Highways England uses fashion hook to target young male bikers

A hard-hitting message about motorcycle safety has been delivered in the language of fashion, in a campaign using live PR and social media to connect with young men.

Highways England is targeting young men aged 17-23 with its Distressed campaign
Highways England is targeting young men aged 17-23 with its Distressed campaign

Highways England’s 'Distressed' campaign aims to reduce the numbers of motorcycle riders killed or seriously injured in the South East, and ultimately contribute to the agency’s goal of cutting the total by 40% by 2020.

It is part of a series of Highways England campaigns to cut road deaths, after motorcycle users were identified – along with commercial vehicles – as being most in need of behaviour change.

Government statistics show that 5,872 motorcycle users were killed or seriously injured across Great Britain in 2016. While young riders represent just 15 per cent of motorcyclists in Great Britain, they account for more than 38 per cent of casualties.

The Highways England campaign launched with a pop-up shop in Shoreditch, London, which featured distressed clothing that acted as a conversation-opener about wearing adequate safety gear when riding a motorcycle or scooter. 

The initiative centres on the concept of a clothing range where each garment has a unique price tag – instead of a monetary value, it lists a range of injuries or hospital treatments that a young rider could face as a result of an accident. 

Highways England set up and filmed the pop-up shop to capture reactions, and is using live road-safety events and social media as channels to share the video. 

The campaign uses the hashtag #distressedpopup, which features on Highways England’s Twitter feed and Facebook page, as well as its new @HighwaysEngland Instagram account. 

The video was shown directly to students at Chichester College, and is being shared at road-safety events across south east England.

Jo Gray, corporate press and publicity officer for Highways England, told PRWeek it was particularly important to target young men aged 17-23 in a different way that would grab their attention, as young motorcyclists are more than 2.5 times more times likely to be injured than someone more experienced.

Its focus on the South East reflects the fact that six of the top 10 accident hotspots for riders of bikes up to and including 125cc are in that region.

"We are aiming to reach at least 25 per cent of our target audience in the South East through a combination of organic and paid-for social media, using channels that Highways England hasn’t previously used, including Instagram and Snapchat," she explained.

"This social-media activity has also been complemented by outdoor media located within a 10-mile radius of accident hotspots.

"The ‘Distressed’ video has also been widely shown at road-safety events targeting young people across the South East." 

Highways England will evaluate the success of the campaign by measuring social-media reach, engagement and sentiment, as well as page visits and duration of visits to the THINK! campaign's bike safety page – the call to action on all campaign material. 

The government-owned company, which is responsible for the operation, maintenance and improvement of the motorways and trunk roads in England, will also carry out a quantitative post-campaign survey of 300 moped/motorcycle riders and compare statistics on those killed or seriously injured in the same period last year.

Sales of discounted protective motorbike clothing from the Urban Rider website, which is promoted at Distressed events, will also be measured. 

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