SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (BRAIN) — What began as an Instagram comment encouraging Blackburn Design to adopt a more inclusive marketing message quickly developed into a partnership between the 45-year-old company and a cycling pioneer with a far reach.
Blackburn hired the Bicycle Nomad, otherwise known as Erick Cedeño, as a paid brand ambassador to supplement the company’s social media posts and engage the public through cycling initiatives. Cedeño’s Bicycle Nomad Instagram page has nearly 26,000 followers.
“Quite literally, that is what started this conversation: Erick posting a comment on our Instagram account,” said Dan Powell, Blackburn Design marketing manager. “I followed up with him and asked if he had time to chat via phone. One conversation turned into a couple, and we decided to just have a standing call every Wednesday.”
That was June 4, and that’s when the brainstorming began.
“In our weekly calls, we asked each other questions,” Powell said. “We talked about expectations, misconceptions, perspectives and ways the industry could take a step back from what it was doing to listen to people. I did a lot of listening, frankly. He challenged Blackburn to make a change in how we tell stories.”
Cedeño said his goal is for Blackburn to “show more representation in marketing, so people of color can see themselves exploring and having adventures on bicycles.”
Along those lines, Cedeño will work with Youth Bike Summit and community-based after-school programs to organize bikepacking clinics and support through sponsorship next year. He’ll also develop how-to bikepack social media posts. The ultimate goal will be to organize overnight student bicycle camping trips.
“My passion has always been to inspire and motivate people to explore by bicycles, especially kids from underserved communities,” Cedeño said. “Our ultimate goal is to work with bicycle after-school programs to create and inspire the next generation of bicycle adventurers.”
He knows a thing or two about bike-packing and exploring by bike. In the past 10 years, Cedeño has bike-packed from Vancouver to Tijuana; from St. Augustine, Florida, to New York; and from New Orleans to Niagara Falls, New York.
This month, he’ll represent Blackburn and take its social media followers along with him on his Adventure Cycling Association’s Underground Railroad Route. The 2,008-mile route honors the African freedom seekers who attempted to escape slavery before and during the Civil War.
In December, he’ll tour Puerto Rico by bike.
“What Blackburn brings to this equation is a medium for Erick to broadcast his message through, and some financial/product support,” Powell said. “Ideally, we’d like to help set up some gear libraries around the country that can get kids out on their first overnighter by bike. I know Erick is the person to make that happen, and we’re happy to provide him some of the equipment to get it done.”
Nothing builds character better than bicycle travel, Cedeño said, an important trait for the times.
“It also helps with connecting with people and nature,” he said. “The bicycle is a freedom machine, and in times of social awakening, it is very important.”
“I believe the bicycle is the best tool we have to most effectively work toward change,” Powell said. “Travel by bicycle is the best way that I’ve found to break down social barriers. Combining curiosity — about other places, cultures, people — with getting outside your comfort zone is a great recipe for changing your perspectives.”