Episode 28 - Marcel Berger

November 22, 2018 14 min read

Episode 28 - Marcel Berger

  

  

Marcel Berger joins us in this episode as we talk about the story behind Mummu Cycling and the cycling tours they offer. Mummu Cycling is the world’s premiere tour cycling operator that delivers cycling tours and experiences for cycling fans around the world. They specialize in major cycling events such as the Tour de France in which they are the official tour operator.

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In this episode we cover: 

  • Marcel’s journey to starting Mummu Cycling.
  • The story behind their interesting business name, Mummu.
  • How they worked with Union Cycling Internationale (UCI) to create experiences for clients.
  • The qualifications to become a professional Tour de France operator.
  • What are the Pro Experience and the Ride Experience tours?
  • Mummu Cycling’s projects and plans for 2019

Links


    Transcript:

    FELICITY:

    This is episode 28. Welcome to the All Torque podcast, where each episode we interview an inspiring person to share their story with you. I'm your host, Felicity Dales, managing director of Body Torque.

    I have here today Marcel Berger, the managing director at Mummu Cycling.  Mummu Cycling is the world's premiere cycling tour operator. Marcel leads the team at Mummu Cycling, delivering world class cycling tours, and experiences for cycling fans around the world. Specialising in major cycling events, Mummu Cycling is the official tour operator for the Tour de France. Some of their clients include the UCI; Union Cycling International, Netball World Cup, Sydney, 2015, UCI Amateur Road World Championships, Cart Boarding Australia Ltd., and the tour of Beijing, and more.

    Marcel's background includes being a director and creating Travel Office in Virginia USA for two and a half years. Responsible for all travel logistics for teams, media partners, and key stakeholders. Operating a licensing program for fan packages, VIP access, hospitality, and event tickets for the 2015 UCI Road World Championships. Marcel was also the General Manager for Travel Office, for the Net Ball, World Cup Sydney 2015, and director of UCI Travel for four and a half years. President of the Chutzpah Factory Inc. for four years and General Manager of Global Horizon division of Sportsnet Corporation, a consultant and owner of Get a Life Health Management for five years, love that. Studied a Bachelor of Business Entrepreneurship in 2014 and to 2009.

    Welcome, Marcel.

    MARCEL:

    Thank you very much, Felicity.

    FELICITY:

    Marcel, with a background so interesting, and diverse, and across countries, tell us about your story from consulting and health management, to starting Mummu Cycling Unlimited and why?

    MARCEL:

    Sure. Effectively, I got into the events and sports world at a very young age. My mother actually made me an assistant stage manager of a chamber music competition at the age of 14 and pulled me out of school for three weeks to do it. I was thrown in the deep end from a very young age. And through that I spent a lot of time in hospitality, spent a lot of time in events that then grew me to heading overseas and setting up a few bars over in London until I decided that Melbourne is the place for me to be. At the time, I started studying entrepreneurship, which was very, very new in Australia at the time. I was in, I think, the second year of that program. Part of that program was to set up a business.

    One of the businesses that I set up was called, Get a Life Health Management. Effectively, we brought corporate health to Australia back in 2004, which is well before anyone expected it to, the market was still very young, did pretty well. That actually took up a lot more of my time, which meant that University kind of jumped on the back burner for a bit. I ended up selling that company in 2009. At that time, I moved to consulting and that was consulting mainly in the commercial space for sports, so a few AFL clubs here, a number of other art organisations. Then that grew me into the cycling world. I didn't choose cycling as a space to spend a lot of my time. I did choose sports and realistically, if you don't choose the sport some of it is probably the worst.

    FELICITY:

    Is that so?

    MARCEL:

    Well, no. It's a fantastic sport. But commercially, it's probably the hardest sport to work with in the world, particularly in the space that we are, which is fan experience engagement, ticket sales and commercial rights because cycling has twelve million people on the side of the road, but you sell tickets to maybe three thousand..

    FELICITY:

    That's right.

