It’s 2017, and we’re all familiar with the concept of the person as brand.
Sportspeople, musicians, business people, presidents – if you can be packaged up and sold, you’ve got yourself a potential brand.
Jamie Oliver is a brand, David Beckham is a brand, Donald Trump is a brand – some of you may even be brands.
I, myself, am not a brand.
I am just a cyclist who hides behind the name of a blog. This is a very different thing. I wouldn’t dream of exploiting that for cash. I also don’t see a huge demand for the latest Ragtime Cyclist fragrance, underwear, or pasta sauce.
Do let me know if I’m wrong, though.
Back in the 1990’s all this stuff was in its infancy. A brand was a company that made a product and its selling techniques were less sinister, and unlikely to lead to mental illness; we were being sold a thing, rather than an unattainable vision of human perfection.
We hadn’t quite got to the root of the fact that people could also be brands, mainly because we didn’t have the internet, and were still reliant on the traditional, actual human personality to convince other people that we were worth thirty seconds of their time.
But still, back in the 90’s, we here in the capitalist world instinctively glimpsed the future. Visit any town in the UK today and you’ll find thousands of people in their twenties with names like Chardonnay, Armani, Mercedes and Gucci.
We had no concept that our offspring could one day become brand names, so we did the next best thing and gave them brand names.
None of these, interestingly, are currently pro-cyclists, suggesting a possible link between overly materialistic parentage and poor athletic performance. Which is surprising, in a way, because pro-cycling long ago embraced the idea of the cyclist as brand ambassador and moving billboard.
Think of car giant Peugeot and their sponsorship of Tom Simpson and his team-mates back in the 60’s; Italian clothing company Carrera bankrolling Roche, Pantani and Chiapucci in the 80’s; or more recently, Agritubel bringing the glamour of ‘tubular metal products for livestock and farming’ to the French national team.
Perhaps, though, we are about to see things change.
Studies suggest that of people who participate in sport in the UK, none are as materialistic as cyclists. We apparently like to buy stuff, and associate ourselves with stuff, and be photographed wearing stuff.
Logic suggests that by 2030 there’ll be thousands of club cyclists here in the UK with names like Castelli, Rapha, and Sidi, and maybe even the odd Haribo or Gilette.
And the irony of all this is that if any of these Chardonnays, Mercedes, Castellis or Raphas decide to exchange a part of their soul and become a person-brand, they’ll instantly fall foul of copyright law.