The folks at Martin Motorsports are no strangers to hosting events such as seminars and bike days at their multiline dealership in Boyertown, Penn., a small borough northwest of Philadelphia. They've even hosted a track day at a local course for a few years running.
"We're not in a mainstream location," explains store president Dennis Martin. "We learned very early on that we need events to drive people to our dealerships, and we're blessed with having a nice large facility for holding events like these."
But for while, Martin says, they were kicking around the idea of doing a classic bike show — the first of any kind of bike show at the dealership — that celebrated the machinery of the '60s, '70s and '80s, the stuff that really set the standard in their respective era for advancements in technology, style, performance and trend setting. The problem was, they never really had the resources to pull it off.
He then hired Kevin Hyde to manage the dealership's e-commerce and marketing efforts and Hyde served as sort of a catalyst to get these how off the ground. Once the trigger was pulled to launch the Modern Classics bike show, the dealership worked to assemble a committee of people who either had old bikes or new folks in the area's strong vintage bike community. Initial efforts to attract bikes and their owners sort of plateaued at about 40, but then things really took off and hit the 100 bike limit in no time, Martin says. "The quality of the bikes was fantastic," he adds.
The results of all these efforts? The dealership was initially shooting for attracting about 500 people, but ended up getting nearly 1,000 people through door, a number that Martin says he's "very, very happy with." And, the reaction was not only strong in terms of the number of people who attended, the dealership did a follow-up survey and received hundreds of comments back, the vast majority of which were extremely positive, Martin notes, adding "We had [about] a 1,000 people through our dealership on a day in March, which is a victory."
Low cost, high yield marketing
To market the event, the dealership stuck to an online campaign because of the low cost. It went with some pay-per-click banner ads on local vintage bike forums and campaigned strongly with the store's 4,000-plus recipient e-mail list. It also sent out a press release urging visitors to, "Witness a motorcycle show that does not exist anywhere else."
The release went on to explain that the show "originated with idea of creating a unique experience for collectors and enthusiasts of all ages to admire machinery that tells the story about he rapid movement in technology, style and performance of motorcycles over a span of three decades."
Martin says he wanted to attract the bikes people didn't typically see at classic motorcycle shows — meaning something beyond the ubiquitous well restored Harley-Davidsons that always pop up. Looks like somebody was listening. The show features such highlights a Triumph X-75 Hurricane, two Honda CX500 Turbos, a Vincent Black Shadow, some great early Triumphs, a Norton production racer and a Laverda 500 that had run at the Isle of Man.
To help document the event, one of the store's part-time employees — a professional photographer — utilized a makeshift photo studio in the showroom to take studio-quality portraits of every bike in the show, says Hyde.
The store is now using those photos to assembling a book (see pic at right) that will feature one bike per page with a small narrative and list of tech specs. "The purpose of the book is to tell the story of the show, the bikes and the bike owners," Hyde says. "We felt like we wanted a way to commemorate the one-day show all year long and the book seemed to get the most steam out of those we spoke with."
The dealership also made T-shirts in three different styles representing the '60, '70 and '80s in three different colors that were sold during the event. The idea, Hyde explains, was to create a museum-style gift shop in the apparel section, something like one might see at the end of a gallery exhibit. The "shop-within-a-shop" also featured hats, books, license plates, patches and the store's own selection of vintage-style shirts.
Below are the People's Choice Show Winners from the Modern Classics motorcycle show at Martin Motorsports
- 1st Place 1952 Vincent Black Shadow
- 2nd Place 1954 Triumph Tiger Cub Dragbike
- 3rd Place 1953 Triumph T100C