Total Rush’s topless mistake explodes in Melbourne

Kate Smart Columnist

By Kate Smart, Kate Smart is a Roar Expert


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    Iconic Melbourne cycle store, Total Rush celebrated its grand reopening after extensive renovations last Thursday night. For the store owners, employees and loyal customers, Friday should have been spent still buzzing from the high of the reopening celebrations.

    If only.

    By Friday afternoon, social media in Melbourne was alive with what has become known, amongst other things, as #totalrushgate. By Friday afternoon the topic was well and truly trending on Twitter. (Link may be NSFW)

    Total Rush got their marketing strategy completely wrong, by hiring topless models for the grand reopening of their store.

    In fact, it’s hard to see how anyone could have approved such a ridiculous concept of hiring topless models wearing nothing other than pink g-strings and pink body paint.

    What a faux pas.

    It’s hard to conceive that this business has not gone through a process of planning out their business and marketing strategy. The decision to undertake the renovations should have been apart of a well thought out and long term business plan. This is a plan that at some point someone should have pointed out that topless models and positioning yourself as one of the cities leading bike retailers do not go hand in hand.

    I find it utterly unfathomable that ‘let’s renovate and reopen with the concept of becoming Melbourne’s first cycling shop combined with strip joint’, was intentional.

    To make it worse, part of the evening was acting as a fundraiser for the children’s (yes, children’s) charity, Freedom Wheels.

    Oh, dear, dear me.

    Total Rush has been thoughtless. It would seem they have not got someone in the organsation who is dispassionate enough to have suggested that perhaps this plan could back fire.

    They have made an epic error.

    However, cries of ‘misogyny’ are quite over the top. Misogyny seems to be the new catchword in Australia. It’s over use is really quite nauseating.

    There is no doubt that some of the energy behind Friday’s social media outrage was certain personalities seeking to stir the all men are misogynists pot. Just because a man does something you do not agree with doesn’t make him a woman hater. This is a pointless attitude and does little to improve the arguments for greater equality for women in our society.

    The owners of Total Rush have made a terrible mistake, but let’s stop bandying about the ‘M’ word. Misogyny is not hiring topless models. That decision was stupid but not misogynist.

    Total Rush has been thoughtless and inconsiderate, but once again, that is not misogynistic.

    To think that hiring topless models for the reopening of a cycling store is acceptable merely suggests the immaturity of those who made the decision. This appears to be more the fantasy of horny teenage boys than a sensible, well thought out business decision.

    To make matters worse, the company has also made the mistake of deleting Facebook posts and tweets. This is just throwing more fire on an already intense inferno. Many of the comments on Twitter were actually referring to this action as much as to the offending models.

    Total Rush saw this marketing strategy used elsewhere but they obviously did not consider the extent to which they opened themselves up to alienating a large portion of their customer base.

    What they should have done is ask themselves important questions about just who their clients are and is their business the best place to replicate these strategies.

    Women are the biggest growing sector for the cycling industry, and let’s be honest, cycling is an industry.

    Total Rush do have a weekly organised ride for women and they do support a women’s cycling team in the National Road Series, but it would appear that even though they do this, they still don’t quite understand this segment of the market.

    Hiring topless models is bound to be risky and as such, shouldn’t have been done.

    At the core of the divide between men and women, is a lack of understanding.

    Many men are still unaware of how women’s lives are still very different to men’s.

    We can’t walk anywhere at anytime of the day. You can.

    We can’t wear what we want. You can.

    Didn’t you know, if we are assaulted it’s because we ‘asked for it’.

    Of course you didn’t.

    Tell me, how many jobs have you missed out on because you’re at an age where you may have a baby? None; that’s right.

    These attitudes do not appear out of nowhere. They are built into society over a period of time. The sexual objectification of women is the prism through which discrimination against all women, in all areas of our lives, begins.

    This is why so many women reacted so strongly against the topless models.

    Total Rush has made a monumental mistake and it is a mistake I am sure they are genuinely sorry for.

