For the first two weeks of August every year, the Black Hills region of South Dakota becomes a biker’s oasis. Hundreds of thousands of motorcycle riders and enthusiasts flood into the town of Sturgis and the surrounding Black Hills for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Although the rally only officially lasts from August 4-10, thousands arrive a week early.
While this non-stop, fast-paced party is one of the year’s most anticipated events for motorcyclists around the country, it also presents some very serious safety concerns. The South Dakota Office of Highway Safety seeks to lower the number of accidents and fatalities on South Dakota roadways, making Sturgis and Rally time a key focus for our marketing efforts with the department.
Approximately 7.6% of all motor vehicles registered in South Dakota are motorcycles. While only 2.6% of the total accidents that happened in the state involve motorcycles, 17.5% of all fatal motor vehicle accidents last year involved motorcyclists. As a result, the SDOHS partnered with L&S on street team efforts and supplemental messaging to spread awareness about motorcycle safety during the busiest cycle season in the state and preserve South Dakota’s reputation as one of the premier destinations for motorcyclists everywhere.
With over 500,000 people converging on Sturgis—a town of approximately 6,400 people– the highways and roadways of the Black Hills can become very chaotic. We wanted to really touch on the emotional connection motorcyclists have with the experience of taking a journey across the state while reminding them to stay safe. With the phrase “find freedom behind these bars” motorcyclists are reminded about the free-spirited journey that they covet so much when they’re on their bikes.
L&S designed a t-shirt for the Sturgis campaign and was used in conjunction with a two-sided card at multiple street team locations. One street team was positioned in Sturgis. Another was in Sioux Falls. The card encouraged riders to “gear up, ride on, log on” to SouthDakotaRides.com for their chance to win a GoPro HERO 3+ camera.
The Sioux Falls street team specifically was fully-equipped with 1,000 GoPro giveaway cards and t-shirts—a small number compared to the 5,000 that were given away in Sturgis.
The Sioux Falls team had a great time interacting with bikers and travelers alike. Our unique and stylish t-shirts certainly garnered the attention of passersby. Most of the time, bikers would see our shirts, stop and immediately come ask about them. This allowed us to engage with them on a more personal level– asking about their trip, where they’re from and what their rally plans were. It was very interesting seeing just how far away some of these people came from for the rally. Once we built that type of rapport with them, it made it very easy to inform them about the GoPro giveaway and the free t-shirts.
By in large, the most challenging part of the weekend was trying to convince people that these t-shirts were 100% free and required nothing from them. Not only did we get many compliments on the design of the shirts and cards, but also a large amount of bikers expressing their genuine gratitude for what we were doing. They assured us that this call for safer roadways was a definite must for not only motorcyclists but other motorists as well.
While bikers enjoyed the street team and giveaway elements from the efforts, numbers haven’t been formally published from this year’s Rally to show how much of an impact we’ve made thus far. However, the Rapid City Journal reported that the number of fatalities due to motorcycle-related accidents was less than the opening day of the previous year’s rally.
As more and more motorcyclists take in the scenery of this beautiful state, L&S and the SDOHS can take solace in the fact that we are generating more and more awareness for the importance of safe driving