Building brands; rallies, meetings and parties

While the year 2003 marks the 100th anniversary of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, it also signifies an important milestone for BMW and Suzuki. In an effort to celebrate the past, welcome the future, and — most importantly — to bolster the brand name, a number of OEMs have planned get-togethers, meetings and parties during the upcoming summer months.
Powersports Business talked with OEM representatives to get the low-down on which manufacturers are planning what for when, and why.
Harley-Davidson’s 100th Anniversary festivities have been going on for the past year, and include the remaining European portions of the global Open Road Tour; The Ride Home, beginning Aug. 17; The Celebration, Aug. 28-30; and, to wrap things up, The Party, Aug. 31. H-D expects approximately 150,000 people to participate in the Milwaukee-based festivities.
According to Joanne Bischmann, H-D’s vice president of marketing, the year-long anniversary events represent a way for riders to celebrate their ownership experience, helping to boost the strong brand-building campaign the company traditionally pursues.
“We never really look at it as ‘what we get out of it,’ rather it is what we are,” Bischmann told Powersports Business. “We’ve always been aware that what we provide our customers is more than just hardware. We’re providing an experience, and we build around that experience — that’s the reason there are H.O.G. clubs, and that’s why there are MotorClothes and other products you see out in the marketplace.”
So will the price tag for the anniversary events be considered an expense or an investment?
“Marketing expenses are always investments, and we see this as a marketing expense,” Bischmann responded. “Marketing is talking to your customers and creating opportunities to interact with them and have fun with them, so that’s what this is. This is our way of marketing.”
The year 2003 marks the 80th anniversary of BMW motorcycles in the U.S. To help the company celebrate this milestone, BMW enthusiasts are invited to attend a rally in Squaw Valley at Lake Tahoe, Calif., June 27-29; and to its third annual International BMW Motorrad Biker Meeting, July 4-6, in Garmische-Partenkirchen, Germany.
Laurence Kuykendall, retail and event marketing manager at BMWUSA, says the main reason to have a party once a year is to afford an opportunity for BMW to communicate directly with its consumers — communication that traditionally takes place via retailers and clubs.
“The first objective in talking to riders is to encourage brand loyalty,” Kuykendall said. “I believe that BMW Motorrad in Germany wanted to find a way to talk directly with the people buying their product. It’s not just about having a party. We started doing our own get-togethers involving BMW riders about two and a half years ago, and we do a lot more than just sit around and party.”
Aside from offering an opportunity for the company to share its message, events such as Squaw Valley and Garmische, according to Kuykendall, serve as places for BMW enthusiasts to indulge in riding opportunities.
“When we talk about Squaw Valley or Garmische, the emphasis is on riding; it’s not a celebration of the event itself,” he says. “The BMW thing has always been about the ride between two places, and this is the philosophy that guides us. So if it’s not riding to the event itself, it’s riding at the event.”
To reinforce his message, Kuykendall recalls BMW get-togethers from the past year: a GS ride in Ocala; assorted track days; consumers taking part in promotional rides; and on-bike events in Daytona to celebrate the Boxer Cup coming to the U.S.
American Suzuki Motor Corp. plans to keep a low profile in this, its 40th year of business. The firm did release three anniversary motorcycles (the limited edition Hayabusa 1300, Intruder Volusia and GSX-R600), but has scheduled no special consumer-orientated event.
“As of right now, there are no plans for a celebration,” said Suzuki’s Mark Reese. “But I believe it will be an element of our dealer show in September.”
As for the following manufacturers, there are no anniversaries, yet each plans to stage some type of outing for brand loyalists.
The first ever Aprilia World Meeting was scheduled to take place in Noale, Italy, from May 31 to June 1. Aprilia enthusiasts from around the globe were invited to attend this event, during which the entire village was dedicated to Aprilia motorcycles.
And, back in the U.S., Honda riders should again plan on attending the 10th annual Honda Hoot, June 18-21, in Knoxville, Tenn.; Yamaha enthusiasts can take part in Star Days 2003, July 22-25 in Ogden, Utah; and, not to be green with envy, Kawasaki pilots can visit with the manufacterer at a couple of annual motorcycle-related events, including Americade, June 2-7, Lake George, NY; and the Hoot Rally, June 18-21, Knoxville, Tenn.

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