    They need to ensure that are not paying lip service to women in cycling by holding women’s shop rides and by supporting a team in the NRS.

    They need to show a genuine understanding to what is perhaps their biggest market.

    Total Rush can recover from this but let’s hope they’ve learnt some valuable lessons about the things that seem like a good idea at the time.

    (Editor’s note: Rush Cycling Group’s Simon Coffin released a statement, which includes this short passage:

    Complementing the brand promotion on the evening were two female body-artists whose partly clad bodies were painted to resemble the Total Rush riding kit.

    “While the body artists were topless, which is part of their artistic presentation, their support for the event was extremely tastefully executed and not sexually offensive. At no stage did any of the guests object to their presence and none departed early or complained. In fact the opposite was the case with comment made about the creative approach taken and many female guests requested that their photos be taken with the artists.

    “Had Total Rush believed the use of body artists would offend, we would have sought an alternative promotion on the night.

    “The concept for using body artists came from other organisations that have engaged the same talent who are booked through a professional agency. Such organisations include a major luxury car company and a breast cancer organisation, as well as many others. Total Rush adopted the concept because of its successful use by other organisations and believing it to be an appropriate way to communicate our brand; the concept was strongly endorsed by our guests.

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    The Crowd Says (17)

    • Roar Guru

      December 11th 2013 @ 10:10am
      Bones506 said | December 11th 2013 @ 10:10am | ! Report

      Hi Kate,

      A well articulated and balanced article. As you know I ride out of the Total Rush shop but I wasn’t actually at the event on the night in question.

      For me – it is a storm in a tea cup in this instance. Total Rush don’t just support a women’s team in the NRS – they fully sponsor it with bikes, kit, technical assistance etc.

      They also do the monthly women’s ride to help educate riders in bunch riding skills and reguarly do free clinics for women on bike maintenance so they do a lot. More than just about any other bike shop I would hazard to say.

      • Columnist

        December 11th 2013 @ 2:04pm
        Kate Smart said | December 11th 2013 @ 2:04pm | ! Report

        Hi Bones,

        Thanks for this.

        I do suspect you’re quite right but at the same time it’s raised some interesting points. I think there is a growing area of academic literature on how business can best use social media and I suspect this will make great a Uni case study. Deleting the Twitter and Facebook posts actually upset as many people as the actual incident.

        I do think they did make an error in judgement but they at least are in a position to repair any damage through their work with women’s cycling.

        I think the moral of the tale is to know your audience, but just tune in to any Gruen episode and you’ll see how hard that is!

        I do wish Total Rush the best and I’m sure they’ll be working hard to move forward from this.

    • December 11th 2013 @ 5:00pm
      nick said | December 11th 2013 @ 5:00pm | ! Report

      sorry…they stuffed up royally. you can make all the excuses in the world, but it was sexist, offensive, in poor taste and showed a total lack of respect for women, and a total lack of understanding of modern social norms. your email response which we’ve all read shows your true colours!

      As a mod of a popular local site,
      I will be promoting boycotting them, and Specialized while we are at it, across every platform I can find.

      to support these morons only supports their attitudes. you morons dont deserve to be in business in this day and age.

      • Roar Guru

        December 12th 2013 @ 1:22pm
        Bones506 said | December 12th 2013 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

        I doubt Spec or Rush will blink.

    • Columnist

      December 11th 2013 @ 6:47pm
      Kate Smart said | December 11th 2013 @ 6:47pm | ! Report

      Thanks for your comments, nick.

      I support your right to boycott Total Rush.

      For the record, though, I merely repeated the last line of my article which was to reiterate Total Rush made a mistake that I hope they learn from, when responding to Bones.

      Total Rush need to win back customer trust and loyalty. I do wish them well in this endeavour. As stupid as their actions were, I do believe they should be given the chance to atone for them.

      I also feel they need to demonstrate a commitment to women’s cycling, which in this instance seems to be lacking. Again, this is another point I made in my article.

      I’m not out to incite hatred against Total Rush, though. I too agree with you that they have been thoughtless and they acted poorly.

