Indian Motorcycle Is Competing With Harley-Davidson by Giving Away Art

The brand hopes to showcase its legacy

Although Indian Motorcycle holds bragging rights as the first American motorcycle brand—it was founded in 1901, two years before Harley Davidson in 1903—it still trails Harley in terms of sales and visibility. To attract more fans, Indian is focusing on its heritage and on driving foot traffic into stores.

On Saturday, customers who test-ride an Indian motorcycle at their local dealership can leave with a handcrafted piece of Indian Motorcycle art. Indian and Saatchi & Saatchi agency Team One tapped stencil artist Matthew Curran to create the pieces, which are made with the signature Indian Red paint and feature Indian's Chief Dark Horse motorcycle.

"It's a great tie to the brand and a great tie to our history, and it's something that our owners will value. It also lends itself to the handcrafted nature and the heritage of our bikes," Reid Wilson, director of marketing for Indian Motorcycle, told Adweek. "We're excited about it. It gives our dealers a great opportunity to talk to new customers and bring new people into the brand."

To promote the effort, Team One created a video of Curran at work stenciling and painting the prints. The video was posted on Indian's social channels and emailed to its mailing lists, and individual dealers were given assets to promote the effort on their social channels.

The idea was to give motorcycle enthusiasts something to come into the store for, said Craig Crawford, group creative director at Team One. "We wanted it to be something that someone frames and hangs in their man cave or their garage. It helped that the Indian logo is the kind of thing people want to put on T-shirts, whether they ride or not."

The effort also fits with Indian's current tagline, "Be Legendary," a nod to the brand's history, Wilson said. "Our target rider is predominantly male, and he appreciates history, authenticity, things with a past, and things that are uniquely American. We offer all of that, and we try to tell that story."

Most of Indian's target audience is comprised of baby boomers and Gen Xers, so the brand is focusing on appealing to that core audience as well as the next generation of riders. To do that, it hosts events around the country, including a race at the Bonneville Salt Flats later this year, as well as monthly events at dealerships.

"We're creating a spirit of community and camaraderie among all motorcyclists and our dealers, and allowing new people to come in to the brand, talk motorcycles, and go riding together," Wilson said. "We're relatively small compared to the giants like Harley-Davidson, so to break through and tell our story isn't about investing in media, it's about taking actions that are disruptive and live up to our past."