BP Bikes, Anyone? Rounding Up Replacement Sponsors for London's Bike Share

Barclays is backing out of the London bicycle-sharing program it has sponsored since 2010. The $2.2 trillion British bank is paying only half the £50 million ($82 million) it promised the city, the Guardian reports, in exchange for the right to slap its logo on thousands of bikes and docking stations across the capital. Londoners have been critical about the financing behind the Barclays deal, and the official name—Barclays Cycle Hire—never really took off. More locals call them “Boris Bikes,” after London Mayor Boris Johnson.

In New York, bike sharing has been more of a coup for its sponsor, Citigroup. After the program made its debut in May 2013, a strong positive reception helped the bailed-out bank’s favorability numbers shoot up in tracking polls. “Frankly, it paid off a lot faster than we expected,” Citigroup’s Ed Skyler told me this summer about the $41 million the bank will pay.

So will Citigroup snap up the London program too, making urban cycling part of its global brand? Probably not. To see why, compare this map of Citi ATMs in New York …

… with this map of locations in London:

So who should replace Barclays? Stephen Cheliotis, chief executive of London’s Centre for Brand Analysis, suggested some candidates via e-mail. “An iconic British brand with global distribution would … be a good partner, such as chocolate brand Cadbury, while offering a brand like this an ideal opportunity to promote their healthy lifestyle message, as part of wider efforts to offset any concerns their business has on the nation’s health; in this regard the console brands Xbox and Playstation might be a nice fit too,” he writes.

Here are a few more ideas:

• BP: Three and a half years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP still needs to repair its brand. The company formerly known as British Petroleum has been trying to adopt a greener image for years, so nonpolluting bicycles are a natural fit. Also—and this is a highly technical factor that can’t be underestimated—its name starts with a “B.” BP Bikes: Simple wordplay such as alliteration and rhymes are the way to go when you’re pitching a product to the broadest class of consumers.

• J.Crew Group: As Bloomberg Businessweek’s Emma Rosenblum wrote in a cover story earlier this month, the American retailer is invading Britain. Stations outside its new Regent Street and Brompton Cross flagship stores could drive foot traffic toward its £375 ankle boots and “well-edited” men’s collection.

• Vodafone: The second-largest company in Great Britain by market cap, Vodafone Group is already bike-friendly. In a bit of M&A flirtation, its chief executive, Vittorio Colao, participated in a 50-kilometer race with his counterpart at Verizon Communications, according to the Financial Times.

• Virgin: Pro: It’s one of the more consumer-friendly brands there is. Con: Richard Branson’s gaze is decidedly non-terrestrial.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.