Bicycle brand Schwinn capitalized on the popularity of Netflix series Stranger Things when it gave 500 fans the opportunity to own a bike based on the 1980s-style one used by character Mike Wheeler.
Last year, Schwinn began a licensing opportunity with Netflix to produce a co-branded bike. The brand settled on recreating character Wheeler’s bike, which is similar to Schwinn’s classic Sting Ray model.
Once the bike design was in place, Schwinn began marketing and PR planning for a campaign to release the bikes in 2018.
“A primary goal was to just spread awareness of this awesome partnership,” says Milissa Rick, senior director of marketing at Schwinn parent Pacific Cycle.
Rick explains the campaign’s success was “determined by how quickly the bikes sold out, the engagement on our social channels, and the shares via media.”
In early planning efforts, the brand decided to make the bikes available for purchase only through a 1-800 number – a nod to the way consumers ordered products in the 1980s.
Aside from creating a push on social through visuals and a campaign video, the team targeted pop culture and trend-focused media, as well as sci-fi fan outlets.
In March 2018, the campaign team brought the bike to life by engaging fans at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. The brand introduced one sample bike at a custom booth, with a backdrop borrowed from an iconic scene from the first season of Stranger Things. The bike was affixed to a special generator, which caused lights on it to flicker eerily when peddled.
On May 30, Schwinn teased the release of the limited edition bikes on social platforms, specifically using a paid strategy on Facebook and Instagram.
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On June 3, Schwinn doubled down on the 1980s theme by taking out a full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune before the official bike launch. This came as a nod to Chicago, which was Schwinn’s headquarters in the 1980s. The ad granted fans early access to 1-800-SCHWINN.
The next day, Schwinn issued a press release and dropped a 1980s themed campaign film which officially announced the 1-800 number and detailed some features of the bike itself. The video was created and produced by the brand’s in-house team.
Schwinn continued to push content on social platforms for the next week, leveraging unique images which tied back to the show.
Despite a hefty price tag of $379.99 each, all 500 limited-edition bikes were sold over just five days. 1-800-SCHWINN received almost 1,300 calls before the last bike was sold.
The campaign landed the brand 261 media placements, including features in outlets such as Thrillist, Bicycling.com, SyFy Wire, io9, and Philadelphia Business Journal.
On social, Schwinn generated about 38,000 likes on Instagram and more than 10,000 Facebook engagements, measured through likes, favorites, and shares.
From the time the brand first teased the release of the bikes on May 30 to when the campaign wrapped on June 11, Schwinn noted a 16% increase in Instagram followers.