Vosper’s Law of Interbike Booth Babes

“The quality of the product is inversely proportional to the brand ambassador’s bust measurement.”

Vosper dislaims it now, but I’m almost certain I’ve seen bike marketing guru Rick Vosper write something along those lines.

Women belong on a bicycle

Like any rule, this one isn’t universally true, but models dressed like strippers and hookers in front of your booth handing out lollipops seems like a desperation move. I’d be lying if I told you I turn my noses up at these models (they’re often very attractive), and I’ve met interesting and reasonably knowledgeable people who are hired as brand ambassadors, but they can be a distraction if there’s something worthwhile to look at behind the curtain.

There’s been quite a bit of discussion online following Elly Blue’s bike test of women and marketing in the bicycle industry. Melyssa expands a lot more on the bikey Bechdel test at CYLRAB — is the woman in the ad or at the booth just to draw male attention? Did I put “booth babe” in the title to score search marketing points and maybe get your attention from Twitter?

Lovely Bicycle notes the Bikes Belong poster of a woman in heels and flowing dress probably passes the “bike test” on technical grounds, but suggests it still comes across as a little bit objectifying.


  1. I can’t attest to the product’s quality being inversely proportional, but I can definitely say the company’s marketing strategy is. Having scantily or tightly clad “girls” in the booth is like a late night used car dealer commercial that screams “LOW LOW PRICES!!” It’s low class and degrades the brand.

    I could rant more as a woman (not girl) of a certain age who has fought such bullshit in the high-tech industry as well, but I’ll settle for this. When a company promotes their products through booth babes it says two things very loudly: (1) we don’t value women as customers and (2) we promote sexism in the industry that alienates our female employees.

    I would never work for a company that expected me to work in a booth alongside hired “models.” And as a director of marketing in the high-tech sector I’ve refused to hire them myself despite numerous requests from our sales staff.

    That said, I think the Bikes Belong poster is OK. But I like Barbie too.

  2. Geez, Richard, I was talking about Tchotskes (little giveaway thingies), not boobs. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    What I’m *am* on the record saying about Booth Babes is that the technical/marketing term for them is Borrowed Interest…which is tantamount to saying “I think you’ll find my product so utterly lacking in appeal you won’t even pay attention unless there’s something more interesting (like a pair of boobs) attached to it.”

    As you can tell, I’m not a big Borrowed Interest fan and have no use for it whatever in the bike business, where people are already passionate about our products.

  3. Re “models” (as opposed to “babes”), I think there’s a time and place for them–. Apparel, for instance.

    Fortunately, with their growing participation in our sport, finding attractive, personable women who actually know something about cycling are a lot easier to find than they were 30 years ago when I was starting out in this business. And that’s a Good Thing.

  4. I agree about apparel models. That’s not what I was talking about. I was using “models” like the industry does, where attractive women (or men) are hired to work an event simply to look pretty. My company sells enterprise storage software, hardly something you need a model to demonstrate.

    “Borrowed interest” in and of itself is not a problem for me. It’s only when it’s sexist or racist or otherwise offensive that I have a problem with it.

  5. …”… the bike business, where people are already passionate about our products…“…great & truthful comment, no matter ones take on “borrowed interest”, mr vosper…
    …that just might be the second great appeal of the handbuilt bike show, the first obviously being the bikes themselves but ya, i just realized that in that environment, one is surrounded by bikes, their builders & those genuinely interested in the product with very little b.s….
    …so far…

  6. This happens far too much in many areas of cycling.. how am I supposed to get my girls more interested in cycling when they this sort of thing. It’s not sending the right message to the next generation if past of the industry remains in the 60’s and 70’s.

  7. I worked in the beer industry for a decade. The abuse is far more reaching than this. I really liked this poster and its vintage style / tone. The girl is mostly covered-up. If you travel anywhere outside of the USA, you’ll see plenty of women using their bicycles for commuting – dressed much like this. It think it’s well-done considering where others have gone using females in advertising. And from what I saw at Interbike, this one stood-out. I’ve got one on my wall right now.

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