In Southern California, birthplace of motorcycle culture and the love of the road in general, a group of motorcycle enthusiasts, the Southern California Motorcycle Association, organized an endurance ride that would challenge motorcyclists to travel the length and breadth of the entire nation. Called the Four Corners Tour, the challenge requires riders to travel to each of the four “corners” of the mainland—the most northwest point, the most northeast point, the most southwest point, and the most southeast point in a course shaped like an “X,” with a city in Kansas as its midpoint.
Organizers soon faced a challenge of their own—how to promote their event. They turned to stickers to help build brand recognition. Each rider who completed the ride would receive, among other things, a sticker that they could display on their motorcycle. Since fewer than two hundred riders complete the tour each year, the sticker marks the bearer as a member of an exclusive club.
As rolling ambassadors for the prestige of completing the ride, the stickers create a desire to try the challenge in the hearts of other riders who see them. The prize, it would seem, promotes the event better than an expensive advertising campaign, because it reaches the target audience—adventurous bikers who are out on the road—better than any other method could do.
Endurance riders are a special breed among bikers—a niche market. They take their sport seriously, and don’t have many of the same desires that casual riders do. They thrive on challenge. When they see that another biker has completed something they have not, their competitive urge kicks in, so they consider taking part in the Four Corners Tour themselves. In that way, the organizers promote their tour through these visual reminders to bikers who haven’t participated.
The stickers also create camaraderie. People gravitate toward tribes of like-minded individuals. Others, seeing the low-key, low-cost marketing strategy, want to become a part of this exclusive tribe. Riders who have completed the ride encourage novice endurance riders as they begin the journey. Thus enthusiasm spreads—through a promotion that hits the target market right in their heartstrings. As Steve Shulman, the sponsoring association’s vice chair, points out, “Stickers…are conversation starters.”
The conversation continues every time a casual motorcyclist sees one of these serious competitors out on the road—whether it be over coffee in a truck stop or while pumping gas. Serious motorcyclists are keenly interested in new challenges and go to great lengths to tackle them. Yet to properly brand the event, the exclusive nature of those who complete it must be ensured.
Shulman’s association is serious about keeping records to make sure that they award stickers only to people who have solid proof that they completed the tour. Without that cachet, the stickers would soon lose their marketing power. Riders must keep records of every fuel stop—and receipts must be stamped with the time.
Overcoming the challenge of creating an exclusive club—and marketing that club to other likeminded people is indeed a tough hurdle to overcome. Yet the SCMA has done just that—with just stickers and a rigorous qualifying process. Using the very language of challenge to appeal to their highly-motivated target market, the association has created a marketing campaign that is a rousing success.