Photo 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.
TDU - 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.
TDU 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 Hill
Willunga 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 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 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 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.
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
North 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
Photo 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 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 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 Melbourne HQ ride - Maribyrnong River in Essendon
MAAP Melbourne shop ride - Maribyrnong River with Footscray in the background
Beach Rd (Armadale bunch) - Ben Adams wearing MAAP "great design & Comfortable"
MAAP 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 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
Girona - 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 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
Photo 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.