THE STORY BEHIND THE PITCH
Every new model year begins with more than updated machinery, new clothing designs and bigger contingency programs. The selling season traditionally kicks-off with an advertising barrage aimed directly at you. If an ad hits its target, you’ll be jumping in your pickup and heading down to the nearest motorcycle emporium faster than you can say “no money down, no interest and no payments until March.”
MXA takes a look behind the scenes at a few of the most original and entertaining advertisements to grace our pages back in the late 1990s.
KAWASAKI’S BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS
Kawasaki wants to make sure that you know their company offers the complete motocross package. What is their package? Kawasaki’s triple crown includes competitive race bikes, a giant race contingency program and the industry’s leading amateur racing support program (Team Green). Kawasaki’s creative guys got together (maybe at a breakfast meeting) and conceived the Kawasaki Brand Winning breakfast cereal campaign.
The idea clicked because they had the perfect athlete to put on their box. Ricky Carmichael was the logical choice because of his annihilation of the 125 Nationals (again). With their star athlete chosen, the real fun began.
The box was designed by a professional packaging expert and no detail was thought to be too small to receive the Kawasaki touch. Looking closely at the box’s copy reveals proof of purchase coupons that read, “Every KX purchased entitles you to track side support at most major amateur motocross, GNCC, hare scrambles and desert events.” Vets will be bummed to read the expiration date that explains, “Best if used before your hair turns gray.” And there are call-outs like “Team Green helps racers grow stronger,” and “100% daily allowance of track side support,” and “Now with the great taste of victory.”
The crew didn’t stop at the box. The cereal inside had to include Green Sweeties. A model maker was given the task of carving tiny helmets, wrenches, knobbies and dollar bills into what looked like green Lucky Charms. The wrench represents Team Green, the dollar bill the contingency program, the helmet represents the rider and the tire is the bike.
Finally, there is a ride to win game on the back of the box and a suggestion that you “Collect all three”–Kawasaki’s KX250, KX125 and the all-new KX65. Overall, the ad makes us hungry…to go riding.
INTERNATIONAL MAN OF HISTORY–YAMAHA’S NOT SO SECRET AGENT
Yamaha has consistently come up with the most entertaining new model introduction ad campaigns. Remember the comic book, Damon Bradshaw’s shaved head, the technicians dressed like punk rockers and the shootout at the OK Corral? Of course you do, and that has been the magic of Yamaha’s advertisements. They hoped to do it again with the International Man of History.
They had plenty of stars in their advertisement. First, they had Jeremy McGrath, who won the 1999 Supercross Championship and extended his all-time win record into the stratosphere. Then, there were the YZ80, YZ125, YZ250 and YZ426, all all-star performers. Finally, they could talk about their contingency program and the zero down/zero payments/zero-interest-until-March 2000 payment program. The hard part was agreeing on an idea.
The ad’s concept was born when the phrase, International Man of History, was mentioned. Everyone could envision Jeremy McGrath in bell bottoms and fake teeth.
Was Jeremy into the idea? “The four babes didn’t hurt,” laughed a Yamaha spokesman, but Jeremy was down with the idea from the beginning. He even showed up for the commercial’s photo shoot with four different sets of false teeth. The mood was kept fun during the photo session by blasting ‘60’s music and there was a tailor fitting Jeremy in clothing that Jack McGrath (Jeremy’s dad) would have loved to wear to his high school graduation.
The psychedelic colors (and the return of Yamaha’s tuning fork logo) make the ad jump off the page. The same image will jump into your face on your next visit to a Yamaha dealership. Life-size Jeremy McGrath cut-outs were sent to every Yamaha dealership.
HOUSE HOPPING–IT IS THE REAL THING
Shift had a tough act to follow after their two page advertisement of Seth Enslow’s front end going chopper off a giant jump, but it turned out the Seth’s ad was just an opening act for the clothing company. They had another image that would blow that one away.
The new Shift ad has what appears to be an impossibly high Shift rider clearing a nouveau riche mansion. Was it real or was it trick photography?
Shift rider Mike Cinqmars set-up the jump for the MTV show, Don’t Try This At Home, Senseless Acts of Video. The mansion was his parent’s home. Micky Dymond’s ASC company designed and built the ramps for the jump attempt.
Another jumper, Flying Mike Brown, had lost a leg and almost his life just prior to the jump, and that weighed heavily on Cinqmars mind. He borrowed a few acres worth of hay bales and stacked them on both sides and in front of his landing ramp–just in case Micky’s calculations were a few inches off. So, did he really clear the house? Is the ad a result of computer image manipulation? “Watch the TV show,” says Mike. “That’ll shut up all the people who are saying that it isn’t real.”
Shift explains that they were blown away when they saw the photos. “We tried the advertisement two ways,” explains a Shift creative director. “We did one where it was just Mike at the highest part of the jump and the other, that we ended up using, with Mike at the top of the jump and ghost images of him on each side so the reader could follow his trajectory. Either way, we knew people wouldn’t think it was real. It was such an amazing jump and the response has been tremendous.”
LEAVING HOME–SAILING AWAY
Fox planned to use the ESPN Xtreme Games in San Francisco and Travis Pastrana for their latest clothing ad. The day of the event, Fox was faced with a tough decision when their rider showed-up in Fox clothing, but with No Fear stickers all over his bike.
Fox had sponsored Travis since he was nine-years-old and always enjoyed working with the young racer. When Travis first started wearing No Fear casual clothing, it was not a big conflict for Fox because No Fear didn’t make motocross clothing. But, after No Fear introduced riding gear, the co-sponsorship deal was not a great mix. Travis decided to end the conflict by signing to wear No Fear both on and off the track starting in 2000.
“We were bummed to see all the No Fear stickers on the bike,” explained Greg Fox, “but we still like Travis and were proud to be working with him at the Xtreme Games. His plan was to jump into the bay on his last jump and swim to a waiting boat. I was really worried about the jump because he was wearing all his heavy motocross gear. I told him he had to wear a life vest under his jersey! I didn’t care who he was riding for next year, I didn’t want him to drown.”
Travis did jump into the San Francisco bay and ESPN immediately washed their hands of any involvement after environmental groups assailed the network for polluting the bay (incidentally, the bay has seen full freighter ships sink below its surface). To think that ESPN had no prior knowledge of the stunt is unimaginable, especially since photos of Travis speaking to ESPN officials just prior to his jump have been published. ESPN stripped Travis of his prize money, but Fox didn’t. He made a nice bonus from his former sponsor for the risk he took.