When Barack Obama was photographed in August biking with his family on Martha’s Vineyard, Eric Bjorling immediately recognized the President’s wheels as a 2009 Trek Fuel EX 8, equipped with a front shock made by Fox Factory. Bjorling, the spokesman for the Waterloo (Wis.)-based bike company, smiled. He hoped the image would make the rounds on blogs and newspapers (which it did) and lead to an uptick in sales (which it probably didn’t). Same goes for Puma Marketing Vice-President Tara McRae, who spotted Obama’s Puma Mostros in the photos. They were hard to miss: blinding white with the signature Puma stripes on the side. “He obviously has great style!” she says, adding that the kicks “were not made special for the President.”
The White House says the President does not endorse products, and it disapproves of companies using pictures of the President in ads. Last year, when Weatherproof Garment put up a gigantic billboard in Times Square of a macho-looking Obama wearing one of its rain jackets, the President’s aides asked the company to take it down. They did.
Sporting Pumas or pedaling a Trek may not be an official endorsement. But whether he intends to or not, when the Commander-in-Chief flies a logo, he gives it a tacit Presidential seal of approval—and something else. “Some of the best free advertising we ever got,” says Honest Tea President Seth Goldman, whose company’s bottled iced tea is a favorite of Obama’s. As for Trek, the company is happy to let the photos do the talking. “A lot of people know the President rides our bikes,” Bjorling says. “And that’s great.”