By Courtney Duggan • March 17 2020
Harley-Davidson occupies a singular position in American cultural consciousness. Their motorcycles elicit visions of never-ending roads, wide open spaces, and unlimited adventure. For over a century, the iconic potato-potato-potato of a Harley engine has come to signify more than just a brand. To generations of Americans, a hand on the throttle of a Harley means the freedom to forge your own path and define your own destiny.
But newer generations of Americans didn’t seem to get the message. Harley riders grew increasingly older, with Baby Boomers becoming a disproportionately large share of the brand’s customers. Harley’s storied history seemed to hamper them in marketing to Millennials and Gen Z, who saw them as a relic of a bygone era.
Or did they? With The Campus Agency’s help, Harley sought to discover a new market for their legendary motorcycles in the new generation of students who were simply unfamiliar with motoculture at large. Once our team got Harley into the Gen Z driver’s seat, they turned students from Ghost Riders to Hell’s Angels.
Reintroducing one of America’s most beloved brands to a new generation took the creation of unforgettable experiences for students. With our team’s help, Harley-Davidson found a network of students across the South who craved the thrills, excitement, and unbridled opportunity that comes with the wind whipping around their helmet on the back of a Harley motorcycle.
At four campuses, we sent a team of ambassadors to Harley riding school to learn the ins and outs of safe motorcycling. Armed with startup merch kits and a taste of Harley-fueled freedom, our ambassadors created a new motoculture movement on their campuses. They combed their schools for two-wheeled vehicles, leaving promotional materials for travelers who might want to amp up their two-wheel experience. They tabled for Harley in high-traffic areas on campus, in local coffee shops, and at Harley dealership events. Freedom Fridays, in which ambassadors raffled off Harley swag kits, became the hottest competition on campus.
The Campus Agency staged over 50 experiential marketing events for Harley-Davidson in 2019. At the University of Alabama’s fall activities fair, our ambassadors created the Bama Rides Out group, giving over 500 new students a crash course in motoculture. We teamed up with Sony and a local dealership at the University of Texas to host a tailgate activation event, where our ambassadors distributed merchandise and Riding Academy vouchers to some of the Longhorns’ most stalwart fans. Then, Harley-Davidson took over the annual Eve Carson 5K at the University of North Carolina, working in partnership with Greek organizations at one of UNC’s biggest philanthropic events of the year.
Our #CampusAgencyPowered Harley-Davidson campaign generated a fresh surge of buzz around an American tradition. Though their brand had struggled to attract younger generations, with The Campus Agency’s help, they found that the appetite for the freedom and excitement Harley represents is just as strong now as it was back in 1903. All it took to tap into this excitement was a little kick-start.