I’ve never raced the Dawn to Dusk mountain bike race at McDowell Mountain Regional Park. I really wanted to this year. I planned to return from Scandinavia, get on my Santa Cruz and train for the fun at my favorite local mountain biking venue.
The aftermath of my flooded house scuttled my training plans; two months of living in a hotel 25 minutes from my mountain bike made riding pretty tough. The biggest disappointments – not being ready for the Prescott Sixer or Dawn to Dusk.
I’d all but forgotten Dawn to Dusk for this year. Then I got a message from a PR firm for Chipotle Mexican Grill, the title sponsor. The firm wanted me to write about a promotion: Text to win free entry for a 4-person team to the race, plus Chipotle Mexican Grill food and swag.
From the word “go”, this promo felt like being jabbed in the armpit with a rusty nail. I like Chipotle Mexican Grill (though it needs to cut portion size by a third), but I told the PR firm, “No, I’ll sit this one out.”
Then I figured out what pissed me off about this promotion.
Chipotle is an outsider to mountain biking. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it acts like an outsider that expects to cut a check, slather logos everywhere, drape a few people in swag and bask in accolades from the mountain biking crowd. Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG, $215 million in 2011, nearly 32,000 employees) doesn’t get it. Its PR firm doesn’t get it. And promoter DCB Adventures isn’t in a position to say “Guys, you just don’t get it.”
Chipotle Mexican Grill could’ve invested in the mountain biking community. Tally the cost for the entry fees, food and swag. Then talk to the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona. I’d bet it could use that booty for something that would benefit mountain bikers permanently (like maybe its $10,000 fundraising goal for trail projects). Think Specialized Bicycles and its investment in building the new trails at McDowell Mountain Regional Park for the Cactus Cup.
Instead, Chipotle Mexican Grill treated mountain bikers like any other “consumer.” It didn’t figure out what motivates and unites mountain bikers.
Chipotle is a young company – new enough to make some mistakes like this. My advice: Get to know the market you want to tap. Exist as part of it. Be real. And then, you can count me me to get out and push.