As Electric Bikes Boom in Popularity, Specialized Fuels the Trend With a Jab at Trump

The new spot by Goodby Silverstein & Partners focuses on fun and climate

Headshot of Doug Zanger

One of the unintended consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown is the effect that it’s had on the environment.

According to the journal Nature Climate Change, daily emissions declined by 17% from January to early April. It’s not a surprising development seeing as people aren’t flying or driving as much, but it may also be a temporary blip as countries emerging from hibernation could get back to their polluting ways.

Yet there may be hope. Bike sales have skyrocketed, with consumers flocking to this more traditional mode of transportation. All categories of bicycle sales have jumped, with electric bikes zooming up a whopping 85% in March. While it’s a coincidence, the timing couldn’t have been better for global bike brand Specialized to promote its electric bike line.

A new ad touting the brand’s Turbo ebike line from long-standing agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners (a relationship that began 30 years ago) is equal parts hopeful and mischievous. In typical Goodby Silverstein style, there is a simultaneous unignorable whimsy and gravity, with striking visuals anchored in immersive sound.

While a majority of the message focuses on a playful yet serious environmental message, part of the montage-led creative includes a well-placed jab at Donald Trump.

“It’s my favorite part of the ad because it’s true, and you can’t ignore the problem,” said Rich Silverstein, Goodby Silverstein co-founder, who, with Jeff Goodby, has a track record of going after Trump. “I think it will play very well around the world because he is not the most loving person on the planet.”

“I know that our European friends especially will love that,” added Specialized founder and CEO Mike Sinyard.

All joking aside, the creative narrative is done purposefully and leans into the brand’s ethos. All the animation, editing and music for the 60-second spot was made in-house at Goodby Silverstein and incorporated filmed Specialized shots from the past. According to Silverstein, it was built with three mini-acts that were fused together.

“The first chapter was remembering [what it was like to ride a bike]. Chapter two focuses on electricity being alive. And the last chapter tied it up with ‘Hey, this could be a hell of a lot of fun,'” he said.


The product itself has evolved and become more sophisticated (Specialized created its first ebike in 2013). The brand sees the line as something that could be an important part of the brand’s present and future, even though Sinyard was initially skeptical.

“At first, I thought electric bikes were very pedestrian and didn’t want to have anything to do with it,” he said. “And then when I learned more, I said, ‘This is incredibly exhilarating.’ And it changes the whole perspective about where you can go and how quick it is.”

The “fun” aspect can’t be underscored enough. According to Ian Kenny, Specialized Turbo brand leader, studies from the U.S. and Europe show that people who ride ebikes are getting more exercise on average than someone who rides a regular bike.

“They’re riding farther and more often and, generally speaking, the last experience they have on any bike is a positive one. So they’re more likely to get back on it again,” he said. “They’re less likely to leave it sitting in the garage collecting dust.”

Behaviorally, according to Silverstein, the idea of getting on a bus or subway—or even in an Uber or Lyft—is not necessarily appealing to most people right now. An April survey lends credence to that, with more than 80% of Americans seeing cycling as safer than taking public transportation.

@zanger Doug Zanger is a senior editor at Adweek focusing on creativity and agencies.