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Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Boot Camp at Southside H-D

By Mike Staudt

Harley-Davidson knows a thing or two about marketing their brand. A few years ago, they came up with the Garage Party campaign. This dealer-sponsored event was designed to take advantage of the fastest rising demographic in motorcycle sales—the female rider. The idea has been a big success, and with Harley’s new Motorcycle Boot Camp idea, the concept has now expanded to the guys.

The new demographic The Motor Company is now chasing is the young male market. According to research, there are over six million young adult “intenders” thinking about owning a Harley someday. The thought is to bring them into a dealership, help them get past the excuses and show them that now is their time to ride.

Attendees get fitted for the proper gear in the MotorClothes section

Attendees get fitted for the proper gear in the MotorClothes section

Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson bought into the Motorcycle Boot Camp concept and began planning months ago. First up was advertising with in-store signage, followed by utilizing their website to get the word out for those not in the store. Once online you could read all about it and then register for the event. Using the ever-popular skull logo helped to attract the attention of the guys who might fit the profile.

When the big night rolled around, the gents showed up for registration. The process sped along, as all that is needed to get in the door is your first and last name. Personal information was collected when they signed up. Once seated at one of four tables, the hosts at each table had the attendee sign in and create a nametag. They were also encouraged to check in using social media like Facebook and Twitter, allowing them to share the evening with friends and family. Welcome introductions from the emcee and the sponsoring dealer kicked the night into high gear.

The groups started moving through the dealership to five stations. Each station was designed to last 20 minutes and dealer staff handled the presentations. Everything was hands-on as this was the best way to experience the culture that Harley-Davidson exudes. Whether trying on a jacket and helmet, sitting on a bike or fondling some chrome accessories; everyone got the chance to dream.

One station introduced them to the Harley lineup of bikes. Dark Customs, Sportsters and Dynas were front and center, along with the Touring line set up in the back behind them. These guys weren’t looking for your father’s bike! The sales staff let them know that you don’t have to drop $30K to get started riding a Harley.

The Parts and Accessories station showed everyone the way cool chrome and blacked-out add-ons can transform a bike into an expression of

Hitting the gears aboard the brand-new Sportster Forty-Eight on the Jumpstart simulator

Hitting the gears aboard the brand-new Sportster Forty-Eight on the Jumpstart simulator

themselves. Southside wisely brought in a customer’s bike to showcase it next to a bone stock model just for the wow factor. They even had a copy of the ’95 parts book and compared it to the 2012 edition—which was easily four times thicker.

With a new bike, you have to have the proper riding gear to go with it. The MotorClothes station concentrated on the jackets, helmets, gloves and eyewear, as everyone was encouraged to try on the clothing while hearing the benefits of wearing proper safety attire. Not only do you want to look good, you also want to be protected.

So far, this followed the agenda for the ladies’ Garage Party. A different station, just for the guys, was a tour of the service department where the young men got to venture behind the “Employees Only” sign and see where service gets handled. The work areas were on display, along with the tools necessary to cover everything from routine service to extreme motor hop-up work. One tech even jumped on a bike in the dyno room and fired the thing up. The crowd gathered outside the viewing window and watched the computer screen for readings on the front and rear cylinders. What stud would pass up a chance to see this? Something most likely missed by most in attendance was the fact that Southside’s dyno is an exact replica on the outside of the original shed used back in 1903 when the first Harley-Davidson was built.

The last station was a Jumpstart simulator session. A new Sportster Forty-Eight had been secured to a roller assembly complete with engine cooling fans and exhaust suction hoses. This setup allows a rider to simulate the riding process from turning on the key to shifting up through the gears. You can actually get the feel of a bike under your butt, minus the wind in your face. This was a crowd favorite, as most have never had the chance to ride something that is totally forgiving for a newbie.

When all five sessions were complete everyone headed back to the main room for a trip down the food line, as local eatery Cheeseburger in Paradise was on hand to feed the hungry masses. While the grub was inhaled, former UFC fighter Chris “Lights Out” Lytle was up giving a talk on his recent retirement from the Harley-Davidson-sponsored octagon fighting matches. He spoke about his new Harley courtesy of The Motor Company when he retired and then settled behind a table for pictures and autographs. This was a nice touch to the evening by Southside management.

Next up was a slow-speed demo in the parking lot. One of the dealership’s sales staff members, a young buck himself, rode an Ultra Classic Electra Glide through a series of off-set cones and then proceeded to do a figure 8 in a 20’x40′ area—very impressive! The bike wasn’t even his; it belonged to the dealer and he picked the biggest one to do the demo.

The event’s wrap-up consisted of giveaways at each table from the dealer, as well as Cheeseburger in Paradise. Surveys were filled out and certificates handed out to each attendee. A free flash drive with skull logo was also given to everyone in attendance and was loaded with dealer website info on events, bike inventory and links to social media sites.

I get to emcee this event, along with the dealership’s Garage Parties. The excitement level is off the charts when the guys show up, as the ladies are more reserved and refined. What young man wouldn’t want to hang out inside a Harley shop, go behind the scenes, seat-test a new bike and get free food on top of it? Add to that the opportunity to hear and learn about riding from people who have already taken the leap into riderdom, and the temptation is hard to resist.

I’ve got to hand it to the suits in Milwaukee for attending their marketing classes back in college instead of partying. With the current crop of baby boomers dominating sales right now, looking for the next group of “intenders” just got easier. Check out Harley-Davidson’s website for more information and where to find a Motorcycle Boot Camp near you. 4


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