Harley-Davidson Rolls Its Own With New Integrated Campaign

Those are real Harley-Davidson riders hanging out in drainage viaducts, doing donuts and wheelies, jumps, ice racing, and dirt racing on Street 750 motorcycles.

They are the stars of a new campaign by Harley, an effort that includes TV, print ads, online ads, and social media. The broad theme, evoked by the #RollYourOwn social link, is that not only are H-D riders different, but what they do on their bikes is not what you think. 

The 60-second launch ad shows, among other things, footage of Street 750 dirt and ice racing during the winter and summer ESPN X Games. The ad has double-entendre headlines and Twitter links for each piece of footage: “Man Cave” for the guys in the viaducts; “Fast Tracker” for a racing-tuned Street; “Ice Carving” for the footage of the X Games ice racer; “Hang Over” for a guy doing jumps; and “Morning Donut” for a guy doing donut spins; and black market for what he spelled out on the pavement, $99, the monthly nut for a Street 750. (nice touch: each shot says “closed course. do not attempt. professional lunatics”)



Dino Bernacchi, Harley-Davidson's U.S. marketing director, says the company learned a lot from the X Games endeavor. One was that people were surprised that Harley-Davidson motorcycles could race, especially off road.

“I think the overwhelming feedback we got when we were in X Games last year told us they had no idea of the bikes we have and the ways you can ride a Harley," Bernacchi tells Marketing Daily. "The 750 platform does lend itself to such great variability and flexibility. The Sportsters have always had that, but this takes it to the whole new level that we want to showcase: Riding a Harley doesn't have to be sitting back with your hands up on the bar.” 

The gritty ads were co-developed and shot by Minneapolis-based Wolfes LLC, whose president and creative director Jim Nelson was formerly handling the brand at Carmichael Lynch.

“Translating what we want to do was really easy because he has a great eye for Harley-Davidson,” Bernacchi says, adding that the campaign was a collaborative effort, with insights garnered, as always, from Harley-Davidson owners.  

The new work and its focus on real people really riding in sometimes really extreme ways is an evolution of the brand's positioning, which had been focused on riders of the Street and Dark Custom bikes (with the ironic hashtag, #StereotypicallyHarley), not so much what they do on their motorcycles. Now, says Bernacchi, it's about how owners ride and experience the Street 750. “That is the next iteration.” 

The two TV spots broke March 4 and will continue to air on NCAA Men’s Basketball, as well as on theCHIVE and Also as part of the campaign, fans and riders are encouraged to share their “Roll Your Own” experiences across Harley-Davidson’s social channels using the #RollYourOwn tag-line.

“Riders are doing cool things they have been doing with Harleys for decades," Bernacchi says. “But today we have all the social platforms to show what they are doing.”

And the company is doing another program focused on the brand's equity in customization, a core aspect of Harley-Davidson ownership. This spring Harley-Davidson's 600 or so dealers will promote the customize-ability of the Street 750 with a build-off battle where each store will create its own customized Street 750. One dealer will be “Custom King.” The bikes that result will be part of Harley-Davidson's promotions with partners UFC and ESPN X Games. 

He says there will be more video, and owner-generated content will be a big part of the campaign. “We are going to shoot more. We are going to be sequestering a lot of content. And we want to do an Instagram takeover with the fan bases [of owners’ examples of how they ‘roll their own’].” 

Harley will be back in the summer ESPN X Games. “And we have a really strong relationship with Fox sports through UFC programming and FX, MTV and Adult Swim. We do a pretty extensive buy, so you'll see us there,” Bernacchi says.

Harley-Davidson also is readying another campaign with partner Marvel, around the forthcoming “Avengers, Age Of Ultron,” which kicks off March 6. 

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