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How stolen Cowboy bikes posed an opportunity for great PR stories

Our team has been working for the Belgian e-bike brand Cowboy for over two years. In that time, some unfortunate Belgian Cowboy owners had their pride and joy stolen from them – imagine the horror! Lucky for them, all Cowboy bikes come with a built-in GPS system and SIM card. Even if thieves manage to remove the battery pack from the bike, the internal battery cell integrated in the frame will allow its owner to track the bike for up to one month after the theft. Pretty clever, huh? 

But it’s not all just fancy bells and whistles, it really works. By now, even your run of the mill middle management criminal buying stolen bikes from local thieves to have them shipped abroad knows a Cowboy when he sees one. Thanks to Cowboy, police forces all over Europe have been able to bust several criminal groups specializing in bike theft, leading them into their warehouses and onto their shipping routes. 

But one of these stories proved to be PR gold the moment the Prime Minister of Albania got involved, that’s when things got even more interesting. Take the story of Denis, who tracked his stolen Cowboy all the way to a small town in Albania: He had the exact whereabouts of his stolen Cowboy bike but didn’t know what to do with the info. An Albanian subreddit quickly pointed him in the right direction and got him in touch with the prime minister, who at the time was making a point tackling small crime in his country. The bike was quickly retrieved by local police and the thief brought to justice.

So, where do we come in? Our PR troopers were quick to pitch the story to all major Belgian news websites and secured over 20 clippings. The perfect example of how to hack a trending and current topic and turn it into – well, we said it before – solid PR gold.

You don't easily outsmart the ‘Find My Bike’ system

Some additional great social coverage popped up when Cowboy ambassador Hannes Coudenys had his bike stolen in front of his wife’s shop in Kortrijk. In the next 24 hours he took his followers on an adventure across the border to Roubaix (France), where he went door to door with the local police to retrieve the bike, in what seemed every bit as suspenseful as an actual episode of ‘24’. This of course led to a vlog about his adventure, and some great coverage in local media which we brought up to speed of the unfolding story.

And a more recent example of how these retrieved bikes can be used to drive press coverage and interest of the general public was situated in Ghent. A local Cowboy rider active on Twitter notified his followers about his stolen bike, along with the location. The thief also clearly had a hunch that this wasn’t an average bike as he tried to outsmart the ‘Find My Bike’ system by wrapping tin foil around the frame, in an attempt to block the signal. The police caught him red handed shortly after and delivered the bike to its rightful owner.