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The last 24 hours have been a strange one for Kawasaki USA. Yesterday, Kawasaki announced through a spokesperson that it was dropping its advertising support of Donald Trump’s new reality show, The New Celebrity Apprentice.

Then today, the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer did an about-face on the issue, releasing a statement on Facebook that distanced it from any political motivations in its previous announcement, and declared the departure of the company’s representative who made the statements.

The whole controversy stems from a Reuters story about Kawasaki’s departure as an advertiser on the The New Celebrity Apprentice TV show, where Kawasaki Public Relations Manager Kevin Allen was quoted as saying the following:

“Once we understood the concerns of American citizens, we have taken the approach of agreeing not to participate in the show in the future as long as Mister Trump is involved as an executive producer.”

The MotoGP grid is set to expand to 24 riders once again in 2017. The current teams are expected to retain the 21 grid slots already allotted, while KTM’s factory team will take two more when the Austrian manufacturer enters MotoGP next year.

This will take the grand total up to 23 seats, leaving one more grid slot to be filled.

Who will fill that final grid slot has been the subject of much speculation. Rumors that the Sky VR46 team were to take the slot were immediately quashed by team manager Pablo Nieto, saying they were only interested in Moto3 and Moto2.

Sources indicate that there are two firm candidates, with three more having expressed an interest. The two candidates include one MotoGP team, and one Moto2 team.

The MotoGP team interested in expanding is LCR. The Monaco-based team ran two bikes in 2015, but sponsorship woes had forced them to cut back to just a single bike for the 2016 season.

When asked if he was interested the final grid slot, team boss Lucio Cecchinello acknowledged that he was, and that he was working towards securing sufficient budget to meet the submission deadline on 29th April.

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

I have seen a lot of things in the motorcycle industry since I started Asphalt & Rubber, but never before have I seen something like this. During the autumn months, it is not uncommon for A&R to receive tips about new motorcycle models that are about to debut, and today was seemingly no different. This morning we got an enthusiastic email from a purported regular reader (make that two readers now), asking why we weren’t covering the leaked details on the supercharged Kawasaki H2, which were apparently “going viral” all over the internet, as the email told us. Like any good editor though, I dove into the story deeper. What I found has me supremely worried.

At the Barcelona round of MotoGP – or to give it its full title, the ‘Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya’ – title sponsors Monster Energy are to unveil a new flavor of their product, called ‘The Doctor’, marketed around Valentino Rossi. Why is the massive interest in backing motorcycle racing a bad thing? Because energy drinks, like the tobacco sponsors they replace, are facing a relentless onslaught to reduce the sale and marketing of the products. A long-standing ban of the sale of Red Bull – though strangely, only Red Bull – was struck down in France in 2008.

News has dropped that the Michael Jordan Motorsports (MJM) team will not be returning to AMA Pro Racing next season due to the fact that the National Guard would also be ceasing its involvement with the domestic motorcycle racing series (the Army National Guard was the chief sponsor of Michael Jordan Motorsports, and was also the title sponsor of the AMA Pro SuperBike class).

Talking to RoadRacingWorld on Tuesday, MJM’s Kreig Robinson confirmed that the National Guard’s lack of renewal with DMG stemmed from AMA Pro Racing’s waning TV viewership and dwindling event crowds.

With sponsoring AMA Pro Racing no longer making smart business sense for the National Guard, Robinson said he had little to argue with in regards to the National Guard’s decision.

With INTERMOT behind us and EICMA only a few weeks away, we are deep into motorcycle expo season, if you haven’t already noticed. We of course have the Progressive International Motorcycle Shows here in the US, with the first IMS stop being in Atlanta, GA November 2nd-4th.

Helping us gear-up for the expos, IMS has decively dressed-down for the occasion, and is running a promotional campaign that features body-painted contortionists making the shapes of motorcycles. Featuring the work of San-Francisco-based body painter Trina Merry, this is about as close as you will get to seeing naked girls (and men, for that matter) on A&R.

