After making a large investment into customer comments on its previous models, Victory Motorcycles ended up with three significantly improved new motorcycles for 2001, but was left with little money to get the exciting news out. To stretch its funds, Victory focused grassroots media relations efforts on motorcycle trade media to reach experienced riders through third-party endorsement. It worked. With the enthusiastic endorsement from the trade media and articles reaching more than 6 million consumers, Victory’s 2001 models created a buzz among riders and a demand at the dealerships months before they rolled off the assembly line.
Victory established four main objectives. First, Victory wanted to build relationships with target media by educating them about Victory and providing the tools they need to write their stories and reviews. Second, Victory wanted to create awareness about Victory Motorcycles’ 2001 models among experienced riders through motorcycle enthusiast media. Third, Victory aimed to secure coverage totaling 400 Victory points in the Victory Index, an evaluation system that measures Polaris news coverage based on how well it aligns with the Victory business goals of Tom Tiller, Polaris’ CEO. Fourth, Victory wanted to drive consumer demand for Victory Motorcycles’ 2001 models before they were shipped to dealers in November.
Victory wanted to reach experienced motorcyclists, between the ages of 36-55, who own an average of seven motorcycles and have been riding for at least ten years. Victory targeted motorcycle enthusiast media (i.e. Cycle World, Motorcyclist, American Iron), motorcycle reporters at daily newspapers and NASCAR enthusiast media (to reach many of the experienced riders who are NASCAR fans, by leveraging Victory’s partnership with NASCAR star Kyle Petty).
Research showed that Victory’s target audience – experienced motorcyclists – rely on motorcycle magazines when making motorcycle purchasing decisions. Weber Shandwick talked to reporters, researched news databases for motorcycle stories and referred to previous call notes – to create the ideal media tool to ensure convenience and positive coverage for Victory. Victory also included other elements that research showed were of interest to motorcycle media: demo rides, interview opportunities and biker fashion.
Exclusive ride. To give reporters a head start on their stories before the flurry of new product introductions at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August, Victory Motorcycles invited select motorcycle reporters to Polaris for a day in July to preview the 2001 models. The media talked with the engineers and Victory CEO Tom Tiller, toured the Polaris facilities, photographed the new bikes and took a day-long cruise on the new models. This event created a “buzz” at the top of the motorcycle community and generated stories before the new models hit dealer showrooms.
KQRS ride. Victory Motorcycles and Victory’s leading hometown radio station KQRS-FM partnered to lead a crew of 60 motorcyclists from Medina, Minn. to the 60th Annual Sturgis Rally and Races, the most well-known and well-attended motorcycle event in the world. The send off party, which was broadcast live on the radio, was also covered live by a local TV station. At the send off event, Victory received additional attention from its target market of experienced motorcyclists with its pre-Sturgis contest, where one lucky rider won a new Victory motorcycle.
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Introduction event. Named “Best Sturgis Unveiling” by the Rapid City Journal, Victory Motorcycles hosted a Revival where CEO Tom Tiller – backed by a “minister” and gospel choir – spoke of the new beginnings for Victory as the many new improvements were unveiled. Nearly 200 key motorcycle media attended and received the interactive media kit to aid with their stories. Radio, television and print coverage of the event in the Sturgis area helped build Victory brand awareness among the 600,000 motorcyclists attending the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. With Victory spokesperson and NASCAR star, Kyle Petty, making an appearance at the event, coverage extended to many of the NASCAR publications.
Interactive Media Kit. Victory’s target reporters are avid motorcyclist enthusiasts who are interested in the story behind the motorcycle rather than just the new product. In addition, these reporters prefer high-resolution photos and media materials electronically rather than printed materials, photos and slides. The Victory Motorcycles Interactive Media Kit and CD-ROM helped Victory build relationships with target media by engaging them in Victory’s story and new products through a multi-sensory motorcycling adventure. More importantly, the interactive tool provided reporters — a majority of them at long-lead publications — the information they need to complete their stories quickly, driving consumer and dealer demand for the new 2001 Victory motorcycles even before they rolled off of the assembly line.
Along with the traditional spec sheets, news releases and contact information, the CD-ROM features other items of importance to avid motorcyclists:
- Product Perspectives. Not only can reporters download both studio and action photos of the three new 2001 motorcycles, they can view each new feature and select different color combinations for each model.
- Thunder. Because the sound of bike is very important to motorcycle enthusiasts, they can listen to the thunder of Victory motorcycles and the sound of changeable exhausts in the “Riding Gear and Accessories” section.
- Fashion. Since the average Victory motorcycle purchase generates an additional $2,000 sale of riding gear and accessories, reporters can watch a high-energy fashion show before browsing Victory’s best-selling riding gear and accessories.
- Convenience. Reporters will find a choice of high-resolution photos, fact sheets, press releases, company information and contact sheets on Victory’s marketing partners to download for their story. To make it easy, reporters can fill the “My Saddlebag” tool with their items of interest and download everything with just one click. For those few trade reporters lacking CD-ROM technology, the media kit also includes slides and hard copies of all media materials.
The largest obstacle to this campaign was budget. With limited funds, we explored many alternatives to optimize coverage and meet Victory’s goals. Other obstacles included gaining recognition in a market that is dominated by international brand Harley Davidson and figuring out how to leverage Polaris’ reputation while establishing Victory as a separate brand from Polaris’ other product lines.
To date, positive articles on Victory Motorcycles’ 2001 models have impacted more than 6 million consumers with more stories in the works. Victory easily surpassed the goal of 400 Victory points by accruing more than 500 Victory points. As a result, consumers were forming waiting lists at Victory dealerships — for the first time ever — in anticipation of the November delivery of the new 2001 models. Demand for new models typically does not grow until spring, the official start of the riding season. In addition, Easyriders, a leading motorcycle publication, recently named the Victory 2001 V92SC SportCruiserÔ “Sport-Cruiser of the Year”. A media audit on the Victory Motorcycles Interactive Media Kit showed overwhelmingly positive reactions from the media, including one reporter from Motorcycle USA.com who said, “This is by and large one of the most beautiful and comprehensive media kits in the industry. It covers everything from bikes to kickstand pucks. I found everything I could have ever wanted in full detail and description.”
Due to a better understanding of Victory and its products, reporters are showing heightened interest in Victory. As a result of many requests for demo rides from the media, Victory has determined the need for a Fleet Center, where motorcycle media can borrow a Victory motorcycle for up to two weeks.
A media audit on the Victory Motorcycles Interactive Media Kit showed overwhelmingly positive reactions from the media, including one reporter from Motorcycle USA.com who said, “This is by and large one of the most beautiful and comprehensive media kits in the industry. It covers everything from bikes to kickstand pucks. I found everything I could have ever wanted in full detail and description.”