    MARCEL:

    Which is very, very different to selling out a major stadium of 100,000 people. We fell into it effectively from two contracts, number one was the UCI. I was at a conference in Singapore, and that the head of commercial for UCI at the time, told him a little bit about what we did, and they were very, very interested in that, they we're looking to expand and grow under Pat McQuaide’s tenure. We signed a contract to set up UCI Travel, which is effectively a brand that could allow fans of cycling to experience these UCI world championships across multiple disciplines in a better way. But also for us to help the UCI consolidate the resources invested by teams and federations on travel and logistics. It’s so fragmented in the cycling world, but everyone does their own thing.

    FELICITY:

    They do..

    MARCEL:

    Therefore, there's no efficiencies gained, and it's very complicated. A lot of teams find it hard. The rich teams find it easy. The rich federations find it easy, but the poor federations find it increasingly challenging. The idea around UCI Travel was to try and consolidate that altogether under the brand of UCI and, I suppose, normalise travel and logistics, particularly for major races around these teams. That worked very, very well. We ran that for four and a half, or once in five years. The reason why we actually left that contract was because we got seconded into the UCI. Effectively, we stopped being an outsourced resource. Then they brought what we created in house with the staff that we created in Switzerland.

    FELICITY:

    Oh, okay.

    MARCEL:

    Yeah, we kind of handed it back to them, for want of a better term. That's still going very, very well, which is great.

    FELICITY:

    Well, that's a compliment, isn't it?

    MARCEL:

    Yeah, it is. I come from the school of thought that you shouldn't be someone's client for life in a service industry. You should actually be helping them learn how to do things on their own, particularly on a day to day relationship. Yes, you’re 100% right that it's a compliment that the UCI saw what we created, saw value in what we created and then learned how to do that themselves, which is great. Then another one of our contracts was actually Phil Anderson.

    Phil came to me in 2009 because he wanted to grow his cycling tour business. And I've never run a cycling tour. I'd never been on a cycling tour. I knew nothing about cycling tours at the time, but we knew about sports travel, and fan engagement. We signed a deal to run Phil Anderson cycling tours from 2009 through 2013. We did very, very well. We grew that business considerably. We were in the perfect sweet spot of Cadel within the top France 11.

    FELICITY:

    Yes, timing is everything.

    MARCEL:

    Then the hundredth anniversary of the tour in 2013, which was fantastic. Then we decided to get out of what we call the retail business, which was selling individual experiences to consumers directly. The reason for that is the other half of our business; Mummu Sport, had a few very, very last contracts around the world. One of those was being a part of the organising committee for the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia. The other one was the Netball World Cup here in Sydney, which both of those two running at the same time as well as three or four other projects just meant that the retail side of our business just were ... would take a bit of a back step.

    FELICITY:

    What is the story in calling your business Mummu?

    MARCEL:

    After successfully delivering the UCI Road World and the Netball World Cup, we actually got asked by the ASO to come on board as an official operator. From then, we decided to turn what was a B2B brand in Mummu Cycling which is effectively the invoicing title behind travel, behind everything else into a retail brand. We launched that in 2015 and that's growing at an exceptional rate at the moment.

    FELICITY:

    Fantastic.

    MARCEL:

    That’s where we are now.

    FELICITY:

    That's exciting. How did you come about the name Mummu? Tell us about that.

    MARCEL:

    Interesting story. It's really strange. Most people can't pronounce it, most people can't spell it, but everyone remembers it, which is great. At the time we, the Mummu company actually broke off from another organisation. We were the global division of a large sports travel company here in Australia called Sportsnet Holidays, Sportsnet Corporation. We broke off, we took that global division to create Mummu and we had three weeks to kind of create a company. When you're creating a company you need a story and we didn't have a story and we didn't want the story to be that we broke off from another company. We started typing into Google a whole range of search tags, etcetera, etcetera. One of our core values is ‘knowledge is power’. We believe ‘the more you know, the better you can be’. We started typing that into Google and we found that Mummu is this Sumerian, Babylonian God of deep thinking and knowledge.

    FELICITY:

    Fantastic. Lovely. Well, that's great that you could use something quite unique and stand out basically.

    MARCEL:

    Yeah. It's really, really cool. There's some parts of the world to find it even harder. The U.S. market think that we're a clothing brand that makes really big baggy clothes that go over things, but it works for us.

    FELICITY:

    That Babylon God can be interpreted in a number of ways.

    MARCEL:

    Exactly.

