Victory kicks off effort to catch up with Harley

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Upstart Victory Motorcycles is looking to action-oriented ads that focus on the riding experience as it tries to nip at the wheels of icon Harley-Davidson.

Victory, which launched its bikes two years ago, is a distant No. 6 in sales behind cruiser category leader Harley and Japanese imports. The $2 million to $4 million cable and print campaign by Martin/Williams, Minneapolis, is Victory's first ad work.

The campaign launches in motorcycle magazines July 26 and other publications such as Popular Mechanics and North American Hunter at the beginning of August with the tag "The new American motorcycle." A 30-second spot targeting 35- to-55-year-old men will run on cable channels such as ESPN and TNN as well as on limited spot TV.

Victory -- a division of Medina, Minn.-based Polaris Industries, a marketer of snowmobiles, all terrain vehicles and personal water craft -- counts itself as the first new U.S. cruiser brand in 60 years. Its bikes run about $13,000 to $14,000 each; Harleys range from about $7,000 to $20,000.


"A lot of others in the cruiser category are made in Japan. We're made in the U.S. That's a big deal to that [motorcycle riding] market -- made in the USA," said Mark Jenson, VP-management supervisor on the business at the agency.

Martin/Williams, a Polaris agency since 1998, has handled Victory since December. Mr. Jenson said the campaign, with copylines such as "No, the motorcycle gods will not strike you down," isn't designed to make fun of Harley owners but to get their attention.

With more than a 50% market share, Harley is the undisputed cruiser king, with imports American Honda Motor Co., American Suzuki Motor Corp., Kawasaki Motors Corp. USA and Yamaha Motor Corp. USA in pursuit. Victory ranks behind those five top-selling cruisers, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council.

Victory represents only about 1% of the U.S. heavy cruiser market with fewer than 2,000 bikes sold last year, the council said. Last year, Harley sold about 95,000 bikes.

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