The appearance of the cycling team Shred wearing kit emblazoned with the National Trust logo is a first for the trust in terms of sports sponsorship. But behind the move is a marketing strategy that is more sophisticated than just a straightforward attempt to increase the recognition of the charity’s name.
Brand recognition is not an issue for the trust – but what that brand brings to mind is. The charity is attempting to challenge the perception that it is only about stately homes and gardens, and to become equally well known for the hundreds of thousand of acres of countryside that it owns.
That is where the partnership with the amateur road-racing and mountain-biking team Shred comes in. Apart from competing in 30 races this year in National Trust-branded kit, team members will also act as ambassadors to encourage people to cycle on National Trust land.
"They will convey the fun of cycling and the fact that anyone can get involved – you don’t have to be a hardcore professional sportsperson," says Shred team manager Steve Toze.
Shred is also a business that produces a cycling magazine and does graphic design and advertising. Toze says the partnership will enable Shred to "increase our audience without increasing our overheads".
For the trust, the partnership is about harnessing the benefits of word-of-mouth marketing. "At present, we aren’t necessarily perceived in the right way or don’t have the right language or the right look," says its strategic marketing consultant, Shona Owen. "We need to work with other people who will say ‘listen, the National Trust has got great things happening’."