    FELICITY:

    What is involved working with the UCI to create the experience you deliver for your clients?

    MARCEL:

    It was interesting. It was probably one of the first times I'd worked so closely with a very mature bureaucratic organisation. The UCI are, well they run cycling but they don't run what we know in cycling. They write the rules, they control the schedule, they control or are involved in other areas of a managing the sport all the way from the ground to the top. It was just very interesting being part of that organisation, especially since we were trying to deliver commercial results. Is contradictory with everything that they want to do. We found that a little bit challenging sometimes, but also very exciting that we managed to turn some opinions around, which is great. Also, what we believe is help improve the brand of the UCI. At the time that we jumped on board in 2000, the UCI’s brand was not very well received. 2013 it was probably even worse. Since then the UCI has, I believe improved its brand globally. It's seen as a more professional, not as corrupt etcetera, etcetera. We feel that we were part of that and very pleased about that.

    FELICITY:

    It's interesting that you mentioned they didn't have, say, a commercial focus. When you think of other sports like say soccer and our football like that the AFL for instance, that they need to be commercial to reinvest in the sport.

    MARCEL:

    We work in a lot of sports and some of the sports that you've mentioned, we also work within. Cycling is different. In sport there's called top down sports and bottom up sports. Top down sports normally is a single earned entity that controls the rights, all of the rights. Therefore, they get one large broadcast deal at the top. They then help fund the clubs. They own the clubs, then the clubs filter all that down and then all the way down to grass roots. It's kind of like the head is what funds the bottom. Where the bottom up sports which are a lot of tier three, tier four, tier five sports. It's actually bottom up. It's the people that own the sport. The top actually don't control anything. They just govern the sport. That's what the UCI is. The UCI governs the sport but they don't own anything.

    The ASO owns the largest cycling race in the world and a lot of others. RCS owns the rest. The UCI own the road world championships. That's it. Pretty much. It's a very unique situation, but very intriguing as well and that’s what the other half of our business, Mummu Sport tries to do. We try and help sports that are in that bottom up category, tier three, tier four on how to commercialise the assets that they have in a better way so that they can reinvest and grow and become better and bigger, which is why we are interested in still working in cycling.

    FELICITY:

    Yes. That's fantastic and great to hear. What do you need Marcel to qualify to be an official Tour de France operator?

    MARCEL:

    Well you have to be professional number one. Number two, obviously there's fees associated to it, but also the ASO is looking for organisations that can meet their strategic needs. We were slightly unique because the ASO came to us rather than us going to the ASO. They contacted me in 2015 and I said no three times until eventually we said yes. It's mainly because again, in cycling it's very hard to control rights. We can be an official tour operator for the Tour de France, but that doesn't stop somebody else running a cycling tour company and standing on the side of the road.

    FELICITY:

    That’s right.

    MARCEL:

    Unlike you've always been official operator for FIFA world cup, where that gives me the right and access to tickets which can be controlled, doesn't have that same control and protection. The ASO has done a lot of work over the last few years in improving the program and improving the rights and it got to a point that we were comfortable to proceed.

    Effectively they were looking for an organisation that wasn't American, and wasn't European. They needed someone in the other half of the world that would do a good job. It seems to be that both of our strategies aligned.

    FELICITY:

    Great. We're more neutral being Aussies.

    MARCEL:

    Yeah, exactly. Even though we're based in Australia, we're truly a global operator so..

    FELICITY:

    Well definitely.

    MARCEL:

    Only about 35% of our clients are from Australia. We’re the only operator in the world that sells in multiple currencies.

    FELICITY:

    Yes.

    MARCEL:

    We sell in Euro, Australian dollar, U.S. dollar and British pounds and transact in each of those. We have talents and staff, etcetera from all over the world. Just because we're based here, that doesn't mean that we’re an Aussie company and I think the ASO liked that as well.

    FELICITY:

    Excellent. You offer the pro experience with Stuart O'Grady as the host and also the ride experience. What is the difference between those two?

