This year I felt that, after playing the Eurobike game for years, I moved on to the next level. I am not sure how many levels there are, but I like this new one.
My first level was back in 1997 or so, when I went to Eurobike as a visitor. Just looking around the show, trying to make sense of all the brands that are popular in Europe - or at least Germany - but virtually unheard elsewhere and getting lost trying to find anybody interested in distributing Cervélo in Germany. I don't really remember if I enjoyed this level
A few years later, we moved up a level to exhibitor, or at least to being on the stand of our exhibitor. I remember only a few things from this level. Firstly, we had a really bad location, right next to the door people used to smoke outside. But although these people had just walked hundreds of meters to get to the door, they couldn't be bothered to walk another five and so all the smoke would blow back into our booth.
The more positive memory was in 2002. A UK dealer came to me on the first morning with a story from another bike manufacturer's booth (there was some animosity between that brand and us at that time). This brand had lost their team sponsorship and when the dealer asked what they were going to do, he was told "don't worry, we're close to something big". The dealer pushed more and more, but they wouldn't tell him what team. So the dealer asked "How about Cervélo signing with CSC, that's pretty crazy, isn't it?" and was told "That's not possible". He responded "Pretty sure it's true, they're handing out the press release over there!", after which his conversation partner stuttered "No, that can't be true, no, that's .. the ... team ... we ..." and ran off.
It's terribly immature, and I actually get along now with the people who then worked for that brand, but it's my most vivid memory from that Eurobike level.
The next level was our own booth, which is stressful. Eurobike booths are huge compared to other shows like Interbike. I am not sure why, but there are brands nobody has ever heard of and which you never see in stores, with two story booths, hundreds of bikes, live DJs, body painting exhibits, booth parties, just nuts. We never competed on size, we just wanted a nice booth that matched the company, but even that is a hassle. As soon as the booth is bigger than something you can carry in yourself, the costs just skyrocket for design, construction, build up, tear down, storage, modifications, etc, etc. The anthem of tradeshows is the sound of money flushing down the toilet. It's a never-ending money-suck. That said, the first year we had a new booth, with an enormous aero downtube mast sticking up in the air, was fantastic.
When you get to this size, you need to do something and for us as a performance brand, having pro riders visit makes a lot of sense. Organizing this is something I don't wish upon anybody though, as most pro teams are so uninterested in providing value for their sponsors that it's always a disaster. You end up with riders who nobody knows, or who are leaving the team, even though the team has German riders who are sitting at home and would be perfect.
Or you're told the day before that "sorry, we changed the plan" and the one star you thought you would get doesn't show. As a bike manufacturer it's even worse, because you also have some responsibility for these riders going to the parts suppliers. During the Cervélo TestTeam it was a lot better of course, as we had more influence. But short of that, it's a pain.
This level is also the worst because it is the busiest. You'll likely have sales and supplier meetings around the clock, plus dinner meetings, and sleep is further reduced by the fact that your hotel, 30km away, takes an hour to get to at night and 90 minutes going back in the morning. Logistics at Eurobike are dismal.
One year we rented a rock star tour bus and parked it right at Eurobike. That 3min commute to the show was amazing. Unfortunately, these tour busses are terrible, two rows of triple bunk beds, extremely claustrophobic, a howling generator to keep the temperature somewhat in check and 19 people awake listening to one snoring jackass.
2011 I upgraded another level, to the company-less industry person in-between things. It's a nice level I think, although my experience was ruined by a ceased-up back and a funeral for which I had to rush home. It will be a while before I can try that level again.
2012 was the first year of OPEN, but we didn't have a booth. We had bikes on display at several of our suppliers, like 3T, Rotor and AX, and Andy used the AX booth as a mini-booth to meet with our dealers and some customers, but for me it was pretty much a homeless sensation. I walked around for four days, had meetings everywhere and also some time to look around the show. It was a pretty relaxed way of undergoing Eurobike, but it also felt a bit lost. Very few people had heard of OPEN yet, and so the time at the AX booth was very quiet (also, as I learned this year, because I was there in the afternoons, and hall A2 is a real morning hall).
And then 2013, the ultimate level. But I will talk about that in the next booth.