Clif embraces experiential to get back to its cycling roots

The brand is trying to keep interest in its energy bars strong by giving bike rides away alongside its newest flavours.

Clif bar

Call it a pairing of handle bars and energy bars, as Clif is returning to its roots in cycling to keep interest strong in a category that exploded during COVID.

The energy bar’s “Bike Life” initiative is targeting urban cyclists by giving away free bike rides, alongside samples of the two newest SKUs of its sweet and salty energy bars, chocolate chunk and dark chocolate almond, now available in Canada.

Through a partnership with Bike Share Toronto, Clif will distribute over 5,000 free bike rides to GTA residents by offering codes for rides at stops of its Adventure Trailer (pictured, above) alongside gear giveaways, as well as through a content partnership with local radio station Indie88.

In Montreal, the food brand is partnering with bike tour company Montreal on Wheels to offer free rides every Sunday in August. The brand will also provide participants with packs stocked with energy bars and cycling tips provided by Montreal actor and bike aficionado Felix-Antoine Tremblay.

The new Clif Bars will also be given away at bike shops in both cities.

“We want to help remind Canadians that adventure isn’t only found at the tops of mountains or at some distant getaway, but it’s also right here in their own city,” said Aniefre Essien, Clif Bar’s brand manager in Canada. “During a stressful and unusual time for many across the country, we want to do our part and help more Canadians safely enjoy the summer season through cycling.”

The bike outreach was informed by the insight that as COVID disrupted many daily routines and fitness activities, cycling was not one of them, as it is inherently socially distanced. The brand also has its roots in cycling – Gary Erickson came up with the idea for Clif Bars during a day-long bike ride, aiming to create one bar that would replace the variety he had brought with him. The brand has also sponsored a number of mountain biking events and cyclists.

Clif Bar - Company-CLIF- To Power The Bike Life In Canada This S

Despite a lack of “on the go” occasions that bars tend to perform well in, Essien says energy bars were a big part of pantry loading behaviours at the beginning of the pandemic and there was a corresponding spike in sales across the energy bar category – as a category leader, Clif Bar did disproportionately well.

However, things then stabilized as pantry loading subsided and outdoor activities had yet to resume, and have been slowly returning since June, he says.

“We are not all the way back, but people have found a way to adjust and to get back into fitness and exercise, where we are relevant and offer a nutrition solution for multiple need states,” Essien says.

However, according to Essien, there is always a seasonal aspect to Clif’s business, with Q1 being the slowest quarter in Canada because of extreme cold weather, and that warm weather is positively correlated with sales – hence why an experiential activation during the summer months is an important time to introduce new products. The brand had planned a large national multi media campaign for the launch, but had to scale back due to the pandemic, focusing more on the biking partnership and some in-store marketing instead, with end caps once again emphasizing Clif Bar’s combination of protein, fat, carbohydrates, organic oats, and nutrients Essien says.

Clif is also continuing its partnership Whistler Blackcomb, which has reopened for cycling this summer, and Crankworx, a mountain bike racing series that originated in the B.C. resort town in 2004. During the earlier days of the lockdown, it was also able to activate a partnership with Hamilton-born Oklahoma Thunder NBA player Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to make a mass donation of 200,000 bars to a local branch of Second Harvest.

Golin developed the campaign idea, and is managing media relations and an influencer element. Mosaic is managing field marketing.