    MARCEL:

    Sure, so the pro experience is not only with Stuey. When I look at how you can experience a cycling event and that's probably one thing to put out. Mummu Cycling are experts in experiencing major cycling events. Cycling tours becomes part of that delivery. What we're experts in, because we run major cycling events, is how to experience the race in the best way possible. That's what our pro experience is all about. It's getting inside the bubble because literally, and if you go to a major cycling event, you feel it, and you see it physically that there are barriers between outside the bubble and inside the bubble. We physically get our clients inside the bubble. We are with teams, we are starting with teams, we are riding with pros, we are hearing strategies as they come about. We're listening to race radios, we’re riding on courses, we’re driving on courses, we’re going into medium compounds, etcetera, etcetera.

    So literally you are part of the race and that's what the pro experience is all about. Is getting as close as you possibly can to what is, well for the tour de France; it's the biggest circus in the world. For other races it’s exactly the same. So, Stuey leads those four tours that are relevant from his career, being a 17 time Tour de France rider, the tour de France he knows back to front. Him hosting those tours is fantastic, but we have likes of Matt Goss hosting our Giro d’Italia tours and we have the likes of Baden Cooke, helping to deliver some of our Tour de France tours, as well. We look to find a pro which can actually give us that access into the bubble in a way that you couldn't do if they weren't with you. That's what our pro experience is all about. Then the ride experience is kind of the opposite.

    We experience the race, but it's more about the riding. We're over there to ride some of these extraordinary roads during that time of the year and we will see the race when it's relevant and when it makes sense. It's more about the riding. Where they are riding a hundred to a hundred and thirty kilometres a day, doing two to three thousand metres economy. Whereas our pro experience, we're probably riding 60 to 72 kilometres a day doing a hundred metres of climbing. That’s how they differentiate.

    FELICITY:

    They really offer different experiences and what a privilege really with the pro experience. That's really very unique, isn't it?

    MARCEL:

    Yeah, it is. The pros that we have are top tier. Every one of them has won stages, held jerseys, was world championships, national championships. The insight that you get from these guys is just extraordinary.

    FELICITY:

    You also have Mummu Sport being a global sports organisation as you said earlier, partnering with sports governing bodies, teams and event owners to develop long term innovative and sustainable business outcomes. What's on the agenda for next year myself?

    MARCEL:

    There's a few things in the pipe. Only a couple of which I can actually talk about.

    FELICITY:

    Damn.

    MARCEL:

    We were involved in the Invictus Games which just finished, which was very exciting. That's fantastic to be involved in such an event. We're involved in the IAAF world championships in Doha 2019 which will be an experience going back to the Middle East. It's always a little bit different delivering over there. We do a lot of work with netball. Obviously we've got Netball World Cup, we've got other major netball events and series that we're very involved in. We're currently in discussions with the NBL around a number of pretty cool opportunities that are coming down this part of the world. Then there is probably three that we’re in tender for that I can't necessarily talk about.

    FELICITY:

    No, yes.

    MARCEL:

    But we've got quite a bit. The way we run that part of our businesses is we try and run two major projects a year on that side and then run our retail business separately.

    FELICITY:

    Right, they're quite separate?

    MARCEL:

    Yeah, they have to be because they're very, very different. One is we’re assisting the organisers of a major event in how to build hospitality progress, ticket pricing, travel programs that can drive more visitors, drive more commercial value on a B2B level. And then the other side of our business is we’re designing tours and selling them to cycling fans.

    FELICITY:

    Yes, right.

    MARCEL:

    So, they’re very different skill sets and we have different teams running both.

    FELICITY:

    Yes, fantastic. Well it sounds like a very diverse portfolio and across a number of sports, as you say. To follow Mummu Cycling, they’re on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at Mummu Cycling and also the website iswww.mummucycling.com so we’ll have all those details in our show notes. And I’d like to thank you for joining us today, Marcel. It’s been a pleasure to interview you and chat and learn more about your business and I hope that what we’ve discussed today inspires some new participants in your events, in your ride programs that you do and anything else.

    MARCEL:

    Thank you very much, Felicity. It was a pleasure.

    FELICITY:

    Thank you.

    Thanks for listening to the All Torque podcast. We'd love it if you would leave us a rating and review on iTunes. This helps us to deliver content you want to hear about. Please take a moment to share it with your friends and family on Instagram and Facebook. I'm Felicity Dales, see you next episode for another story of inspiration and motivation on the All Torque podcast.


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