'Live Your Legend,' Urges Harley-Davidson in New Global Campaign

First Spot Debuting During NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

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Harley-Davidson is rolling out a global marketing campaign, "Live Your Legend," aimed at increasing demand and brand awareness, following several quarters of slipping sales numbers.

The campaign will publicly debut March 17 during the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament with a commercial dubbed "One Day," which showcases Harley-Davidson's influence on a father-son relationship.

"I like to think of 'Live Your Legend' as a call to action," said Shelley Paxton, VP-global marketing and brand at Harley-Davidson. "We want to spark a movement for riders and non-riders alike to start living their legacy and start living life on their own terms, and we know generations of Harley-Davidson riders have done exactly that."

The company is increasing its customer-facing marketing investment by 65%, compared with 2015, largely focusing on growing the sport of motorcycling in the U.S. and boosting product and brand awareness and relevance, said Ms. Paxton. Harley is also increasing new product development by about 35% this year, compared with 2015. Overall, Harley is increasing its investment to drive demand by about $70 million this year.

Harley reported a 3.4% drop in retail motorcycle sales in the U.S. in the fourth quarter of 2015, as well as a 1.7% dip for the full year of 2015, compared with 2014. The company also slipped 0.6% worldwide in retail motorcycle sales in Q4 2015 and 1.3% for the full year.

"We're changing our playbook and taking action, and this is one of the few crown jewels of our plan this year that is designed to drive more demand for Harley-Davidson motorcycles," said Ms. Paxton.

The campaign, which will launch globally in the next few weeks, will include a series of TV spots, print and online media, enthusiast and lifestyle media outreach, social media activations, direct marketing and retail promotions. Harley also plans on curating real-life stories from riders on its social channels and website.

Harley decided to kick off the effort during March Madness because the sporting event's audience transcends generations and cultures "the same way our 'Live Your Legend' message does," said Ms. Paxton.

Boutique advertising shop Wolfes, based in Minneapolis, co-developed the creative for the campaign with Harley's in-house marketing team. Starcom is handling U.S. media buys. Wolfes and Digitas will also support Harley with online ads, said Ms. Paxton.

Harley is the midst of a global creative, digital and media review, with the hope of making a decision on the new agencies by "early Q2," said Ms. Paxton.

"In an ideal world, I would have loved to have seen all of this sync up, but the reality is where we are with the business and the significant incremental investment with marketing made this year, we wanted momentum early in the year," she said.

Wolfes will continue working on the campaign until the new creative agency is fully transitioned to the business. Ms. Paxton said her vision for the "Live Your Legend" initiative is that it will have a long shelf life, and the new agencies brought on will help bring the next chapter of it to life.

"About 2-3% of the [U.S.] population rides motorcycles. It's our responsibility to bring more riders into the fold, and we want them to do that on a Harley and take their dreams off the shelf and live life," said Ms. Paxton.

In addition to increasing demand and awareness, the campaign serves as a platform for the brand to introduce products, such as its Low Rider S motorcycle in the first ad.

Budget information for the campaign was not disclosed. Harley-Davidson spent about $40.3 million on measured media in 2014, according to Kantar.

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