. 

One Ride at a time

When asked about how he started off, he admits that as a relatively small business, MAAP didn’t have the capacity to host rides every day and bigger brands were already established in Adelaide. The real challenge was to stand out among all those brands that were already doing an excellent job. 

MAAP - TDU - Re-grouping at McLaren ValeTDU - MAAP en-route to Willunga, re-grouping in Mclaren Vale

So, Ollie shifted his focus to pick one ride at a time directly engaging with his target market. The MAAP team put all their staff and resources to make one ride a memorable experience for their customers and build up interest in their brand. They chose a big ride to start with – Willunga.

Caps, Coffee and Branding 

Ollie and his team’s approach has always been to fuel the love for cycling and riding among people. They strive to make those rides memorable as opposed to a mundane daily activity. Initially, they started out with caps. They put a budget together to make caps for rides and handed it out to people who attended those rides.

From caps, they moved to coffee and snacks. Riders would make a midway coffee stop where they were given coffee and pastries. Ollie recalls that these strategies worked really well as it helped create the much needed buzz and helped spread MAAP's brand through word-of-mouth. They've now been continuing this streak for almost five years.

MAAP - TDU - WIllunga Stage on Formby Rd - ClarendonTDU Willunga Stage - Formby Rd, Clarendon

Hills and Drinks - Putting in some extra effort

As more and more riders got associated with MAAP, something more exciting was planned for them. Last year, the MAAP team placed tents on top of a hill and handed out cold drinks for the riders as they rode past. 

TDU Willunga Stage - MAAP Marquee (on the far left) - Willunga HillTDU Willunga Stage - MAAP Marquee (on the far left) - Willunga Hill

MAAP pop-up on Willunga Hill - Richie Porte attacksWillunga Hill MAAP Pop-up - enjoying classic Richie Porte soloing to the finish line

Of course all of these new initiatives also meant extra effort and more work for the team as some of them had to get there up before the ride commenced to secure the space and take care of the details before riders arrived.

As Ollie put it, the idea of refreshments was a nice addition, but the preparation period along with the ride was filled with work. Staying focused during all that noise and activity took a fair bit of effort.

Give it All You Got

MAAP TDU_Popup - Adelaide - Willunga Ride start Donuts & CoffeeMAAP Pop-up Adelaide - TDU, Willunga Stage ride

Planning an unforgettable experience for riders over the hill is not a piece of cake. For Ollie, his schedule is already packed when it comes to hosting rides. He has to be there for morning coffee and donuts, then for hosting people and taking them on trail. At other times, he and his team are busy packing up tents or riding people home.

All this jostling between the tasks demand time, effort and of course strength. As for Ollie and his team, they are more than ready to give it their all.

Coming up with more ideas

While MAAP's strategies have been paying off, a constant challenge for them is to come up with new ideas to keep people interested and engaged. Ollie is always looking to find new ways of gathering and cheering riders.

MAAP Shop ride Aberfeldie - MelbourneMAAP Melbourne Shop ride - Essendon

He is always looking for more initiatives like activating more rides in a week or finding new cycling routes. He is also considering making new additions to his already existing strategy. His mind is always brimming with ideas on how to bring something new to cyclists or doing something different to get rider interest.

Crowd – the metric of MAAP’s Success

MAAP TDU Popup - Adelaide - Willunga Ride startMAAP Pop-up in Adelaide - start of teh Willunga Stage ride

Ollie is modest when it comes to MAAP’s success, but it has been compounding every year. His metric of success is the crowd, which according to him, has been building each year. Even though there are more and more brands competing for riders, he is satisfied with the way things have turned out for his brand.

For Ollie, customer engagement with his brand and their feedback is what matters most. After all the hard work, receiving gratitude from riders and customers is the greatest response his brand could get. 

MAAP at TDU - Willinga on the hill with a sea of caps Willunga Stage - MAAP Marquee - Willunga-Hill

It's a pleasure when he sees how appreciative people are, especially when they come by to shake hands before riding back home or when they say thank you when they're given chilled beers. That appreciation makes it easy to see that they've had a good time riding and is all a part of MAAP's successful strategy of growing their brand.

Bringing the Brand to People

MAAP North Melbourne railway crossingNorth Melbourne railway crossing - heading back for coffee to MAAP Melbourne

It’s not just the rides that matter to Ollie. Engaging with customers who stop by the pop up shop is equally important to him. He likes having conversations with them, getting to know them and  learning how they came across the brand.

To Ollie, it doesn’t matter whether people have seen the store from social media or have come to know MAAP by word-of-mouth, what matters is the fact that they take the time to check out the products, which is one of the biggest advantage of having pop-up shops at various locations.

Taking MAAP Overseas

MAAP rides in EuropePhoto courtesy of MAAP

MAAP was a huge success with the locals, but taking it overseas took a lot of work. The first destination was Europe where the MAAP team designed the Maap in the field program for riders. This was originally designed to have one ride a month throughout Europe with a couple of staff members based in Italy.

