Italian motorcycle maker breaks first-ever TV spot

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Italian motorcycle marketer Ducati North America is set to break its first-ever TV commercial next week -- loudly and sensuously.

The 30-second spot from Toolbox, New York, marks the first time the niche motorcycle company has hit the tube anywhere in the world, said Kristin Schelter, director of advertising and promotion at Ducati Motor Holding, the parent in Bologna, Italy.

"The U.S. has deemed it necessary for their uses," she said. "We don't do it in any other country."

The lone spot will run twice during each telecast of motorcycle races on cable's Speedvision as well as race programming on Fox Sports, said Gary Schmidt, advertising manager of Ducati North America.

"Our customers are watching these races, so it's a perfect medium for us."

Ducati participates in the World Superbike Championships, with 13 events around the world, and the American Motorcycle Association's Superbike series.


The marketer tapped Toolbox for the project earlier this year in a shootout with Earle Palmer Brown, New York. The commercial shows a Ducati rider cruising Manhattan streets, over a bridge and through a tunnel. The narrator talks about the "unmistakable sound" of the cycle, which is "obnoxiously loud, but sensuous." The engine is heard for just a few seconds at the end of the spot.

The company, founded in 1926, has been a small player. But Ducati has slowly built its brand since new management arrived several years ago.

"Three years ago, there was no corporate ad campaign. Every country was a free-for-all," Ms. Schelter said. The Italian company merely distributed its products worldwide and each country did its own advertising and brand interpretation, she said.

Since 1998, the marketer has created print advertising in-house at its base in Bologna and adapted it for other markets, including the U.S. The ads, Ms. Schelter said, are simple, with shots of employees with their bikes. Copy is minimal, making translation into different languages easier. Ads run in motorcycle enthusiast magazines worldwide.

Ducati's global marketing budget is roughly $10 million annually, including $3 million in measured media. The bulk of the marketing budget is for co-marketing or co-branding activities. The racing arm spends another $10 million a year.

The marketer sold 33,124 motorcycles last year globally, with 5,567 sold in North America via 190 dealers here. This year, it expects to sell 40,000 worldwide. The most popular bike, the Monster, starts at $7,500 in the U.S.

The brand's global positioning is based on its high performance, race-track heritage and Italian design, Ms. Schelter said.

Ducati went public in March 1999. Last year's global revenue was $295.9 million, up from $241.3 million in 1998.

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