More than two years have passed since cycling’s governing body appointed professional service firm Deloitte to lead a “stakeholder consultation process”, entitled ‘A Bright Future for Cycling’, with the intention of carving out a vision to benefit the next generation of cyclists and cycling fans globally.
In 2013, we were appointed by the UCI to conduct a wide-ranging stakeholder consultation process, entitled “A Bright Future for Cycling”. We designed online surveys for the general public and for the “cycling family” and over 6,350 responses were received. We also facilitated a series of working group meetings for key stakeholders.
The themes for these were split across four broad “pillars”; globalisation, anti-doping, the cycling calendar and riders. Our report set out eleven recommendations, all of which were accepted by the UCI Management Committee in June 2013.
– from Deloitte’s Executive Summary of the UCI Stakeholder Consultation, published May 2013
Ahead of the consultation’s February 2013 launch, then-UCI president Pat McQuaid stated the “unprecedented exercise” was designed to solicit and consolidate feedback from cycling’s “stakeholders” globally. The UCI would then use this information to “help to shape cycling’s bright future by making it an even more popular sport.”
The global popularity of cycling is difficult to quantify but, through the prism of the one cycling event that seems to matter to the general populace, relative popularity can be assessed by the number of eyeballs trained upon it. If Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) is to be believed, the Tour de France is “the world’s third biggest sporting event… (with) 3.5 billion viewers from 190 countries.” Only the quadrennial Football World Cup and Olympic Games fare better, in terms of accumulative viewing figures. So why, from such a large base, would a meagre 6,369 respondents (or 5,638 respondents, if “only” the general public were counted) have taken part in such a landmark and heavily-publicised consultation?
Compare the UCI’s consultation to the recently-released GPDA Global Formula 1 Fan Survey (direct download here). The online survey, which ran from 22 May to 08 June 2015, attracted responses from 217,756 fans spread across 194 countries. What’s more, the average completion time for the survey was nudging half an hour; a small miracle in this hyper-intense, multi-platform, information age which batters decreasing concentration spans with infinite distractions.
Both the UCI and GPDA were essentially asking the same question of their respective audiences: what do you like about the sport today and what do you believe needs to be changed? For every one participant in the UCI’s survey, 34 participated in the GPDA’s survey. Moreover, one in five respondents to the GDPA survey had been to a Grand Prix in the 12 months prior. On the flipside, less than 10% of F1 fans believed the sport was in a healthier position than five years ago, and the top three attributes used to describe F1 were “Expensive”, “Technological” and “Boring”.
Still, why was the response ratio 34:1 in favour of the F1 survey?
The answer could be partially attributable to cycling’s playing field. Could it be that the average person watching cycling on TV – which, let’s face it, is most likely to be the Tour de France – just isn’t that interested in following the technicalities of the competition? Indeed, a representative from Australian broadcaster SBS, which has delivered the Tour de France into Australian households since 1991, stated “we have hardcore cycling fans but also people that like watching the scenery and landscapes of France.”
On the subject of technicality, the biggest change that F1 fans wanted was for teams to be able to choose tyres from more than one supplier [Note: tyre-maker Pirelli provides identical rubber to all F1 teams]. 80% of respondents held this view, which demonstrates a clear understanding of an important F1 regulation and the impact it may have on the track. Conversely, only 28% of respondents to the UCI survey said they understood the WorldTour points system. This may appear as comparing apples with oranges but, given the UCI survey respondent demographics showing 78% of respondents participated in road cycling, it could be expected that more base knowledge had accrued amongst the cycling population.
The most striking element of the F1 survey was that it was targeted at fans not stakeholders. Was this the key difference that led to such dramatic outcomes in terms of engagement? Or is it simply semantics?
It depends. Would the average person watching the Tour de France consider himself/herself a “stakeholder” or simply a person who enjoys watching a rainbow of elite athletes chase each other over mountain passes, set across the dramatic backdrop of the Alps? Would a cycling “stakeholder” turn up to a major cycling event just to score some freebies from the race caravan (then go home to spend 30 minutes elaborating their view of important issues pertaining to the sport of cycling in a survey?).
The question nags: was the UCI’s “unprecedented exercise” flawed in using language that seemed to appeal only to a select and elite inner circle, and guilty in not engaging fans of cycling – even those fans who tune in every night for three weeks to see the stunning scenery? Even if the survey’s framing is not the problem, the UCI might do well to look to the GPDA survey and reflect on how engagement could be improved in future surveys.
Deloitte’s headline recommendations after analysing feedback from the UCI’s Stakeholder Consultation.