Plan A Major Motorcycle Event

A major motorcycle event can be aimed at the public, the industry, or both.

The American motorcycle industry, led by flagship brand Harley Davidson, is thriving. Every year, more enthusiasts — many of them retiring Baby Boomers — take to the road. As a result, motorcycle manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and retail customers, as well as related vendors, create events built on specific marketing, sales or media objectives. Planning a major motorcycle event can be a challenging proposition. To enhance your chances for success, follow some established guidelines.


1. Decide what kind of event you want to hold. For example, you could stage a private trade show for the motorcycle industry or an event open to the public. Define the key reasons why potential attendees will be motivated to come. For example, if it’s a trade show for motorcycle dealers and suppliers such as manufacturers or parts distributors, you’ll have to create an agenda that convinces them that participating in your event will help them make more money or gain some other kind of market advantage. To motivate the motorcycling public, you’ll have to create a draw such as a race, new model year showcase or appearance by a superstar of the motorcycle racing circuit.

2. Pick a date and check for competition. Identify what appears to be the perfect date for the event, then do your homework to make sure there is not a similar or directly competing event on that date. It doesn’t have to be another motorcycle-related event to cause you a problem. A rock concert or comedy show by performers who appeal to the same demographic could draw away potential attendees. An in-depth analysis of the date and time you have picked will be a key determinant of your success or failure.

3. Project your basic revenue streams. For example, you can charge a registration, or ticket, fee for the event. If it’s a private trade show for a few hundred or even a few thousand participants, attendees can be charged anywhere from $75 to 250 for a day pass, or as much as $995 or more for registration for a multiple-day event. In addition, you can charge manufacturers and suppliers who want to exhibit at the event in order to showcase their latest products and services. A standard booth is 10 feet by 10 feet and can be sold for $100 all the way up to $3,000 or more, depending on the size of the anticipated audience. Some events have hundreds of such exhibitors and major industry players rent numerous units. You can also make money by marking up hotel rooms sold to attendees as the “official” hotel or hotels for the event. In effect, the hotel sells you group room nights at a discounted rate, and you sell them at prevailing fair market retail rates.

4. Identify and exploit other revenue streams. For example, if you have experts presenting the latest repair and maintenance information at a major training seminar for motorcycle service managers and mechanics, you can sell, or license, such content as lectures, white papers or formal training manuals. Depending on the format of the original content, you can sell properties as documents, podcasts, secure web content, audio recordings or DVDs. If you want to do that, retain an experienced media vendor with multi-platform event experience and good references. Many major events earn as much from content sales as they do from upfront ticket sales, because content usually costs more than a mere ticket. In addition, interested parties who did not attend the event can still buy the most important content after the fact. In turn, that creates still another revenue stream for you and enhances event profitability. If it’s a public event, you can make money selling everything from motorcycling DVDs to books and other publications, as well as caps, T-shirts and other event merchandise.

5. Select a venue. For example, if it’s a trade show — whether for the industry or the public — you can use the local convention center. Choose the convention center if you expect at least 5,000 attendees, because such facilities are specifically designed for large audiences. Because most convention centers are owned by the city or county, you can usually negotiate basic use of the facility for free, depending on how many hotel room nights you will be booking. As an example, 5,000 attendees for two nights equals 10,000 room nights. A three-night event would yield 15,000 room nights. If your event is local and offers no hotel bookings, you will negotiate usage and service fees with the convention center, based on your predicted attendance.

6. Consider a hotel or other venue if ambience is important to your event. If you expect fewer than 5,000 attendees, a hotel ballroom or other facility is a good option for upgraded facilities in terms of environment. In addition, hotel food-and-beverage service is generally superior to convention centers because hotels produce every year, while convention centers typically do not. Consider a so-called “offsite venue” if you want something special. An offsite venue is any facility used for an event other than the convention center or a hotel. For example, you could stage the event at motorcycle race track, or in a public park or on a rooftop overlooking the city, or in a bowling alley or on a golf course if the event is intimate and has a social component.

7. Plan food-and-beverage. Negotiate a package deal with the hotel or convention center that includes any combination of meals, up to all three a day, or only one, such as breakfast. Your price will be based on “guaranteed” attendance and payment. If your audience falls short, you’ll pay a higher price when the time comes. You can also engage the services of a private caterer that specializes in major events. Not all hotels and convention centers allow outside caterers, but most do. You can also make food-and-beverage service a profit center. For example, you can stage an opening or closing night banquet with tickets that sell for $100 to $150 or even more. If you can negotiate a complete meal for $50 per person with the provider, you can make a tidy profit that can help defray total costs.

8. Prepare a detailed operating budget. Calculate basic revenue by multiplying the projected number of attendees by the cost of registration or a ticket. Add all planned ancillary revenues, such as content sales or a grand banquet. Subtract all costs. The number you get is your projected gross profit. For the event to be viable, it should be capable of generating at least a 20 percent margin. Many major motorcycle events have profit margins that are much higher. It’s a matter of how well you plan and execute and what value the event turns out having to your target audience.

9. Create buzz and sell tickets. Effective marketing is essential to the success of your event. Use a combination of traditional media and new media, such as social networking tools, to promote registrations or ticket sales. If it’s a public event, advertise in print and online in major magazines such as “Cycle World” or “Hot Bike”. If you don’t have strong marketing capability, hire an advertising and public relations agency to promote the event. Work with them to define a budget and include it as a cost in your overall budget. Most events spend between 5 and 15 percent of anticipated total revenue on advertising and marketing. Use major social networking tools such as Facebook to create a community for the event. The Facebook page should be fully operational on the day the event is announced.