Cadbury Bicycle Factory turns 10

How the initiative aimed at helping Ghanaian students ride to school has evolved since launching in 2008.

Cadbury is marking the 10th anniversary of its Bicycle Factory program this year by bringing more attention to the impact the program has had over the last decade.

The initiative began in 2008 as a way of enabling Canadians to support children in Ghana, one of Cadbury’s primary cocoa producing regions. As individuals or as a group, customers can visit to drag and drop virtual versions of the brand’s products and changes them into a part on a virtual bike. A bicycle is considered complete once 100 parts have been created, at which point a real bike is delivered to children in Ghana. Since the program began, more than 30,000 bicycles have been delivered to the African country, representing some 3 million online transformations.

On top of offering Ghanaian children an easier way to get to school, the Bicycle Factory has helped drive awareness for Cadbury and its “goodness and generosity positioning,” says Natalie DeJong, Mondelez’s senior associate brand manager of chocolate.

Throughout its 10-year existence, the essence of the program has remained the same, she says. But this year, working again with agency The Hive, Cadbury has focused on “transparently and authentically” showing the impact the bikes have through a campaign utilizing 360 degree video content. The video allows potential supporters to visualize the journey undertaken by Ghanaian students on their way to school.

“In the early years, it was very much about explaining the need [for bicycles] and how powerful a bicycle can be in many parts of the world,” says Simon Creet, CCO at The Hive. “Once that message was understood, it became about showing the impact as we were sending more and more bikes, showing kids graduating, showing what was happening on the ground.”

All assets for this year’s effort direct customers to the website, which contains a map showing where the most recent bike parts have been added from across Canada. The video features an original song by Rocky Dawuni (a Ghanaian artist) and is being promoted on YouTube and Facebook. The campaign is also receiving in-store support.

The Bicycle Factory was among the first assignments tackled by Creet and The Hive’s managing director Trent Fulton after they joined the agency in 2008. Other ways the “Bicycle Factory” has been brought to life over the years have included PR initiatives with Olympic cyclists, a documentary entitled Wheels of Change that aired on CTV, and on a bicycle-powered “Joy-Go-Round” activation at Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas square.

The program has survived two corporate changes at Cadbury: the London-based chocolate company was acquired by Kraft Foods in 2010 and was later spun out under Mondelez International in 2012. Fulton believes the program has managed to stick around because it has delivered strong results for Cadbury and its partners, while reinforcing the brand’s core corporate values. And the agency says they expect the program to continue as long as it has strong relevance with consumers, many of whom contribute on an annual basis.

“We always want to refresh [the program],” says Creet. “But in our experience, the people who actually engage deeply with the program, they like the familiarity of it. You don’t want to go too wild in your approaches… We just need to find slightly fresh ways to remind people.”