Overcoming the self‐image incongruency of non‐cyclists

Sarah Leonard (Bristol Social Marketing Centre, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK)
Fiona Spotswood (Bristol Social Marketing Centre, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK)
Alan Tapp (Bristol Social Marketing Centre, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK)

Journal of Social Marketing

ISSN: 2042-6763

Publication date: 10 February 2012



The image of cyclists has been increasingly recognised as an important factor in social marketing programmes aimed at increasing cycling. The purpose of this paper is to present findings from a multi‐stage research project exploring image incongruencies between cyclists and non‐cyclists in the UK.


The theoretical framework of self‐image congruency was used to explore a possible “image gap” between the current image(s) of cyclists and the self concept of the GB population. The first stage of the research was a quantitative nationally representative survey of 3,855 British adults. The second phase involved a qualitative study involving ten in‐depth interviews and nine focus groups (n=60) exploring the image of cyclists with groups of non‐cyclists, lapsed cyclists, occasional cyclists, sports cyclists and utility cyclists.


Quantitative findings indicated that a gap exists between the perceived image of cyclists by GB adults and their collective self concept. Qualitative findings suggested that cyclists images were frequently viewed as negative or sometimes “out of reach” for non‐cyclists.

Research limitations/implications

Social marketers have a role to play in overcoming self‐image incongruencies of this type. The authors' intention was to enable social marketers to encourage non‐cyclists to view cycling in a more positive light by encouraging a perceptual shift in their image of cyclists in the UK. The implication is that this would form a bridging mechanism that narrows the gap between non‐cyclists' current image of cyclists and their image of themselves.


This work prompts reflections on the nature of self‐image congruency within the social marketing field. Initial observations are made as to the contribution that self‐image congruency may play in behaviour change.



Leonard, S., Spotswood, F. and Tapp, A. (2012), "Overcoming the self‐image incongruency of non‐cyclists", Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 23-36. https://doi.org/10.1108/20426761211203238

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.