September 3, 2007 – Yamaha targeting aggressive riders

Yamaha Motor Corp.’s snowmobile group has made good inroads in the snowmobile market during the past five years.
It’s the leading producer of four-stroke snowmobiles and sales have been good. There’s just one thing missing, according to Rob Powers, snowmobile marketing manager: the “rough trail expert” buyers — characterized as aggressive riders who actively seek bumps and off-trail terrain.
This coming winter, the company will add extra investment to target the aggressive rider market.
According to Yamaha’s research, its snowmobile product sales are sitting well in segments they call the “power trail,” or high-mileage, performance driver and the “trail cruiser,” the smooth-trail and family rider. But it’s dead last among the rough trail users. “We really see this area as our growth opportunity,” he said.
Racing fits in the plan
Yamaha’s identified one specific place where this targeted market hangs out: the snocross track.
For this year’s selling and racing season, the company has established four clear goals: Attract the rough-trail customer; prove four-stroke performance on the snocross track; build an increase in owner pride; and also continue to develop future products.
Its research shows that snow race fans believe that race-proven technology is a benefit to consumer snowmobiles.
Moreover, Yamaha found that televised snocross racing rates relatively high among all snowmobilers in viewership. Snocross racing ranks fourth place in sports that snowmobilers watch behind football, NASCAR and baseball.
This at least explains part of the pandemonium in the Yamaha race camp when then-Pro Yamaha snocross racer Robbie Malinoski won the Pro Open class in a national, televised snocross race this past January.
Not only was it the first win for a four-stroke snowmobile, but it fell right in line with the company’s message to the rough-trail riding audience.
It was also the unofficial debut of the company’s 2008 FX Nytro snowmobile, but only keen observers would have noticed that something looked different on the winning sled.
Yamaha used the win, the machine and the winning driver prominently in its pre-season marketing efforts.
While Malinoski will not ride for Yamaha this coming season (he’s signed a contract with Ski-Doo), Yamaha has a new team of three riders, each with a different purpose on the race track.
Steve Taylor, a 25-year-old racer from Prince George, British Columbia, has been pegged to be Malinoski’s replacement on the national pro tour. Also, Cory Davis, a 19-year-old from Soldotna, Alaska, will be the company’s racer competing in the semi-pro class. Davis won the Semi-Pro Open points title on the World Powersports Association series this past season.
It is still undetermined how the racers will be utilized in future consumer marketing campaigns. The pair will be at Haydays signing autographs, and will also be on hand at other select fall show locations. As of yet, the company says that they are not a part of a consumer advertising campaign.
Yuji Nakazawa, a snowmobile test rider for Yamaha in Japan, will race at select events as a part of the Yamaha development team. He will do race-environment testing on future technologies.
“Anything wild and crazy will go on Yuji’s machine,” Powers said. Nakazawa will not be in the points race.
Yamaha has also rounded out its race staff. Greg Marier is still race team manager. Mike Carver is race sled coordinator. Jesse Strege is the race talent coordinator. Andre Laurin of OT Sports Marketing is the team logistics coordinator. OT Sports is also involved in working with sponsor acquisition.
Greg Marier declined to put a price tag on its racing effort. “Development for the future isn’t cheap,” he said.
The ride experience
Yamaha has another plan to attract snowmobilers to its camp.
According to its research, demo rides are the top influencing factor in a purchase decision for a consumer. So Yamaha is increasing its demo efforts.
There will be an additional demo semi on the road this winter, which will be carrying up to 17 machines at a time.
Yamaha also announced it will add a strong demo ride component to all WPSA snocross races, with the demo rides targeted toward the rough trail rider. Depending on the venue, demo rides will either be held on a closed course or on public trails.
There will also be an increased effort to interact with customers at races, Marier said. psb

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