How To Break Into The Cycling Industry – SRAM’s Event Rainmaker Benny Cruickshank
For the past few years, any time we get all hot and bothered over the shiny new parts at a SRAM product launch, tradeshow booth or demo, we’ve been doing so thanks to the hard work and preparation of Benny Cruickshank.
As any event promoter will attest, having everything come together to create a seamless, effortless experience is anything but. From Interbike’s labor to Sea Otter’s unpredictable weather to lining up bikes, equipment, transportation and food at random locations throughout the U.S. for media launches, Benny’s the man that makes much of it happen. Oh, and he’s also the brand manager for Avid Brakes. Here’s how he got there and what he does…
BIKERUMOR: Who are you and what are you doing here?
BENNY: I’m Benny Cruickshank and fancy myself as a bit of a “Purveyor of Dreams” at SRAM, but my business card says Avid Brand Communications Manager. Essentially, I develop, oversee, and promote the Avid brand through all customer touchpoints; which include marketing collateral, product launches, communications, advertising, events, tradeshows, swag, sales support, etc. If you see the Avid name on something, it’s a safe bet that I had something to do with it.
BIKERUMOR: What was your first job or experience in the cycling industry? How did you “break” in?
BENNY: I’d say my first experience in the bike industry was similar to most. I worked at a great little shop in East Lansing, Michigan called Velocipede Peddler through my college years. But, what really lit the wick for me in the bike industry was when I moved to Boulder, Colorado and Bobby Noyes hired me at RockyMounts to sweep the floors. From there, I can pretty much connect the dots and draw a straight line to where I am today.
BIKERUMOR: What’s your educational background?
BENNY: I studied Fashion Merchandising & Merchandising Management at Michigan State University. At the time, I really wanted to work in the outdoor apparel industry…like a Patagonia, etc. I had been studying Marketing, but being in Michigan, everything seemed really focused on the automotive industry and it wasn’t really my thing. So, I spoke to an advisor and he turned me on to the Merchandising program and it turned out to be great fit. And, the ratio of women to men in the program was about 100 to 1…which wasn’t too bad, either.
BIKERUMOR: After that first experience/job, what was the path to your current position?
BENNY: After college, I knew I wanted to be in the mountains and to be riding. I sacrificed it all and moved to Park City, Utah and eventually to Boulder, Colorado. In Boulder, I spent a couple of years working at RockyMounts. Over those two years, I got to know Sales Reps from Thule and Yakima, and made a lot of friends in the Boulder cycling community (many of whom have gone on to work in the industry).
Through RockyMounts and the local Thule Sale Rep, I eventually ended up getting a job as a Field Marketing Representative at Thule. Thule was a lot of time on the road doing a lot of events, and it really broadened my network within the bike industry. Some of that network included guys on the SRAM team and/or people who did work with SRAM. When an opportunity arose within the SRAM marketing department looking for an Event & Promotions Coordinator, I had the experience and network to make the move. So, I headed to Chicago and spent about 5 ½ years as the “event guy” before I was rewarded with a move to my current position as the Avid Brand Communications Manager in Colorado Springs.
BIKERUMOR: What’s a normal day for you?
BENNY: There are no “normal” days. SRAM is so dynamic with all of our different brands that there are a lot of meetings, phone calls, discussions, planning sessions that go into everything we do. We typically have early morning meetings so that we can interact with our European team. From there, it’s constantly bouncing ideas off of each other and developing plans, interacting with our Product Managers, concepting and reviewing marketing materials with agencies, answering emails, and trying to tie it all together.
Once spring rolls around and we start doing launches and events, it’s all about getting up early and enacting all of the plans through long days. From the outside looking in, it probably all looks like fun and games, but I swear it takes a lot of long days and long nights to make a Sea Otter, Crankworx, or product launch look the way it does…all with a smile on your face.
BIKERUMOR: What are the highlights of your job?
BENNY: Ferraris for pennies. The people….the SRAM family, an industry of people I consider friends, our athletes, and being able to connect with passionate cyclists at every level in all disciplines….bikes are a common thread. The travel is pretty awesome, too. We’re lucky enough to travel to and ride in locations that people dream about…and it’s all in the name of work.
BIKERUMOR: What could you do without?
BENNY: Taylor Sage’s tobacco chewing habit. Haha…just kidding. Like any industry, competition between brands can be fierce and the day-to-day grind and stress of that can take its toll. It’s a drag when your passion can begin to be a chore and feel like “real” work. But, it’s pretty easy to stop, take a step back, and reflect on where I’m at in life and realize that I’m incredibly fortunate. All that stress melts away with the first pedal stroke of a lunch ride.
BIKERUMOR: What advice would you give to someone looking to follow your path today?
BENNY: Be patient, work hard, have integrity, and develop a good network of people around you. The bike industry is pretty small and pretty much everyone knows everyone. If you’re honest and work hard, people will notice and your network will grow. If you’re disingenuous, people will notice that, too.