This post originally appeared yesterday on The Huffington Post.
Bradley Wiggins’ success in the Tour de France was testament to the willpower, training and raw talent of an individual. His stellar status in the media- whilst certainly not hindered by his victory – has more to do with his suitability as a new kind of celebrity in the post-Leveson world.
Wiggins is perfect fodder for a media conscious of a need to prove its moral worth and a public operating zero tolerance for excess or frippery in its icons. Frugal, modest, for the most part softly spoken, Wiggins nonetheless radiates self-effacing charm. His embodiment of the classic attributes of the British sportsman- fair play, quiet confidence, team spirit- make him a perfect proposition for those in search of a comforting icon for an austerity age.
What’s more, he is possessed of something essential for lasting success in a ‘now economy’ age defined by freedom of information and a voracious public: a powerful narrative element. This operates across two interlinked axes: his compelling battle against dopers as a kind of angry young man of cycling, and a troubled childhood defined by the departure and alcoholism of his father, Australian cycling champ Gary Wiggins. Brad’s effortless actions and easy grace win the headlines, his tortured past and occasional four letter outbursts fill out the features.
It’s also worth noting that Wiggins is free from the burden of hype which surrounds those sports previously perceived to be of premier interest- notably this summer international football and grand slam tennis. For the majority of the public he emerged from nowhere, a figurehead for a sport previously firmly under the radar. As such, his actions were both surprising and illuminating, and carried a corresponding freshness.
There is much that brands can seek to imitate on the basis of the Bradley Wiggins effect: calm confidence, outspoken comment on pertinent issues, making oneself transparent without appearing self-obsessed. Most importantly, though, Wiggo- or ‘Le Gentleman’ as he is affectionately known- is committed to an ideology which is deeply meaningful not only to he but to the British public. In his case, this is the age-old code of good old British sportsmanship, but a similar resource might just as easily be found in a well-crafted and honest brand vision statement.
The Now Economy rewards those who define their terms according to personal passion, measure their success against hard-won personal milestones, and are willing to allow the media to discover their commitment and energy in their own time.