Harley's new line hits the road with skateboarders

MILWAUKEE, WI: Harley-Davidson will take its newly released Dark Customs line on a skateboarding tour this June in an effort to align the new motorcycle designs with a younger demographic.

MILWAUKEE, WI: Harley-Davidson will take its newly released Dark Customs line on a skateboarding tour this June in an effort to align the new motorcycle designs with a younger demographic. The manufacturer is giving pro skateboarders the new bikes to ride during the fourth annual Wild Ride, an experiential marketing tool that will travel from Easley, SC, to New York City, from June 10 to 21.

Continuing its partnership with skateboarding shoe and apparel brand Emerica, Harley-Davidson will use an Emerica-sponsored team of pro skateboarders for the event.

Andy Benka, Harley-Davidson director of market outreach, said, connecting the "grittier and raw" Dark Customs line to the Wild Ride was an authentic way to connect with its next generation of riders.

"This generation of bikers isn't interested in a bike they have to polish every day," Benka said. "The... line cuts against many grains of [traditional] Harleys."

In contrast to the typical Harley rider, who is on average 47 years old, the Dark Customs line is geared toward riders under 35, according to Bryan LeMonds, president of Caffeine Communications, AOR for Harley-Davidson's division of young adult outreach.

The skate team will structure the tour themselves, focusing on skate parks and using unplanned street performances and venue stops to create word-of-mouth marketing and online content for the Wild Ride 2008 Web site. Skaters and motorbike enthusiasts are invited to camp and skate with the team, as well as join the nearly 50 bikes and two tour buses of media in transit to New York City, where skateboarders will take over an undisclosed city street for a day.

Other events for the line also took aim at the younger demographic, including its launch at LA's Viper Room and Steezy Rider Tour with Dark Customs bikes and pro snowboarders.

The effort underscores Harley-Davidson's recognition that younger consumers don't want to be sold to, but instead added to the brand story, LeMonds said.

"The... line is a voice to a youthful motorcycle movement out on the street today," Benka added. "It's not a campaign, it's a movement."

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