Long associated with the sportbike and race culture it launched into in 1992, Joe Rocket has undergone something of a makeover since the brand was acquired by Sullivans Inc. from Robison’s Inc. in July.
The deal, which also included the Power Trip and Rapid Transit brands, was a cost-saving measure meant to remove steps from the design-to-manufacturing-to-distribution process. It also gave Sullivans more control over the brands, thereby allowing founding Joe Rocket designer Marc Bay to focus on product development.
The result of this latter change can be seen in Rocket’s 2010 product lineup as the company explores new markets with the Dry Tech Nano jacket and pant, a 3/4-cut adventure-touring-style outfit; the Survivor, a one-piece riding suit; and the Hemp jacket, which is made from hemp fabric and features C.E.-rated armor. Helmetwise, Rocket has the RKT-201, which meets the new Snell 2010 helmet guidelines, and the RKT-Hybrid, the latest lid in the dirt-styled street helmet market.
“Joe Rocket [is] always going to have the race heritage. … Almost every one of the big names in racing was under the Joe Rocket banner and a lot of the development we learned from that goes right into consumer products,” says Sullivans marketing director Steve Blakeney. “We dropped the Champions Ride Rocket pitch this year just to give us some more flexibility. We’re not crazy about the idea of one pitch defining an entire brand.
“Our focus with Rocket is to embrace all of the innovations that Rocket’s come up with over the years that seem to have taken a backseat to racers and race programs and big ad campaigns.”
Blakeney points to such features as the Big Air Ventilation System that the company is integrating into its jacket lineup, the SureFit adjustment system, the Hemp jacket and the Nanofiber membrane used in the Dry Tech gear as examples of this attention to innovation.
He adds that the Sure Fit system is very important for the company’s women’s lineup, where fit is really important. (It’s also used in men’s gear.) The design uses adjustable snaps and straps to keep things snug and fitting well. “What ends up happening is you have a jacket that fits and looks good and most importantly, especially with Marc Bay as the designer, he wants his armor to be where it’s supposed to be, not wrapping around his arm or sliding out the back,” Blakeney explains.
The Power Trip lineup got its own makeover back in 2007. Blakeney says the gear had been bogged down by the popular graphics applications of the time — tattoo-styled stitching, etc. — before the company decided on a new approach. This new direction, Back in Black, ditched the high-styled graphics in favor of basic biker black.
“It’s almost unbranded. We’re trying to create a strong brand name, but when you look at a piece on a rack, you have to look for the Power Trip logo,” he says. “We know that a lot of consumers don’t want to look like a billboard. We want to leave the gear really nice and clean. … There’s a huge market out there for people who don’t want to be logoed up.”
Blakeney says there is also a stronger push to make the Rapid Transit line of luggage more visible to dealers. While it has a solid lineup of products, the brand has sort of languished without much marketing or promotion. “Now that we’ve picked up the brand, we’ve gotten more aggressive,” he says.
Also part of Sullivans’ new approach, the company is going to tie its advertising to the seasons. For instance, Blakeney says, Joe Rocket ran more ads featuring mesh gear while the weather was still warm in most parts of the country. There’s not much sense in pushing cold-weather riding gear when dealers are looking at shelves full of mesh jackets, he explains.
— Dennis Johnson
This article is from the November 2009 issue of Dealernews.