Behind the scenes with Damiano Cunego at fi'zi:k

By Cyclingnews staff

On a recent visit to saddle maker fi'zi:k, marketing manager Massimo Fregonese gave Cyclingnews a sneak preview of the new fi'zi:k advertising campaign featuring Damiano Cunego called "Il Piccolo Principe" (The Little Prince). Well known as a devoted fan of The Doors, when Cunego burst on to the cycling scene at the 2004 Giro d'Italia, his first nickname was "The Lizard King" but the young Italian rider from Cerro Veronese didn't like it very much and it didn't stick. His new nickname, after the children's tale by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, seems to be something he likes, so Fi'zi:k was inspired to use the famous tale, written by Saint-Exupery in 1943, just a year before the French pilot disappeared flying a recon mission. Today, this magic tale still speaks volumes.

Massimo Fregonese took Cyclingnews 'backstage' for the photoshoot with Cunego as he explained up front that, "It's not very often that you can spend some time with a pro cyclist, completely out of the racing environment and without them having to think about training, races, their results, the bike set up… all that kind of thing." After Massimo showed the concept of the ad campaign to Cunego, who liked what he saw, the wheels were put in motion. "We scheduled the photoshoot to happen just before Christmas and on December 23rd, Damiano came up to Munich to work on our 2006 fi'zi:k ad campaign."

Fregonese explained, "It was all new for fi'zi:k and it also new for Damiano to have him do a real photoshoot on a set for us. After his plane from Verona landed in Munich, Cunego's first consideration was to ask me if the pictures we were shooting that day were really going to be used for our ad campaign! I didn't quite know what to think, but then he explained that in the past, he had done some photoshoots but there was never any ads that came out!

"I assured Damiano that fi'zi:k was going to produce the ads for the Piccolo Principe campaign and then he relaxed. Quickly, Damiano's natural curiosity came out as he asked me a slew of questions about the campaign, why we were shooting in Munich and other things."

Fregonese continued recounting the story, saying, "Once we arrived at the ad agency, a funny thing happened; Damiano was looking around the place and happen to see a pink Giro d'Italia jersey signed by Simoni. After his initial first surprise as he recognized at this familiar jersey, Cunego then turned away quickly, looking for some other stuff as he clearly considering that Simoni's jersey was not so interesting. Then he saw his brand new Wilier Triestina bike shining under the lights of the photo studio. Suddenly Damiano's face lit up and he started smiling like a kid finding a new bike under the tree Christmas morning."

Massimo explained that with a tight deadline for the photoshoot, the tempo ramped up quickly. "Pretty soon after Damiano and I arrived at the agency, the atmosphere warmed up. Once all the staff arrived; the art director, photographer, stylist, hair and make up, studio coordinator, assistant, we got down to work for a first try setting up the 'Principe' hairstyle for Damiano with plenty of gel, hairspray and whatever other cosmetic products necessary, Damiano then asked for a mirror and shaped his hair himself only using water."

"Once Damiano's hair and makeup were right, we started test shooting. After his initial embarrassment in front of the camera during the first couple of hundred shots, Damiano started to enjoy the fun of being photographed. However, the clock is running fast and since Cunego had woken up very early in that morning, by noon it's time for some food…. but what kind of food do you get in Germany? Fortunately, italian pizza is everywhere, so our lunch break worked out well."

But it was not all beer and skittles for Massimo and fi'zi:k to get the job done and wrap the il Piccolo Principe campaign in one day. "The afternoon session is more difficult and boring. Damiano is getting tired and probably missing his training on the bike and his girlfriend and baby. But he was getting more friendly with all the people in the agency, and he took advantage of a break where there was 'discussion' on creative between photographer and art director to jump on his bike and ride off the set. The message of the moment was clear: don't abuse of the patience of a pro. Yes, you can ask Damiano to climb a mountain for a day, but not to stay in front of a camera for a day."

As the shadows got longer and Christmas Eve eve came to a close, the session finally wrapped up Damiano get the chance to see a special shot book from the agency; a collection of previous photoshoots. "He was both surprised and proud when he realized that the agency had shot the Tour de France and many other pro riders and races", related Fregonese.

"So Damiano began the game of recognizing each race and each rider and it only finished when arrived at the airport for the flight back to Italy."

Once the shoot was done, Damiano headed back to his family for Christmas. Il Piccolo Principe di fi'zi:k was born. "At the end of a long and tiring day, I was very happy to hear Damiano say 'Thank you fi'zi:k, it was a nice experience and I enjoyed the day," before taking off for Italy."

Further reading

fi'zi:k's website

More Italia Bici

10:30 Ad Agency: Massimo Fregonese of fi'zi:k explains to Damiano Cunego just what the heck he wants him to do.
10:45 Ad Agency: Let the photoshoot games begin.
14:00 Ad Agency: Cunego conks out for a moment after lunch and before the afternoon photoshooting begins,
16:00 Ad Agency: OK, while you guys explore your creative differences, I'm going for a ride. Call me when you're done.
1630: Ad Agency: It's a wrap! Checkin' out il Piccolo Principe campaign shots