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For brands planning launches at Sea Otter, it's back to the planning table

Published March 5, 2020

MONTEREY, Calif. (BRAIN) — For brands who launch new products at the Sea Otter Classic, its postponement means re-evaluation and reshuffling as the event season shifts beneath their feet. 

The event has become the de facto global consumer spring launch opportunity for many bike categories. Last year's expo had 1,000 brands represented. Besides the 75,000 attendees over the 'Otter's four days, expo exhibitors enjoy saturation coverage from nearly every cycling-related media title. 

Event organizers haven't announced a new date yet. Any major shift would move it outside the spring launch window — still valuable to marketers, but different. 

Beyond Sea Otter, this month's North American Handmade Bicycle Show, another key spring event for some brands, has been postponed to August. And brands involved with pro cycling are seeing their spring marketing plans disrupted by race cancelations in Europe and elsewhere. 

"The event side has become very unpredictable," said An Le, global marketing director for the Giant Group.

"For us, we are looking for other ways to connect with people whether digital or one-to-one interactions. Certainly digital has the most legs in terms of being able to connect with people," Le said. Regarding racing, Le said much of Giant's marketing around its pro athletes involves content that will be usable even with a reduced race schedule.

"The event side has become very unpredictable" — An Le, global marketing director for the Giant Group.

Jeff Nitta, the vice president of the accessory and tool brand Feedback Sports, said he's not sure the company will shift its Sea Otter attendance to a new date. "We're undecided at this time," Nitta said. "I'm not even sure if it's worth going to CABDA (East, March 11-12 in Secaucus, New Jersey) as we are concerned that the customers won't be there. We're on a wait-and-see program right now, but I think next week is our immediate focus."

Chris Currie, creative director for Stan's NoTubes, said, "This probably won't be the last of the event cancellations, but we'll see when Sea Otter reschedules and figure out if and how we can deal with it once we know what they have planned."

Marketing and event company CrankTank is shifting support for its clients who planned media introductions at Sea Otter, said Adrian Montgomery, CrankTank's chief technology officer. "We’re a digital agency and have many alternatives to face-to-face contact with key influencers," Montgomery said. "We will shift towards digital introductions if the timing was necessary."

Montgomery said he will recommend clients who can delay to attend CrankTank's Impact Kanza event on May 27 in Emporia, Kansas, which so far is unaffected by the virus. Impact Kanza is part of the Dirty Kanza gravel event and provides the chance to interact with media, influencers, and targeted audiences.

"I believe all events will look at the problem 30 days out and make the best call," he said. "Hopefully, Dirty Kanza will stand."

BRAIN produces the official Sea Otter Festival Guide, which is distributed at the event and mailed with BRAIN and VeloNews magazine copies. BRAIN will shift the production and distribution of the guide and adjust the content as necessary, to match the event's new date. BRAIN will also announce further advertising options for the spring after the event announces its new dates. 

Crowds at the 2019 Sea Otter expo.

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