Supporting local stores

It was originally designed to support their retail stores and wholesale accounts. For example, Sigma in London would build their own ride for the month of March

So for each month of the year they developed a custom cap inspired by the route that was created in collaboration with a local store and with MAAP’s marketing team supporting the store and helping them with their promotion.

In return, MAAP got an opportunity to get to know the local community and show them their products. This took place almost every month in different locations. This year Ollie scaled things up a bit and almost 15 to 20 rides have been done across the world in the course of a year.

The importance of the local bike shop

If MAAP didn't have a store they would have ambassadors or a couple of representatives that could help to curate and host the ride. Interestingly not having a local bike shop to anchor the ride in that region and community lead to lower local participation.

The best rides where in collaboration with the local bike stores who take the lead in how to structure the ride and create the best experience for local riders by understanding their community and local routes.

Being inclusive and accommodating

Part of designing the rides is to cater for those riders who may want to take it a bit easier and how to accomodate these needs. To do it properly requires a lot of resources, time and commitment that is ultimately dictated by what experience the organisers are trying to achieve. 

It starts with product

MAAP HQ - showroomMAAP Melbourne - showroom

It starts with developing the product, the most important thing for Ollie is that the products have integrity, that people are going to be proud to wear it, and that people feel comfortable to talk about the product. if people love it and are recommending it to their friends then you're halfway there.

Building emotional attachment

MAAP - Maribrynong River - city skylineMAAP Melbourne shop ride - Maribrynong River, city skyline

If people are wearing the product, are happy with its performance and have experienced a great service then they will have a stronger emotional connection with the brand – and that is a powerful brand advantage. The stronger the emotional attachment your customer has with your brand, the more likely they'll recommend it.

Two of MAAP's supporters, Martin and Raphael love that MAAP not only looks good but they also feel like they're a part of a wider community of riders. We chat to them and how they came to be a part of MAAP's community.

MAAP riding along the Maribyrnong River in EssendonMAAP Melbourne HQ ride - Maribyrnong River in Essendon

MAAP Melbourne HQ ride - Footscray in the backgroundMAAP Melbourne shop ride - Maribyrnong River with Footscray in the background

Beach Rd - Ben Adams wearing MAAP - great design & ComfortableBeach Rd (Armadale bunch) - Ben Adams wearing MAAP  "great design & Comfortable"

MAAP HQ checking out the latest kitMAAP Melbourne showroom -  checking out the kits post ride

Consistent depth across all channels

Across all channels it's about showing more depth and showing you care more than just selling your products. Whether it's blogs and articles being created, events or rides they're holding or teams that they re sponsoring, as long as it's relevant to cycling and provides value to their customer base it makes it clear to your audience that you're more than just a seller, but that you care about what's important to them and their lifestyle.

A complete lifestyle

MAAP HQ - Departing - Shop rideMAAP Melbourne - departing for the shop ride 

For MAAP, the core focus will always be road cycling but there is a big lifestyle that surrounds cycling. Most people who ride with MAAP are always talking about where they are taking their bike next, what they are wearing on and off the bike, what they are eating, and their training regimes, so there are plenty of opportunities for MAAP to partner with brands across different industries that align with the cycling lifestyle and create benefits for riders and businesses.

Informing decisions across your life

MAAP - GironaGirona - photo courtesy of MAAP

Cycling informs many decisions across a rider's life. This makes it a powerful sport that can influence your social group, what you wear off the bike, or where you go on holidays – it's an all-encompasing lifestyle.

Creating a lifestyle brand

MAAP HQ returning from the morning shop rideMAAP Melbourne -  returning back after the Wednesday morning shop ride

As Ollie said, 'you would be selling yourself short if you called yourself a designer and manufacturer of cycling kit as there isn't much emotion to that and the sport is too interesting to be just a manufacturer'.

Inspiration from the surf brands

What the surf brands created with these global lifestyle brands with something that was essentially an outdoor activity is an interesting approach on how to turn an activity into a lifestyle.

Traditionally cycling apparel manufacturers were performance orientated and focused on being sportswear brand. Now there's a resurgence in brands that are taking the time to consider the whole lifestyle around the sport and how it can appeal to people whether they have been cycling for years or are new to the sport.

Growing the sport

MAAP rides in EuropePhoto courtesy of MAAP

By emphasising the benefits of being a part of cycling culture, whether it's the beautiful travel, social connections, or the adventure, this lifestyle approach will attract new people from other sports into cycling and will bring a more diverse group of people into the sport.

Its about making the sport more appealing to people from a different background such as skateboarding or surfing by aligning the lifestyle to the activity of cycling.

Translating what we love

MAAP's mantra has always been about translating what riders love about cycling to everyone else. It's their mission to be part of shaping how the sport will be like in the future and with the progress MAAP is making, it will be incredible to see what the sport's going to look like in 5 years time.

No money or products have changed hands in producing this story, just great coffee every Wednesday morning.