      Also, as I stated in my article, I do not agree that they are misogynists.

      But, yes they have been very stupid.

    • Roar Guru

      December 12th 2013 @ 1:32pm
      Will Sinclair said | December 12th 2013 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

      How am I only finding out about this now?

    • Roar Guru

      December 12th 2013 @ 2:16pm
      Bones506 said | December 12th 2013 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

      Note that Total Rush have issued an official apology.

      • December 12th 2013 @ 9:43pm
        Susan said | December 12th 2013 @ 9:43pm | ! Report

        After they were asked to by Specialized! Google leaked email from Simon Coffin to find out what he really thinks about women!
        Anyone who thinks this is a storm in a teacup has no idea.

        • Roar Guru

          December 13th 2013 @ 10:50am
          Bones506 said | December 13th 2013 @ 10:50am | ! Report

          Susan – Total Rush do more for women’s cycling than any shop in Australia. Period.
          In the context of what is going on in the world today this is a storm in a tea cup and people like Deveny who rant on their soap box to further their limited views blows things out of proportion.

          • December 13th 2013 @ 9:05pm
            Susan said | December 13th 2013 @ 9:05pm | ! Report

            Bones, 52% of the population are women. That women are treated with such disregard is not a storm in a tea cup. Many of the bigger problems in the world (gang rapes in India, girl babies left to ie in China, girls being denied an education in developing countries… start with the treatment of women as objects of sexual gratification rather than them being considered intelligent, sentient and talented human beings who are also capable of great sporting achievements. Saying that Cathetine Deveny is ranting shows your lack of ability to mount an intelligent argument. If the cycling public believe that Tittle Rush do more for Women’s cycling than any other store, then that is a great shame, ( by the waySimon Coffin did not listen to the women he supposedly supports when it was suggested to him that this was a bad idea) because there are many other stores that offer far more genuine support af female cyclists. Simon provides kit, that is all. Don’t presume to tell me about the greater problems of the world when you clearly haven’t a clue where many of them stem from!

            • Roar Guru

              December 14th 2013 @ 2:10pm
              Bones506 said | December 14th 2013 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

              Please: Catherine Deveny made herself infamous by tweeting she hoped Bindi Irwin (at the time age 11) that she hoped she lost her virginity at the logies.
              Simon provides bikes, kit, mechanical and technical support plus does free women’s clinics and a monthly women’s ride just so we are clear. This comes at considerable cost.

              An error of judgement is made and the feminist movement want to burn the village down. Get a grip.

              • December 14th 2013 @ 2:49pm
                Susan said | December 14th 2013 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

                Only after some villages burn will men like Simon understand that their behaviour is unacceptable. Specialized provides the bikes. Simon provides kit and does a little more at little actual cist to himself, and he clearly does it for commercial gain and not because he is interested in promoting women in sport. There are twice weekly rides run by LivGiant, there are other bike stores running cycling training for new women riders, Simon is not a trail breaker. Lance Armstrong supported cancer research but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a cheating megalomaniacal tool.

    • Roar Guru

      December 14th 2013 @ 3:11pm
      Bones506 said | December 14th 2013 @ 3:11pm | ! Report

      Thankfully the Village won’t burn. 80 plus riders turned up for the shop ride today.

      The incident will have nominal impact as it should.

      • December 14th 2013 @ 8:20pm
        Susan said | December 14th 2013 @ 8:20pm | ! Report

        And I and my husband will get back to raising our daughters to be educated, strong, considerate, empathetic women inspired by great female and male role models and we will support businesses who recognise women as possessing all those qualities and more,
        and not those businesses who demonstrate by their outrageously thoughtless actions that they percieve women to be mere accessories.
        Every positive marketing experience is shared with at least four others. Every negative one is shared with at least nine.

      • December 14th 2013 @ 8:46pm
        Susan said | December 14th 2013 @ 8:46pm | ! Report

        One more thing. Did you not see the photo of Simon Coffin lecherously pointing at the model’s backside? Give us a break!

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