Polaris CEO Challenges His Rivals To A Race

All-terrain-vehicle maker Polaris is launching its largest-ever campaign, via McKinney-Silver, Durham, NC, to support the proposition that Polaris builds "The World's Toughest ATVs."

Central to the effort is an unusual publicity twist. Polaris CEO Tom Tiller is challenging the CEOs of the major ATV manufacturers to an ATV riding competition.

Called "The Duel," the effort is intended to demonstrate that Polaris executives are also avid riders. This is an important consideration among buyers of ATVs and motorcycles who like to think the people who make the vehicles are as emotionally connected to the products as they are.

"Every manufacturer claims their product is tougher than the competition's," said Tiller, in a release. "Polaris ATVs are made by people who ride, so we know what it takes to build a quad ..."

Pro-Motion Motorsports will build the racetrack, purchase and validate the ATVs, and officiate at the event, which is slated for Nov. 16. Polaris says the CEOs of Honda, Yamaha, Arctic Cat, Can-Am, Kawasaki, and Suzuki have until Oct. 20 to take Tiller up on the challenge.



The promotion is supported by a television spot to run on Versus (formerly the Outdoor Life Network), in which Tiller will issue the challenge.

The ad, including digital video versions to play on Web banners, will drive traffic to www.polarisduel.com, which details the race, the track, and the vehicles.

The site will carry running updates on which CEOs have responded, as well as discussion areas, blogs, and petitions to the CEOs that site visitors can sign. The site also offers a "Declare-A-Duel" game and an online poll that allows visitors to vote on four technical challenges to insert into the actual race.

Event and guerrilla elements of the campaign include wild postings at races and at Polaris dealerships. The Polaris professional ATV race team will wear jerseys that say "It Ends Here." Inquiring race attendees will get sticker versions of the logo for "The Duel" and CDs of an original song, "All You Can Eat."

Polaris reported that its second-quarter sales decreased 7 percent from 2005 to a total of $530.3 million.

Jun Villegas--manager of Discover Today's ATV, an industry group--said the market has been growing for the past 11 years, but just started to decline in the past year. "We closed in on almost 1 million new units last year, but it's down slightly from there."

He also said the majority of buyers are utility buyers, such as farmers and service technicians. "But we find that because they use it for work, they also use them for recreation."

Villegas said that although the sport segment of the ATV market is not as big, the Polaris campaign will likely grab the attention of buyers who might buy the vehicles for work because, "after all, it's the CEO doing the race."

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