Harley Dangles Model To Get Guys' Attention

Marissa Miller/Harley

Harley-Davidson is launching its most comprehensive effort to date, aimed at getting guys to ride its motorcycles. The company, which has in recent years been focusing its rider-education efforts on getting more women to ride, will feature a female rider who also happens to be a model in the new campaign. 

The "Start Something" effort has an anti-Walter Mitty message, with the idea that you have to stop dreaming and actually do it. Ads feature model and motorcycle enthusiast Marisa Miller, with advertising focused on the Maxim "Hot 100" issue that includes a spread featuring Miller with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Miller, who has appeared before in Harley-Davidson ads for the V-Rod bike, will be featured in magazine and TV ads, and related videos. The company's deal with Maxim includes a brand presence at the "Hot 100" party in Los Angeles. Harley will also advertise on the Maxim Web site, the Maxim television program and on social media.



An associated promotion has Harley-Davidson offering many chances to take its Rider's Edge New Rider Training Courses for free, and package prizes that let the winner and friends take the course, select the Harley-Davidson motorcycles of their choice, take a road trip, and meet Miller.

Harley-Davidson also has a new promotional book, Guide to Ride, that is intended to dispel conflicting thoughts about whether to ride or not. The book is at Davidson dealerships and at

Dino Bernacchi, Harley-Davidson's director of advertising and promotions, tells Marketing Daily that the media plan starts with Maxim, "but we have plans to extend beyond that. We're going to be very targeted in media opportunities that best index against males most interested in motorcycling, so properties like FX, ESPN Magazine and online targets like and are all being considered."

He adds that the campaign time frame will extend beyond the contest dates established with Maxim and that H-D is looking for partners who, like Maxim's Hot 100, "have more to offer than just traditional media."

Rather than focusing on particular Harley-Davidson motorcycle models, the effort is more about communicating the larger sport and lifestyle of Harley-Davidson, and the brand's line of 30-plus bikes starting at $6,999. "A lot of guys don't know this," he says. "They know us for touring bikes and possibly the Fat Boy, but may not be aware of sportier bikes like the V-Rod and XR1200, and minimalist bikes like the Forty-Eight or Iron 883," he says.

The target for the effort are men 25 to 55, who are most interested in riding, or those who may not have ridden in over a decade and left the sport, per Bernacchi. "Marketing motorcycles isn't like marketing beer or cars. Only about 3% of the U.S. population has a motorcycle license, so targeting is the key," he says. "We look to many tools including Simmons and independent market research data to help define where we have the greatest opportunity, and Maxim indexes as one of the highest for this demographic and psychographic [interest in motorcycling]."

He adds that what helped to lock the relationship was the scale of the property and all the ancillary media support and assets that Maxim had. "They weren't stuck on just selling a page but helping to deliver a complete media solution."

3 comments about "Harley Dangles Model To Get Guys' Attention".
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  1. Andrea Learned from Learned On, LLC, May 13, 2010 at 11:07 a.m.

    I'm just wondering how this "maxim" approach will be received by all the women Harley has so successfully reached in the past few years... I think the pursuit of motorcycling is more about speed, power and freedom, than cliched gender stereotypes. But... I could be wrong.

  2. Maggie Hall from Legacy Health, May 13, 2010 at 12:38 p.m.

    Andrea - I agree with you some on the cliche female in a motorcycle ad. That is definitely a dated creative approach, particularly since women riders are one of the fastest growing segments for motorsports. The one positive is some of the creative shows her on riding a bike. What bugs me is the lack of attention to detail in the photo; with a slight lean of the rider and bike plus one leg that is stretched says she is sitting on a stopped bike in the middle of the road. I would rather see her actually riding it, or find a model who can (or do some photoshopping on the pic).

  3. Fraser E from Opinions expressed herein are solely my own, May 14, 2010 at 3:12 p.m.

    1) "...aimed at getting guys to ride its motorcycles". The program is targeted. At men. In this case, men of the kind who read Maxim and watch FX. As with practically any targeted campaign you care to name, efforts to incorporate the appeasement of every possible member of every possible offended group would only render it worthless as a marketing communication device.

    2) As for what women who ride Harleys might think about the campaign and its imagery, something tells me that we wouldn't have to count very high to enumerate the number of female Harley riders who give a flying phooey about whether or not the image represents a degrading gender stereotype.

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