Harley-Davidson marked its 115th anniversary in 2018 by launching a series of events spanning 10 Chinese cities including Hangzhou, Chengdu, Tianjin, Changsha and Kunming. The American brand worked with Jack Morton on the travelling roadshow which included test rides, riding academies, pop-ups in malls, and ‘Freedom on Tour’ bike rallies across four cities.
The multi-city roadshows featured new models of the brand and resulted in 489 test rides, nearly 3,000 hot leads and 76 retail orders taken on-site. Close to 500 riders participated in the rally held in late November in Huizhou, Guangdong province.
Taking the lead from Harley-Davidson’s tagline ‘All for freedom, freedom for all’, the four-city rally was initiated to help bikers connect with the 'sense of escapism and freedom' during the riding experience.
Danny Guo, events marketing manager, Harley-Davidson China, points out the contrast of the recent rally to the ‘Live your legend’ rally in 2017, which was more centred on the bikers community.
This is due to Harley-Davidson’s repositioning in the Chinese market as a representation of the urban youth lifestyle. “Though Harley-Davidson has been perceived as a luxury American brand by many in China, leaders of Harley-Davidson maintain that the experience that comes from riding a Harley Davidson bike is for everyone,” said Guo.
He said that the continuity between the test rides, riding academies, live music shows and the pop-ups to the rallies were geared towards showcasing how the bikes can improve their quality of life.
“Each stage of the tour was meant to bring potential customers into contact with the legacy of the Harley-Davidson community. The segment where current owners and potential customers could participate in activities and come into contact with the new models played an extremely important role in the tour,” he said.
The organising team invited local dealerships and the different HOGs (Harley-Davidson Owner Group) to the pop-up events to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its establishment. A number of the HOGs rode with police escorts during the rallies. “The HOGs are the heart and soul of the brand, so asking them for advice, seeking their help in reaching out to other riders and driving traffic to our events is always vital,” said Guo.
The local dealerships, meanwhile, were consulted for their grassroot expertise. “Local Harley dealers will work in conjunction with local HOG chapters to arrange group riding sessions. We embraced this for Freedom on Tour, listening to our HOGs and bringing numerous chapters together in one central location that was tailored to their needs and tastes,” said Guo.
Guo believes that the Harley-Davidson community played a critical role in the roadshows to show the audience how owning the bikes gave them a sense of “freedom”.
At the same time, the local dealerships were hands-on in the logistical planning of the roadshows and rallies. The brand worked out the space requirements for the exhibitions with the dealerships, and the two parties began collaborating closely on preparations two weeks before the event.
Logistics arrangements, however, proved complicated. “One of the largest obstacles we faced was striking the correct time coordination between participants, dealers, and builders. There was also a time restraint for construction of the exhibition at each rally site that was extremely important to stick to,” said Guo.
“All of these challenges were solved with preparation and constant communication with the Harley-Davidson dealers and builders."