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While Canadian riders knew of and even admired Harley’s iconic history, they weren’t riding its bikes. Harley was seen as a brand for white men over 50 and needed to address this misperception. In 2016, the brand sought to bring in younger riders with the launch of 1903, a Harley-Davidson Café. In 2017, we sought to tackle the diversity misperception.
Harley’s 100th year in Canada presented a celebratory milestone for the brand. We needed to create a breakthrough program to drive exposure and provoke a more diverse rider mix to consider Harley-Davidson, without alienating Harley’s core riders. The budget to create these posters, as part of a full integrated and national campaign, was $30,000.
No matter the age or background of the rider, riding fuels a sense of discovery. The diversity of people and landscape in one of the most multicultural nations made Canada an ideal platform for real discovery. We could bring the world to Canada – and leverage the influence and legacy of the Harley brand to open minds.
Our idea was to challenge the perceptions and myths of riding and what it meant to be a Harley rider from any part of the world. We created an online documentary series, Common Ground, which was literally a foreign exchange for Harley drivers, to come here and ride in Canada.
Diversity naturally highlights differences – in opinions, interests, values – and we needed to unify our audience to succeed. The posters promoting our effort would also have to reflect the richness of Harley’s history and diversity – essentially, “walk the walk.”
To help advertise Common Ground across Canada’s largest urban motorcycle markets, Harley-Davidson released three unique retro-style illustrated movie posters paying homage to Harley-Davidson’s Canadian heritage.
Each poster featured iconic bikes in various regions that were explored by our diverse group of riders in the series. Multiple configurations, including mini-monsters ensured visual impact, but to build credibility with this particular audience, we put as much detail into the design as Harley puts into their bikes. We enlisted the services of globally respected illustrator, Adi Gilbert, known for his renderings of timeless motorcycle imagery and designs that have appeared in magazines, posters, and on rider’s arm around the world.
Together, we designed one-of-a-kind pieces that borrowed from the brand iconography to assist with concepting, sketching, and inking the posters by hand.
The posters aided in the incredible results of the campaign.
• 47MM+ impressions, surpassing our goal by 235%• 8.7MM+ views, surpassing our goal by 218% • 665,000+ engagements • Harley’s market share rose by 1.9%, despite the industry being down 3.8% overall.
The campaign quickly gathered mainstream media interest, culminating in Discovery Canada showcasing Common Ground in a one-hour primetime show on Sept. 16th, 2017 that drew over 475,000 viewers. Common Ground earned national and international press, including from CBC, CTV, National Post and Edmonton Journal. Fast Company described it as “content that people actually want to watch.” AdWeek held up Common Ground at its Arc Awards recognizing the Best Brand Storytelling of 2017.
Most importantly, fans enjoyed the posters so much that they soon began to steal them for their own walls. The sentiment was later echoed by Harley who requested two new original posters for their offices.