The 2016 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is behind us, and by all accounts it’s much smaller than the record-setting 75th rally. Midweek Department of Transportation traffic counters indicate that attendance is down about 40 percent. But even a small Sturgis Rally is a big deal. An estimated 300,000 bikers -- a group with similar interests and disposable income packed into a relatively small area.
One way to get your brand in front of this crowd is to become a sponsor. There’s no limit to the number of sponsorships available, but it’s also a crowded field. For instance, the official Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has 20 sponsors. The Legends Ride, a charity event that begins in Deadwood and ends at the Buffalo Chip each year on the Monday of Rally Week, had 14 sponsors. Sponsors range from household names -- Budweiser, Jack Daniels, Harley-Davidson, Chevrolet, Indian Motorcycles and Geico -- to the downright obscure. Ever heard of Rosenbauer Firefighting Technology? Neither have I.
One strategy is to go big. Indian Motorcycles seemed to be everywhere, signing on as the lead sponsor of the Veterans Charity Ride and a major presence at the Buffalo Chip, the Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame Breakfast, the Legends Ride and other high-profile events. Sponsorships have become so important for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that it’s not uncommon for a venue or event group to have a person dedicated year-round to lining up sponsorships.
What you get is negotiable
Prices vary widely, as do the benefits of sponsorship. Do you get your logo on the event’s website? Where on the website? Can you put up banners? And how prominent will the banners be displayed? Can you give a speech, hand out literature or meet personally with honchos?
It’s all negotiated in advance, and the sponsorship can help your brand by leaving a lasting impression on a national audience. It’s worth looking into, especially if it's an event or a group you believe in. The Veterans Charity Ride brought 21 veterans, many wounded in combat, to Sturgis from California as a form of "motorcycle therapy." My client, Rushmore Region Economic Development, stepped in to sponsor the ride as a way to support this great project, regardless of the advertising payback.