The couple who made hospital and health system advertising familiar to so many across America is calling it a day. Steve Madson, 74, and his wife, Sherry, 73, are the famous couple seen in so many hospital advertisements riding a tandem bike. They have graced billboards and newspaper ads in the healthcare world for more than three decades, but have decided to hang up the bike and retire.
“Good thing we weren’t actually riding all those times the picture was used,” joked Steve, a former barber. “We would have put a million miles on that bike!”
Steve and Sherry’s introduction into healthcare advertising began in 1973, when Steve’s brother, Brian, snapped a shot of the couple riding a tandem bike through Hyde Park in New York. Brian happened to work at a nearby hospital and brought the picture into work the following day, showing it around the department.
“Our corporate council really loved it, and we thought, why not use this to promote our hospital,” said Brian. “Who knew it would grow to become such a classic icon?”
Over the 35+ years since, Steve and Sherry have been photographed on more than 127 different tandem bikes and used in advertising for more than 1,400 hospitals and health systems. According to Steve, what started as something fun the couple did on the side turned into a lucrative business in the 1990s.
“That’s when it really took off, thanks to the availability of cheap stock photography over the Internet,” he said. “At that point, every hospital, system, clinic, doctor or veterinarian could use our photo. And it seemed like they did!”
Now independently wealthy, Steve and Sherry plan on traveling the world before settling down in their hometown of Miami, Florida.
“We probably could have kept going for years,” Sherry said. “But it felt like it was time to move on to something new.”