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Marketing and PR firms plan spring launches without Sea Otter

Published March 11, 2020
Our PR friends plan virtual trade shows, regional media gatherings and other substitutes.

SAN FRANCISCO (BRAIN) — With the Sea Otter Classic shifted from April to October because of COVID-19 concerns, brands are coming up with new strategies to launch new products in the critical early season window.

Among the more ambitious approaches is a live-streaming global media conference being planned by ECHOS Communications, a San Francisco PR firm that represents 14 brands in the bike industry.

ECHOS' two-day event is intended to help brands connect with journalists in cycling and related outdoor industries, replacing appointments and presentations that might have taken place at the Sea Otter in Monterey.

While Sea Otter is a major consumer event, with some 75,000 attendees over four days, it's also probably the largest gathering of cycling media gathering.

ECHOS hopes to reach 200-300 journalists through its REVEAL live stream, Billy Sinkford, the firm's senior partner, told BRAIN. "This will allow us to connect and have a sense of community and conduct business even though we can get together in person," Sinkford said. 

The event will be April 29-30 and will be streamed from Camp Navarro in Mendocino, Calif. ECHOS is producing it in collaboration with Evan Dudley, co-founder of Outpost Trade and principal of Exact Change. 

"This will allow us to connect and have a sense of community and conduct business even though we can get together in person." — Billy Sinkford, ECHOS Communication

Brands will be able to make live presentations and conduct Q&A sessions with journalists through ECHOS' platform. The platform also allows brands to share media assets with journalists and arrange to ship samples. Brands can invite specific media as well as retailers, distributors or sales reps to participate. Each brand will have a virtual trade show booth (AKA, a webpage) to present products and share assets.

If brands can't travel to Mendocino or participate remotely, ECHOS can make presentations on their behalf.

"Our goal is to provide a solution to a problem we see as a big deal," Sinkford said. REVEAL is not an official Sea Otter event and it's open to brands that did not plan to exhibit at Sea Otter.

ECHOS' bike industry clients include ABUS, Chrome, Dynaplug, and Orange Seal, among others.

The live stream won't reach consumers directly and many brands will exhibit at Sea Otter in October to connect directly with bike riders, he said. "People who are going to go to Sea Otter in October are still going to go. But there is still a need to reach journalists in this time period."

'Does this timing still make sense?'

Other PR and marketing firms active in cycling are working closely with their clients to adjust to Sea Otter's disappearance from the spring calendar.

The principals at two firms told BRAIN that the situation frees them to tailor launches to best fit clients. It also spreads out the Sea Otter craziness.

"Nobody (in the media) likes making 500 appointments at Sea Otter to see two or three new products," said Jasen Thorpe, owner of Thorpe Marketing, which represents Topeak, Hutchinson, Elite, Gore, and other brands.

"The timing of Sea Otter is a little artificial. This allows us to take a step back and look at what we were planning to do at Sea Otter and ask, 'does this timing still make sense?'"

Thorpe said his firm is planning launches specifically for each client and may hold some small media gatherings near Boulder, Colorado, where his company is based and where many cycling journalists live and work.

"Ultimately, replacing Sea Otter is not the goal," he said.

Some product launches still require a hands-on experience, said Mark Riedy, the founder and owner of True Communications, a Mill Valley, California-based firm.

True represents Canyon Bicycles and other bike industry clients including Giro, Blackburn, Rapha, Wahoo, and Zwift.

"Canyon planned a new bike demo at Sea Otter and there is some desire to get people on that bike," Riedy said. He said True may hold small media events in Boulder (where True has an office), Southern California and the Pacific Northwest to introduce some products to journalists. Other launches can be done digitally.

"We can do launches in person, or digitally through a webinar. The third way is to just send assets to journalists, which is really what a lot of journalists do at Sea Otter: go around and take photos to put in a web gallery."

Like Thorpe, Riedy mentioned that the postponement of Sea Otter allows some brands to reconsider launch timing. For example, one True client was unlikely to have a new product ready for hands-on testing at Sea Otter, so pushing out the launch a bit will work better, he said.

More information: Brands interested in participating in REVEAL can find out more information by emailing Journalists interested in joining the REVEAL presentations can RSVP here


REVEAL will be streamed from Camp Navarro. Virtual canoeing not included.

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