Merkley Steers BMW Off Beaten Media Path

NEW YORK BMW will attempt to raise awareness for its motorcycle unit with a print campaign and a new tagline in support of new bikes hitting the market in 2004.

The effort, via Merkley + Partners in New York, includes 11 ads, the first touting the enduro-class R-1200 GS motorcycle and the K-1200 LT touring bike. A second wave comprises branding ads, and another leg will promote all current and new bikes. The media budget was not disclosed. The company spent $5 million on ads behind its motorcycle unit in 2003, per TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

BMW is throwing a wide net, with print buys that go beyond motorcycle enthusiast magazines to include titles such as Playboy, National Geographic, Men’s Journal and Outside.

“Even the higher circulation motorcycle books only reach 6 percent of the six million motorcyclists in the U.S.,” said Laurence Kuykendall, marketing manager of BMW North America. “[BMW has] to go beyond the typical media path everyone else follows. We have to start to invest money into the larger consumer world.”

The new tag, “The ride is on,” will appear in all ads. Kuykendall said the creative appeals to enthusiasts as well as adventurers, who he added are a large subset of BMW motorcycle riders. The ads are set in locations like the jungles of Bolivia, the Rocky Mountains, Canadian forests and California’s Highway 1.

Gatefold ads touting BMW’s R-1200 GS and the luxury-touring K-1200 LT models show a list of aspirations or lessons experienced by the rider, some already checked off, others waiting to be achieved. Kuykendall said that text came from real riders, either the copywriters themselves (who own and ride BMWs) or, more frequently, comments and e-mails from customers.