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“When British Cycling teamed up with Shell, many of us puked our bodies inside out”: Cyclists praise climate activists’ guerilla ad campaign as Shell slams “misleading” billboards

According to Shell, Brandalism’s striking “hacked” billboards “completely mischaracterise the nature of our partnership with British Cycling”, while British Cycling itself insists its partnership with the oil giant makes a “positive impact”

A striking billboard campaign condemning Shell’s sponsorship of British Cycling – the latest high-profile criticism of the governing body’s much-derided relationship with the oil and gas giant – has earned praised from cyclists and environmental campaigners across the UK, who say they remain “frustrated and angry” by British Cycling’s decision to take Shell’s “dirty money”.

However, Shell says the “hacked” billboards, the work of social and climate activists Brandalism, are “misleading” and “completely mischaracterise” the company’s partnership with British Cycling, while the cycling governing body responded by pointing out that Shell is supporting its “long-term sustainability strategy” and describing the partnership as “making a positive impact on our sport”.

This week, as Shell prepares to host its AGM in London, over 200 fake adverts have been placed without permission satirising the oil company’s environmental stance across the capital, as well as in Manchester, Reading, Norwich, and Bristol by Brandalism, a self-described “guerilla art collective” which targets consumerist culture through “hacked” ad campaigns.

While Brandalism’s campaign against Shell aims to skewer all aspects of what it believes is the company’s “powering profits” agenda, a number of cycling-specific ads – targeting the sponsorship deal British Cycling signed with Shell in 2022 – have popped up, especially near the governing body’s headquarters in Manchester.

Brandalism Shell and British Cycling ad (Brandalism)

> "Greenwashing, pure and simple" - fury as Shell UK sponsors British Cycling

One of the billboards shows a cyclist dressed in a mocked-up version of the Team GB kit drinking from a barrel of Shell-brand oil, with the slogan: “We’ve teamed up with British Cycling to help us fast track the apocalypse”. British Cycling’s logo, meanwhile, has also been modified to read “Official Partner in Crime.”

Another poster shows a cyclist slipping on oil and falling from his bike, with the tag line: “Shell, pedalling lies since 1970. Now proudly polluting British Cycling.”

Tona Merriman, the co-founder and spokesperson for Brandalism, said the campaign was a response to Shell “co-opting the emotional connections we have with sports to launder their dirty brand”.

“As Shell’s executives gather for its AGM, the oil company’s PR strategies to obscure its accelerating fossil fuel production during the climate emergency need exposing,” Merriman said in a statement.

“Shell is advertising to kids, cosying up to politicians, paying influencers, and co-opting the emotional connections we have with sports to launder their dirty brand.

“But behind its billion-dollar marketing efforts Shell is back pedalling on its own green pledges, profiting from our soaring energy bills and facing legal challenges across the globe for violating human rights. We’re urging shareholders, sports organisations and influencers to see past the greenwash and drop Shell – it is not only a bad faith actor, it is a legal, financial, and reputational risk.”

Brandalism's anti-Shell British Cycling ads (Brandalism)

> British Cycling and Shell: THAT very controversial deal discussed

The thought-provoking campaign has won praise from cyclists and climate activists who have been critical of British Cycling’s association with Shell, since the governing body agreed an eight-year sponsorship deal with the multinational oil and gas company in 2022, a partnership that attracted accusations of greenwashing and led to many cyclists revoking their British Cycling memberships.

“Pro cycling’s sell-out to the oil and gas industry (as well as petro-states) is utterly pervasive. Fuck this shit,” Neil Winkleman wrote on X.

“I’m extremely frustrated and angry that an organisation like British Cycling would take Shell’s dirty money. It makes you wonder what the point is.”

“These Brandalism posters bring me much joy!” added climate activist Peter Knapp. “When British Cycling decided to ‘team up’ with Shell, many of us puked our bodies inside out.”

“It was a bad look when British Cycling took Shell’s polluter dollar, it’s much worse since the oil giant ditched climate targets and doubled down on putting profits before life and health,” wrote Andrew Simms, the co-director of the New Weather Institute.

> Chris Hoy: British Cycling deal can ‘put cycling on Shell’s agenda’

In response to the billboard campaign, a British Cycling spokesperson said: “Through our partnership, Shell UK has made a long-term commitment to cycling in Britain.

“Our Limitless disability and para-cycling programme along with support in the development of our long-term sustainability strategy which will be published later this month, are both tangible examples of how we are together making a positive impact on our sport.”

“We respect people’s right to express their point of view and welcome any constructive engagement on our strategy and the energy transition,” a Shell spokesperson added.

“However, these protest ads are misleading, not constructive, and completely mischaracterise the nature of our partnership with British Cycling.

“Shell UK continues to support British Cycling and the Great Britain Cycling Team’s cyclists and para-cyclists through the sharing of technology and innovation, widening access to cycling, and accelerating decarbonisation efforts.”

