Ridley Motorcycles has found a new marketing arena in its quest to convert more of the nonmotorcycling public into bike riders: NASCAR.
The Oklahoma City manufacturer signed a six-figure agreement that will extend well into 2007 to be the lead sponsor of a race car in the Busch series, one of three divisions in the increasingly popular NASCAR series.
Besides drawing 200,000 fans, if not more, to tracks across the nation, NASCAR also offers Ridley another potentially lucrative draw: the female consumer. Ridley’s automatic motorcycles are largely targeted toward women, an increasing demographic in the industry. Women also are playing a bigger role in the NASCAR audience, according to information that has been provided to Jay Ridley, vice president of Ridley Motorcycles and one of the sons of Clay Ridley, the founder and owner of the company.
In 2005, women made up approximately 40 percent of the NASCAR audience, with that number expected to go up 5 percent for the ’06 figures.
“It’s very difficult to find any other medium to advertise through where you get that kind of motorsports following and that kind of breakdown between men and women,” Jay Ridley said. “The decision to advertise and to help promote the brand wasn’t necessary just from a standpoint of selling motorcycles, but brand awareness.
“Our typical customer is not a motorcycle rider and doesn’t necessarily read a lot of the motorsports magazines, particularly motorcycling magazines. So it’s difficult for us to try to run in those motorcycling magazines and expect to get a huge amount of return for our type of customer.”
Ridley was the lead sponsor for the No. 23 Busch Series car, which is owned by Keith Coleman Racing and driven by Brad Keselowski, for the last four weeks of this year’s series. For next year, Ridley will be the lead, or title, sponsor for all but a few races, meaning the brand and the company’s Web site (/www.ridleymotorcycle.com) will be circling the tracks hundreds, if not thousands, of times in the future.
What was the impact on the company’s Web site after the first four races?
“After the first race, there was relatively no change,” Jay Ridley said. “After the second race, there was a change and by the third race, there was a significant change.”
That’s exactly what NASCAR officials said would happen, Ridley said.
“NASCAR fans are an interesting group,” Ridley said, noting the “reason why companies like to market to them is they are brand-loyal like you can’t believe.
“So after your first race, you’re now in their vocabulary. After the second race, they start to notice you more … I’m sure by the 36th race these people will be big fans hopefully of the brand and loyal to it.”
That can only help sales, which Jay Ridley said increased by about 10 percent in 2006 compared to the past year. Ridley said the company expects its production of approximately 500 bikes in ’06 to increase by 30-40 percent next year because of the additional brand awareness that NASCAR will bring plus its entry into a new North American market.
Ridley began selling in Canada in December, debuting there at the Toronto Motorcycle Show.
The response from Canadian consumers was “overwhelming,” Ridley said, noting that dealerships at the show took 50 orders for new bikes.
“We’re looking for Canada to be about a 200-bike first-year deal,” Ridley said. “I don’t think that will be hard.”
What was hard was getting the necessary government approval to sell there in the first place — a process that took 11 months.
Ridley said the company currently has five dealers in Canada and expects to double that number by the end of the year. After that, Ridley said he expects the Canadian dealer network to stay at that number, noting the company could increase it even further but “we don’t really want to. I’d like to see the 10 (dealers) be really successful and everybody sell quite a few bikes.”
Ridley isn’t stopping its market expansion at Canada, however. The company already has been dealing with a distributor in Japan to open up a single-line dealership in Tokyo in the spring. Ridley said he expects the company to have completed the necessary government regulations in March so they can debut their bikes at the Toyko Motorcycle Show.
Copyright 2006 Powersports Business