Photos of the finished result and a behind-the-scenes video are waiting for you after the jump.

If you ever wanted proof that alleged “spy photos” of motorcycles were complete bullshit, then we submit to you this latest news about BMW’s use of QR codes on camouflaged test mules. Embracing the process of teasing prototype as the marketing exercise that it is, BWM Motorrad has begun tagging its test bikes with large QR codes the passersby can capture, and thus find out more information about the under-wraps model they just witnessed.

In giving up the whole spy photo farce, BMW gains perhaps a little bit of credibility in the process (not really), but more importantly the German company has found a way to heist some free advertising out of unsuspecting motorcycle publications. After all, any publication running a photo of a bike with a QR code on it is also therefore also running an interactive ad that enables readers to go to an OEM-managed website. Clever.

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Ever since Harley-Davidson split with its long-time ad agency Carmichael Lynch, I’ve been increasingly impressed with the Bar & Shield’s advertising efforts. Sure there are still some of the old marketing images that make the American in me want to go tortfeasor on the first Harley-Davidson dealership I drive by, but you’ve got to give Harely one thing, its trying. Dipping its toe into the crowdsourcing philosophy of ad creation, Harley-Davidson has already produced some fairly good ads like its “No Cages” campaign, and is hoping to build on that success.

Seeing traction with the “No Cages” campaign, Harley-Davidson has taken things a step further, and will now be able to crowdsource ideas directly from Facebook. Launching a Facebook app for the new social-collaboration, Harley-Davidsons fans on Facebook can now read the company’s advertising brief, submit ideas to Harley-Davidson, and vote on ideas submitted by other community members. While crowdsourcing advertising creative has been called evil (mostly by the people whose jobs are threatened by the collaborative movement), the plan here is pretty ingenious.

You have to spend some time around Australians to fully appreciate the culture that has been fostered on the ass-end of the world. Having spent more years than I can count competing in sports against Australians, I already had an appreciation for the direct no-bullshit approach to personal communication that comes from the land down under. It is the same trait that gets Casey Stoner in trouble with fans, as when the former (and soon-to-be?) World Champion calls a spade a spade, well…it rubs them the wrong way, especially us Americans (case in point, the 2011 Indianapolis GP asphalt debacle).

You see, Americans in a broad-stroke generality don’t like to be told our babies are ugly, or that the Emperor has no clothes. Similarly, when it comes to our highway safety campaigns, we are coddled with cute public service announcements that do little to speak honestly about the reality of situations. That’s not the case in Australia however, as for the past month I’ve been assaulted with healthy & safety messages concerning motorcycles that do anything but mince words.

UPDATE: Ducati North America sent me a note explaining that these ads were not a part of corporate-initiated ad campaign. Their best guess is that they are spec-creative, or something done by the company’s Ecuadorian distributor.

Talking in generalities, Ducati is one of the better companies in the motorcycle industry when it comes to handling its market communications, and in an industry that’s generally abysmal at making creative advertisements, you can make of that praise as you will. Of course every now and then Bologna produces a dud campaign, and well…through each others’ failures, we can hopefully make progress. It’s not that the concept being used here is a bad one, it’s just not readily apparent (it’s also averaging below a 2.5/10 rating on Ads of the World right now).

Trying to make a statement about how owning a Ducati motorcycle is as fantastic of an accomplishment as becoming invisible, turning into other objects, walking through walls, and levitating, we’re not sure that the comparison, though clever, is readily apparent when these photos stand on their own on a page. Better pitched in the idea room than executed on the paper, after the third advertisement or so it finally hits you (the walking through walls one was the “ahh-ha!” moment for us). But as for a clearly communicated message, there is a bit left wanting here from Ducati and its ad agency, The Grey Group…that and the teapot thing is just damn silly. More examples after the jump.