There is a growing trend among ATV manufacturers of entering into collaborative efforts with non-motorized outdoor organizations in an effort to increase their own product awareness.
It’s a strategic and positional effort with the main goal of tapping into a niche market, and aligning themselves with a user group once thought to be foreign to the four-wheeled, off-road market. These partnerships have allowed manufacturers to become better at providing specialized models that appeal specifically to hunting and outdoors enthusiasts.
In January, Polaris Industries inked a multi-year deal with Browning, a renowned leader in the firearms, outdoor apparel and hunting industry, by offering limited-edition Polaris/Browning ATV and Ranger models.
The same month saw Kawasaki and the National Rifle Association Outdoors begin their official relationship after a somewhat lengthy discussion and negotiation period dating back to the late ’90s with the release last May of the NRA OUTDOORS Brute Force 750 4x4i. And Yamaha expanded on its 2005 partnership with Ducks Unlimited by offering another high-end, group-specific ATV, the Grizzly 700 FI 4x4 Auto, complete with custom accessories and a limited production run.
Of all ATV manufacturers, Yamaha has arguably the longest and most successful track record of partnering with non-motorized user groups, dating back some 20 years with the Buckmasters hunting and outdoor organization.
The desired result, of course, is to generate more sales. Most ATV manufacturers have long marketed to the hunting and outdoors enthusiast, compiling extensive research into what the target demographic demands in an ATV designed for hauling out big game or chasing down waterfowl. In addition to sales, respective manufacturers are riding the conservation-friendly coattails of these user groups.
Steve Nessl of Yamaha Motor Corp. said the recent alignment with Ducks Unlimited is the company’s most visible effort as of late. But, he said, Yamaha has long sought to partner with hunting and outdoors groups.
“Yamaha is the original sponsor of the Buckmasters organization, a group whose mission statement is aimed at portraying responsible conservation and ethical sportsmanship. Not only the first ATV sponsor, but the first sponsor, period,” Nessl said. “And we continue to be the presenting sponsor of Buckmasters’ expos, and a highest level sponsor. Yamaha wants to position itself in the forefront of ethical outdoor sportsmanship and conservation, and to be above board with the ATV and hunting community.”
The Yamaha and Ducks Unlimited union is its in second year. The sophomore effort is “really getting a head of steam” thanks to the inaugural effort. In 2005, there was a Ducks Unlimited Special Edition Grizzly 660 4x4 model ATV. Yamaha holds special raffles and donates a portion of the sale of each DU Edition Grizzly to support DU’s wetlands and waterfowl conservation mission. For 2006, there is a Ducks Unlimited model complete with special badging, waterfowl-focused patterns and accessories. Nessl says it’s been a win-win situation for all.
“It’s mutually beneficial,” he said of the partnership. “These specially marketed ATVs are a way to speak directly to DU members, waterfowlers and hunters in general who are all passionate, loyal conservation-minded people. Yamaha wants to be in their good graces.”
Nessl said Yamaha also has been the official side-by side and ATV sponsor of Safari Club International for the past two years, and aligns itself with smaller organizations such as the Physically Challenged Bowhunters of America, an organization dedicated to keeping physically handicapped outdoorsmen active in their hobby and passion.
“We continually try to look for and join in with organizations with a mission statement that makes sense with our overall goal,” he said. “You really can't go wrong with conservation and ethical sportsmanship. And the fact of the matter is that’s where these special model ATVs are used, to work, hunt and play. And this is one way for manufacturers to be involved with these user groups.”
Polaris Industries’ relationship with Browning is also new.
Donna Beadle, Polaris’ external relations specialist for ATVs and Rangers, says the agreement with Browning aligns the premier firearms manufacturer with Polaris' innovative technologies to create a perfect match for hunting enthusiasts. “The hunting community is a big market segment who recognizes Browning as one of the best manufacturers of hunting equipment, so having a Browning ATV was a natural fit,” she said.
The Polaris effort is the Browning Limited Edition models. Beadle says sales of the Browning ATVs and Rangers have exceeded expectations.
Paul Thompson, Browning’s media relations manager, says the hunting and firearm company is pleased with the Polaris partnership. “The Polaris products are great,” he said, “and they, like Browning, are a well-recognized manufacturer with strong brand recognition.”
Thompson says Browning has been in the hunting/shooting business for more than 125 years. Their reputation and high-end products have been the foundation for other collaborations. Thompson said Browning licenses its namesake to companies selling trailer hitches with the company buckmark logo and a mud flap outfitter.
Like the Yamaha/Ducks Unlimited mode, the Browning Polaris ATV comes with the Browning logo, is outfitted in camo and has special upgrades you don’t normally get in an ATV.
“Obviously we don’t sell the ATV, but the relationship has been well received,” Thompson said. “It makes sense to tie in with an equally recognizable and quality company like Polaris.”
Joining with an equally recognizable organization is what Kawasaki has been doing for the better part of a decade. The NRA Outdoors, the education, conservation and preservation arm of the National Rifle Association, is partnered with Kawasaki, and has been a staple in each other’s marketing for years.
“Kawasaki has been frequently the only powersports company to exhibit at the annual NRA members meeting,” Kawasaki’s Product Manager Vince Lorio said. “This began in the late ’90s, so we've developed a relationship with NRA officials and members over time. We've also been a regular advertiser in a number of their publications for many, many years, so a relationship with the headquarters had been in place for a long time.
“(The relationship) with NRA Outdoors ATV brings the power of the NRA to the Kawasaki marketing equation. (In turn) Kawasaki brings its national marketing expertise and strength to NRA Outdoors. The benefits to Kawasaki are several. One, we have partnered with one of America's oldest and most well-known institutions, one that contains the largest number of hunters in its membership rolls than any other. Two, their NRA Outdoors arm only chooses products of the highest quality and companies with the utmost in integrity and the affiliation is not available to other companies within the category. Three, approximately 4 million Americans are NRA members, and as such, they believe in and are loyal to the organization and its affiliates.”
Lorio said the special edition ATV was well received by NRA members who viewed it at their annual meeting in Milwaukee, and also by Kawasaki dealers who were informed about it shortly thereafter.
While he, Beadle and Nessl wouldn’t give specific sales numbers, the respective spokespersons did say the special, limited production ATV runs were in high demand.
“Initial orders exceeded our expectations by a wide margin,” Lorio said, indicating full acceptance by dealers. “All we have to do is get them built and delivered.” psb
Copyright 2006 Powersports Business