Community Insight: Motorcycle rally needs marketing boost

Tim Dawes, California District Retail Manager for Indian Motorcycles, puts back a Chief Vintage after a test ride at Hollister Powersports during the Hollister Motorcycle Rally July 5. They offered free test rides of Indian Motorcycles Friday and Saturday

With the likelihood of a new promoter on the way for the Hollister Rally, organizers must be more aggressive in marketing the city’s signature event across the region and beyond.
The Hollister Rally is known to draw tens of thousands of visitors to the city over Independence Day weekend. It has been proven time and again, there is tremendous brand power with Hollister’s reputation as the “Birthplace of the American Biker.” As long as there is an event—and even without one—there is an inborn audience bound to show up over the July 4 weekend either way. Bikers are known to travel to the iconic Hollister Rally from across the country and other nations. Most of the often-estimated 100,000 annual visitors, however, are from California and within a relatively short driving distance.
The most significant holdup for rally progress has been an outdated mentality when it comes to marketing or promoting the event. Essentially, there has been a severely limited marketing strategy to build on the core audience. The most recent promoter rarely updated the official event website, which still plugs the 2014 event dates at the top of the homepage less than seven months before the next rally; had no presence on social media, an absolute must these days; and made little to no effort on a strategy to reach out beyond the core motorcycle community through niche publications. From a promotional perspective, the rally can improve vastly when it comes to marketing to the day-tripper target market and also a broader audience that might find the novelties of the event amusing enough for a visit within the region.
Beyond the substance of a marketing strategy, it is unacceptable that the serious part of the planning process is continually starting far too late in the annual event cycle, year after year. Although this year’s delays can be partially attributed to a change in promoters, it is becoming a regular habit to kick-start talks on the subsequent rally around the New Year.
Hollister’s rally already has an on-again, off-again reputation. It already has to repair its image on that level. Leaving the rally’s fate hanging in the air from year to year can only dig a bigger hole as it pertains to improving the brand.
The question each year shouldn’t be: Will we hold a rally?
It should be: How can we make the rally bigger and better? How do we make it better this year, next year and five years from now? Those are the discussions community leaders and rally organizers should be holding.

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