> Extinction Rebellion protest British Cycling's Shell deal at National Cycling Centre

Brandalism’s billboards aren’t the first time British Cycling’s deal with Shell – which the governing body claimed at the time would “widen access to the sport, support our elite riders, and help our organisation and sport take important steps towards net zero” – has been the focus for protesters.

Extinction Rebellion protest at National Cycling Centre

In November 2022, Extinction Rebellion activists climbed onto the entrance of the National Cycling Centre in Manchester to protest the partnership, displaying a banner demanding ‘Get Shell out of British Cycling’ and holding smoke bomb-like devices.

The partnership also prompted a fierce backlash from cyclists across the UK, many of whom cancelled or threatened to cancel their British Cycling memberships in protest at what they believe is Shell’s attempt to ‘greenwash’ its environmentally damaging activities by investing in an activity associated with sustainable, healthy living.

In the wake of the announcement, one British Cycling member, a trained ride leader for the organisation’s Breeze women-only rides, said that the energy company “stands for everything we everyday cyclists don’t,” while another who has belonged to the organisation for more than a quarter of a century said that the sponsorship was “green washing for [Shell UK], plain and simple.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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35 comments

Avatar
Gbjbanjs | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

Why no brandalism in Edinburgh. I feel ignored by brandalism and like many others cancelled my membership with BC.

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chrisonabike replied to Gbjbanjs | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

I reckon there's a fair few places you could improve with a bit of DIY...

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eburtthebike | 4 weeks ago
13 likes

"....a British Cycling spokesperson said: “Through our partnership, Shell UK has made a long-term commitment to cycling in Britain."

No.

“However, these protest ads are misleading, not constructive, and completely mischaracterise the nature of our partnership with British Cycling."

No again.

 

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morgoth985 replied to eburtthebike | 4 weeks ago
14 likes

Yes.  In agreement with your "No"s.  They can defend the indefensible as much as they like, but I've cancelled my membership and I don't think I'm alone.

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hawkinspeter | 4 weeks ago
17 likes

I'll just leave this here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/article/2024/may/17/government-adviser-on-disruptive-protest-accused-of-conflict-of-interest

Quote:

John Woodcock, formerly a Labour MP and now a crossbench peer, has prepared a review of “far-left” involvement in disruptive protest, which includes activism against climate change and war. At the same time, he has been chairing and advising lobby groups representing arms manufacturers and fossil fuel firms.

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Kendalred replied to hawkinspeter | 4 weeks ago
11 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

I'll just leave this here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/article/2024/may/17/government-adviser-on-disruptive-protest-accused-of-conflict-of-interest

Quote:

John Woodcock, formerly a Labour MP and now a crossbench peer, has prepared a review of “far-left” involvement in disruptive protest, which includes activism against climate change and war. At the same time, he has been chairing and advising lobby groups representing arms manufacturers and fossil fuel firms.

Ah, yes - our former Labour MP Baron Walney. Left Corbyn's Labour party, married the Assistant Editor of right-wing rag The Spectator and is now pushing to effectively criminalise legitimate protest against Climate disaster and selling arms to oppressors. His turn to the Dark Side is complete.

Kier starmer will probably welcome him back with open arms.

 

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Simon E replied to hawkinspeter | 4 weeks ago
13 likes

The article also says that "he resigned from the party during an investigation into claims he had sent inappropriate text messages to a female aide" between 2014 and 2016. Pretty much normal (mis)behaviour for a male MP, sadly.

He sucked up to Boris and was rewarded with a seat in the Lords, where I'm sure he continues to promote fossil fuel giants and manufacturers of bombs and guns while wanting to stop normal people with a conscience being able to protest about those and related things. A complete c**t.

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john_smith | 4 weeks ago
0 likes

The Shell logo looks great on cycling kit though, as does the Esso logo.

Presumably the "activists" don't ever burn any fuel or use any product or service that involves the burning of any fuel. 

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chrisonabike replied to john_smith | 4 weeks ago
1 like

Perhaps you're confusing them with "Just stop oil"?

TBF I'm not 100% on the details of any of these groups' dreams (well, I know Tyre Extinguishers let down car tyres, even I can grasp that).

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The Larger Cyclist replied to chrisonabike | 4 weeks ago
15 likes

chrisonabike wrote:

Perhaps you're confusing them with "Just stop oil"?

TBF I'm not 100% on the details of any of these groups' dreams (well, I know Tyre Extinguishers let down car tyres, even I can grasp that).

Just Stop Oil want a stop to NEW fossil fuel production and licencing as opposed to all. Which I don't think a lot of people realise.

 

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Patrick9-32 replied to john_smith | 4 weeks ago
11 likes

john_smith wrote:

The Shell logo looks great on cycling kit though, as does the Esso logo.

Presumably the "activists" don't ever burn any fuel or use any product or service that involves the burning of any fuel. 

You are a moron. This argument is stupid. 

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zanf replied to Patrick9-32 | 4 weeks ago
4 likes

Patrick9-32 wrote:
john_smith wrote:

The Shell logo looks great on cycling kit though, as does the Esso logo.

