Ed Skyler doesn't consider himself a big cyclist -- a bit ironic, considering he brought 6,000 bikes to New York through the Citi Bike program.
Mr. Skyler's role was created in 2010 to help Citigroup improve its public perception after the financial crisis soured consumers on the banking industry. Under his direction, Citi sponsored the U.S. team at the 2012 Olympics, which he said gave the bank a lift in consumer sentiment. So when New York City offered Citi the opportunity to link up with the bike-share program, 40-year-old Mr. Skyler became its champion.
Citi signed on for the sponsorship, at a cost of $41 million over six years, because "we felt the program, in its innovative nature and it being the largest one in the world, was a very unique opportunity," said Mr. Skyler. "It really cuts through all the noise and all the other chatter and grabs peoples' attention ... because of the density of the program, it creates this feeling of it being everywhere."
Citi says it's gotten a bump in perception since the program launched in late May, though it won't say how much. Still, Citi Bike has received its fair share of criticism -- something Mr. Skyler was prepared for after years as a deputy mayor in the Bloomberg administration.
"You learn in government that most things worth doing are going to be controversial and get people talking," he said. "But you can't let that be a deterrent."
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