Outpouring of Support for Clean Bottle’s Bottle Boy Mixed
I think we have all watched the broadcast in disbelief as a giant bottle runs up and down the Alps during the Tour de France. We had an opportunity for a quick chat with the bottle’s owner, entrepreneur, David Meyer, who operates Clean Bottle, manufacturer of a water bottle that unscrews from both ends to make cleaning more efficient.
Meyer is married, has two children and lives in California. You might be surprised to learn that he is a category 3 racer with a local men’s team. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Stanford University.
On the professional side, he began his career in investment banking then, after moving on to product development, he launched Clean Bottle. The idea came about in April 2007 while riding his bicycle and recalling how difficult it was to clean out the gunk from the bottles.
He continued to work full time while tending to his entrepreneurial itch on evenings and weekends.
Initially, Meyer spoke with a major bicycle manufacturer about the bottle and they said, “Please don’t tell us because we might just copy your idea.” Instead, they suggested that he work with an industrial engineer. Months passed as he consulted with multiple Chinese manufacturers until a good prototype was developed.
By May 2010, a prototype that he was comfortable with was completed and Clean Bottle began selling the product. “Our manufacturing is split between China and the U.S.A.,” Meyer explained, “with 25% of the manufacturing done in the U.S. to accommodate customized requests.”
“The Tour de France is the Super Bowl of cycling -- by running with the riders I’d essentially get free commercial time focused on my exact target audience.” – David Meyer
Bottle Boy at the Tour de France 2011
Below is more from the exchange between Meyer and the Daily Peloton Cycling News:
DP: Why have you elected to concentrate your guerilla marketing tactics at the Tour de France? Why not any other grand tours (e.g., Giro da Italia, Tour Down Under, Vuelta a España, etc.)?David Meyer: This year we were at the Tour of California. We had a presence there because it was basically in our backyards. Although it is not cheap to haul around a costume, we have figured out that most Americans are glued to watching the Tour de France. This is where cycling largest audience is and we want to be part of that experience. Bottle Boy made its debut at the Tour de France 2010 and reappeared again last year.
DP: This Bottle Boy image is the real “gorilla in the room” when it comes to marketing; are you surprised the organizers have not kicked you to the curb?Meyer: The police have tried to kick me out but there are so many people along the roads of the event I really feel that the local police have bigger fish to fry! I have heard that the most the French government can or will do is a fine me but to date it has not happened.
DP: Come on, be serious—is that really you running around like a maniac up and down the Alps?Meyer: Let me be clear: It’s me the majority of the time. I do travel with a buddy who is the Bottle Boy from time to time.
DP: How heavy is the bottle costume?Meyer: The costume weighs approximately 20 pounds.
DP: What are the challenges of transporting the costume?Meyer: Well, it is heavy and I often get lots of onlookers asking questions like: what is in the box?, Is that a dead body?, and other bizarre questions.
Also, transporting it is expensive since I am charged for the extra luggage by the airlines. Further, hauling it around up the mountains is a daunting experience.
DP: How did the campaign increase sales?Meyer: Due to this tactic, my sales orders increased and I have been placed in multiple retail outlets in the United States.
DP: You appeared on Shark Tank with NBA Hall-of -Famer Bill Walton. How was that experience?Meyer: Due to that appearance, non-cyclists learned about my product. The cyclists know about my product thorough the Tour the France. We had some success due to my appearance on the show.
SPONSORSHIPSDP: Do you sponsor events?Meyer: We try to sponsor about 30 races per quarter and give free bottles to event managers so they may use them as prizes and/or premes.
Additionally, we give out promo codes in which consumers may purchase product at a 50% reduced pricing. This is how we give back to our community and consumers.
PHILANTHROPYDP: Clean Bottle gives 10% of profits to charities. How are recipients selected?Meyer: We create polls and we have our customers vote on what organizations should receive our funding. From that polling we make a decision as to where the monies should be sent.
In the past we have contributed to Challenged Athletes Foundation, Yield to Life (Y2L), and Team Red, White & Blue, to name a few.
SOCIAL MEDIA & COMMUNITYDP: Other than Facebook and Twitter, are you using Pinterest, Google+ or any other platforms?Meyer: We have dedicated our efforts to Twitter and Facebook. Facebook was the first platform we began using.
I probably should be using Pinterest; however, I don’t know how to use it.
♦ Website: Clean Bottle
♦ Twitter: @cleanbottle
♦ Facebook: Clean Bottle on FBDP: What platform is the most successful?Meyer: Facebook is currently the most successful platform with 13,000 in our community. Twitter has 1,300 followers to date.
During the tour we play a game on Facebook called Spot the Clean Bottle. In this game, our community posts where they have seen the clean bottle then, from all the replies, we raffle off prizes. This generates lots of traffic for us.
DP: How long will you keep attending the Tour de France?Meyer: I will keep attending as long as I own the company. I think people are pleased to learn that it is really me in the costume trying to promote as a small company. Further, many people appreciate the whole underdog phenomena.
DP: Why are you not outsourcing the role of Bottle Boy?Meyer: I want to hire someone I can trust and my major concern is the safety of the racers. Every year I take as my companion an American with me. I think it could be expensive to hire someone in Europe to take on this role. I have not inquired formally about outsourcing the water boy role.
Robbie Ventura, a contributor to the Tour de France, will interview me in the Product Showcases segment, part of the Tour de France broadcast.
Additionally, we are planning on making media buys in Canada on The Sport Network (TSN). Most of our business is in the U.S.A.
DP: Why have you not used other marketing mix combinations to promote Clean Bottle?Meyer: We tried print ads and we did not see much ROI; as a result, we decided to concentrate on what is working for us--Tour de France guerilla marketing and social media.
If you are watching the Tour de France 2012 broadcast beginning on Saturday, June 30, don’t be surprised to see a giant bottle running along the riders climbing the Alps. Please visit Tour de France 2012 for more information on television broadcast schedules, routes, riders, aspects of the race and towns to be visited.
About the author: An experienced racer, Imelda March lives in Chicago and is a member of Team Kenda. She is a frequent contributor to The Daily Peloton Cycling News team, reporting on women’s cycling and industry news. She also holds an MBA, is a marketing strategy expert, and is a social media team member/contributor to the Chicago chapter of the American Marketing Association.
Watch David Meyer climb the Alps on his way to transforming into Bottle Boy.