Presumably the "activists" don't ever burn any fuel or use any product or service that involves the burning of any fuel. 

You are a moron. This argument is stupid.

You know what their entire argument is?

Its Louise Mench on Have I Got News For You, talking about anti-capitalist protestors, having iPhones and drinking coffee.

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john_smith replied to Patrick9-32 | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Are you as primitive in real life as you seem here, Patrick?

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marmotte27 replied to Patrick9-32 | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

I found I hadn't liked your post yet! Done now.

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Boopop replied to john_smith | 4 weeks ago
17 likes

john_smith wrote:

The Shell logo looks great on cycling kit though, as does the Esso logo.

Presumably the "activists" don't ever burn any fuel or use any product or service that involves the burning of any fuel. 

Given even the roads and footpaths themselves are made using oil, how do you propose a climate change activist exists in society without ever involving themselves with any oil products whatsoever?

Yours is a common bullshit bad faith argument, and I'm calling it out.

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Gbjbanjs replied to john_smith | 3 weeks ago
5 likes

It is possible to both oppose Shell's partnership with BC and use fossil fuels.
Try as we might, there is a minimum level which none of us can get below - but you know that and are just trolling.

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john_smith replied to Gbjbanjs | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Modern man has been around for hundreds of thousand of years. For much of that time he did not use fossil fuels. There is no "minimum level which none of us can get below".

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Gbjbanjs replied to john_smith | 3 weeks ago
6 likes

Well, thats only true if you dont want medicines, education, transportation, electricity, running water, sewage control, food, communication.
I think its possible for the over consumers to stop over consuming.

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perce replied to john_smith | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Thousands of years maybe. Hundreds of thousands? No.

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john_smith replied to perce | 3 weeks ago
1 like

Actually, yes. Hundreds of thousands.

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marmotte27 | 4 weeks ago
12 likes

Calling out greenwashing, well done Brandalism, and don't stop there !

 

 

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open_roads | 4 weeks ago
2 likes

It would be great if all the activists showed some authenticity by removing all of the bike components made with oil / petroleum distillates.

Of course this would mean their bikes would no longer be rideable but failing to do so just shows them as the hypocrites they are.

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Patrick9-32 replied to open_roads | 4 weeks ago
25 likes

open_roads wrote:

It would be great if all the activists showed some authenticity by removing all of the bike components made with oil / petroleum distillates.

Of course this would mean their bikes would no longer be rideable but failing to do so just shows them as the hypocrites they are.

You are a moron. This argument is stupid. 
 

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john_smith replied to Patrick9-32 | 4 weeks ago
2 likes

Your comment is remarkable for its analytical rigour and the charm with which was presented. Congratulations.

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Patrick9-32 replied to john_smith | 4 weeks ago
7 likes

john_smith wrote:

Your comment is remarkable for its analytical rigour and the charm with which was presented. Congratulations.

Reply on the wrong fake account there buddy?

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chrisonabike replied to open_roads | 4 weeks ago
16 likes

Because if you're calling for a serious reduction in oil usage (I'm not sure exactly what their position is currently) you shouldn't use a computer, print anything, handle paint, wear clothes, eat food or drink water because they all involve fossil fuel usage either for power, as a raw material or simply to get them to us?

And of course there's no meaningful difference between riding a 2nd hand bike and driving about in a large ICE car, do I have you right?  Or between a handful of people on those tatty bikes (or even ebikes), and the professional peleton with multiple carbon fibre bikes, support crews, team cars, buses etc?

TBH I don't know who they're persuading and whether they're moving the conversation forward positively overall - we'll have to wait for history to tell the future, if that's possible.  I'm not sure that maybe tutting a bit while within the system is less hypocritical though - but for all I know you're living off-grid and growing your own vegetables and bicycles?

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FionaJJ replied to chrisonabike | 4 weeks ago
14 likes

Anyone wanting to improve air quality, but still breathes what we have now is a HYPOCRITE!!! etc.

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Rendel Harris replied to FionaJJ | 4 weeks ago
8 likes

FionaJJ wrote:

Anyone wanting to improve air quality, but still breathes what we have now is a HYPOCRITE!!! etc.

My personal favourite, and I was privileged to overhear someone saying this at a party in all seriousness: "Of course vegetarians and vegans are complete hypocrites because they get trains and taxis and buses that are driven by people who get their energy from meat, and they buy products where the people who made them got the energy to do it from eating meat. They don't think about that, do they?" Classic.

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chrisonabike replied to FionaJJ | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

FionaJJ wrote:

Anyone wanting to improve air quality, but still breathes what we have now is a HYPOCRITE!!! etc.

Yeah!  People moaning about zero emissions and they're like literally emitting CO2!?!

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john_smith replied to chrisonabike | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Hold on a sec. The ones moaning about zero emissions are allowed to emit CO2. It's the other lot who need to stop breathing.

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