Fueled by baby boomers and their children, unit sales have been rising for several years, and competition is revving up as several newcomers enter the industry.
Industry analyst Don Brown, founder of DJB Associates, predicts 1997's unit sales of 341,738 will jump 15% this year. And there's no end in sight: He projects yearly sales increases until at least 2003.
Marketers are riding the boom with new ad campaigns, including efforts from Yamaha Motor Corp. USA, BMW of North America and Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycle Manufacturing Co.
"There's more advertising because of competition, so spending is going up," said Bob Starr, national communications manager of Yamaha's motorsports division, which includes cycles. "That's good news for the advertising business."
The major enthusiast magazines are seeing big gains in paid ad pages, according to Publishers Information Bureau. The biggest gains were for Cycle World, which enjoyed a jump from 383.1 pages during the first half of 1997 to 494.3 during the same period this year. Of that total, 281 came in the second quarter.
Overall, the industry's top six marketers spent a total of $36 million last year in measured media and $8.4 million in the first quarter of 1998, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
Even so, those figures don't take into account the millions of unmeasured dollars doled out for sponsoring motorcross racers and events, said Beverly St. Clair, VP-managing director at the Motorcycle Industry Council, a trade group.
Racers are the target audience of a new print effort for Yamaha breaking next month. Marshall Design Associates, Newport Beach, Calif., created the eight-page insert showing four racers dressed as old-time Western lawmen.
"You can always tell the good guys," says the opening page headline. "They're the one on the baddest horses," reads the headline on an inside page above a shot of a Yamaha YZ80. Yamaha spent $6 million last year, CMR reports.
The goal of BMW, cranking up a new campaign this week for its motorcycles, is to increase brand awareness and create a favorable image of the BMW motorcycle rider in the U.S., said Jeff Byers, national marketing manager for the BMW motorcycle group. He said the company's research revealed the general public was largely unaware BMW made motorcycles.
BMW would not disclose spending, but the campaign is estimated at $5 million. BMW spent $3 million on cycle ads last year, CMR reports.
The campaign, from Merkley Newman Harty, New York, shows the BMW logo and the word "Motorcycles" on a black background to build on BMW's name while setting motorcycle advertising apart from BMW's cars.
"It attributes all the `BMW-ness' to the bikes," said Marty Cooke, chief creative officer of Merkley.
BMW's print ads break in September issues of magazines, including Cycle World, plus lifestyle magazines such as Forbes FYI, Men's Journal, Outdoor, Playboy and Sports Illustrated.
New owners of the name Excelsior-Henderson, meanwhile, are bringing back the old brand.
Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycle Manufacturing Co. will unveil its new Super X cruiser cycle at the huge Sturgis, N.D., motorcycle rally this week. Foley Sackett, Minneapolis, created teaser print ads that are now appearing in enthusiast magazines.