Shopping centres are usually the domains of motorists. It is therefore remarkable that Slovenian shopping centre BTC City has been a loyal sponsor of cycling. We asked Maja Oven, head of marketing and communication at BTC City, about the motivations behind the sponsoring.
How and when did BTC City get involved with cycling?
,,The BTC cycling story started in 2003 when the start and finish line of Maraton Franja moved to BTC City Ljubljana. Two years later BTC became the main sponsor of this event and consequently the competition rebranded to Marathon Franja BTC City. Since then Franja has evolved from year to year and reached nearly 8.000 competitors.’’
Why did BTC get involved with cycling?
,,BTC was attracted by cycling due to several reasons. First, cycling brings benefits to individuals related to health, mobility and social interaction. Second, it brings benefits to the local community due to lowered pollution, improved public health and less traffic in the cities. Third, it brings benefits to economy by promoting tourism, production of cycling equipment and investments in infrastructure. Last but not least cycling is in line with the business strategy and sustainability policy of BTC. All these arguments brought us to the conclusion that BTC and cycling are the perfect match.’’
What does the shopping centre gain with hosting the marathon?
,,The marathon brings a new dimension to BTC City which is no longer just a shopping center. It is much more than that. BTC City, by hosting such events, brings new content to visitors, raises awareness about recreational and professional cycling, creates opportunities for fun as well as encourages demand for sport equipment which is good for our business partners.’’
What made you decide to increase your involvement and sponsor a women’s team?
,,The decision to establish the first professional Slovenian women cycling team seemed like a logical next step after the successful development of Maraton Franja. Statistics showed that recreational as well as professional cycling in Slovenia was very much a male sport. For instance in 2013 there only 24 per cent of the participants on Maraton Franja were women and there was no professional women cycling team. We wanted to promote women cycling so we established together with KD Rog the team BTC City Ljubljana in 2014. We now know that we made the right decision because the girls made magnificent successes in the first three seasons.’’
What did BTC City do to improve its own cycling infrastructure and what is still planned?
,,Cycling infrastructure in BTC City is part of our sustainability policy. We have three stations of BicikeLJ (selfserving bikesharing system) with 60 bikes in the area of BTC City which connect BTC City with the centre of Ljubljana. We provide over 400 parking spaces for bikes. We have also introduced several advanced urban solutions in line with the concept of shared space. In May this year we started a new traffic regime by introducing one-way streets (which slowdown traffic), by new walking areas and new cycling paths.’’
The vast majority of visitors come by car now, do you foresee that some day this will change and a large part of your visitors will arrive by bike?
,,Of course we encourage visitors to come to BTC City on foot, by bike or public transport which is also in line with the strategy of the municipality of Ljubljana which is this year a Green capital of Europe. We believe that all our efforts for raising awareness about environmental, social and economic benefits of cycling has a positive effect. From year to year we track growth in the sales of cycling equipment and in the use of cycling infrastructure. This encourages us to pursue our goal to make Slovenia a cycling country.’’
BTC City is one of the largest shopping centres in Europe with 21 million visitors per year. There are almost 500 stores, 60 bars and restaurants, a hotel, a swimming complex and offices. It is built in a former warehouse district on the edge of the city of Ljubljana.