Kawi bursts into NYC
Ninja 300, ZX-6R unveiled on monstrous public stage in Times Square
There was no missing Kawasaki if you were anywhere near Times Square on Sept. 13. Kawi green was splashed everywhere; the roar of motorcycles could be heard from down the street; live and pre-recorded video beamed from Kawi media trucks and massive billboards and the OEM’s displays and events took up three blocks of Broadway.
It was the massive presence Kawi was seeking when it launched its Ninja Times Square Takeover. The nine-hour long event was staged to unveil the 2013 Ninja 300 and the Ninja ZX-6R.
The first-of-its-kind public showcase replaced Kawasaki’s annual dealer meeting, as the OEM deemed traditional dealer meetings are no longer relevant as the company has moved to a bi-monthly ordering system rather than the older once-per-year process. To unveil the 2013 models, Kawasaki executives knew they wanted to host a public event to get consumers involved, as well as dealers.
“We wanted to have some type of a venue that would have impact not only for our dealers, but for our consumers, so we looked at several venues. We were considering obviously Times Square; we were looking at L.A., possibly the Staples Center, downtown L.A., but every time we kept coming back to Times Square, the center of the universe basically, and we were able to pull it together,” Bill Jenkins, vice president of sales for Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., told Powersports Business. “What we’re really trying to do is capture similar to what they do in Europe at EICMA.”
Jenkins and other Kawasaki execs visited the EICMA show in Milan last fall, and they were looking for the same feel, with a press unveil the night before a large public reveal the following day.
“It was very eye-opening for us because the one thing a dealer meeting doesn’t give you is the consumer portion,” Jenkins said.
Kawasaki invited about 75 VIP riders to the event, consisting of local Ninja riders and about 40 dealers from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and as far away as Utah and Texas. Area dealers also encouraged their customers to attend, prompting Kawasaki to rent out a parking lot for incoming Ninja riders who weren’t part of the VIP group. The VIP riders rode onto center stage for a glimpse at the new models.
The dealers chosen to be a part of the ride-in seemed excited about the public event and not at all phased by the lack of a dealer meeting, even as they all volunteered to ride, covering their own expenses for the event. Joe Laboy of New England Cycle Works in Groton, Conn., even sported a green Mohawk with a Kawasaki K died green on the side of his head. And Gary Peccarelli, general manager of Pompton Sport Center in Pompton Plains, N.J., borrowed his son’s Ninja 600 for the event.
“The enthusiasts loved it; other people, you know, didn’t know what to make of it. But I had a lot of people thumbs-upping us; everybody was kind of getting into the whole situation. So I thought it was kind of neat,” Peccarelli said.
Peccarelli, a dealer of 35 years who said his blood runs Kawasaki green, was glad the OEM got the public involved in a live unveil, rather than just the dealers.
“It drew a lot of attention because you’re on Broadway,” he said. “Let’s face it, what better street is there than Broadway to do something like this? It’s fanfare at its best.”
And the event wasn’t just limited to New York City. The Takeover was streamed live over the Internet several times throughout the day.
“I think it generated a tremendous amount of excitement not only right there in New York City, but we got an amazing amount of feedback from our dealers and our consumers who were watching it live,” Jenkins said.
Many in the area stopped by to get an up-close look at what was going on or view the event from the bleachers at Duffy Square. During events, such as stunt rides, Icon fashion shows and the unveilings, the crowds swelled, while they waned slightly in between shows. Emcees and a DJ kept the audience entertained with music and banter, while Kawasaki athletes, such as Tom Sykes, Rickey Gadson, Jason Britton and Ryan Villopoto, served lines of enthusiasts seeking autographs. More than 2,500 participated in a sweepstakes that asked event-goers to text in to win one of each of the 300 and ZX-6R models, which were given away at the end of the event.
“All day long there were lines to get Monster Energy drinks, to get autographs. All around the event itself I would see people stop and stay,” Jenkins said, adding that even passersby who were previously unaware of the event would stop for half an hour to an hour at a time.
The Takeover also drew the attention of not only motorcycle media, but also mainstream publications. The New York Times, Barron’s and Consumer Reports all contributed web coverage, as did the usual outlets, such as Rider, Cycle World and CycleNews.
“Quite frankly I don’t think we get that kind of action from a dealer show when we unveil product,” Jenkins said.
He believes that kind of exposure is good for Kawasaki, its dealers and even the industry as a whole.
“I think any time — not only for Kawasaki, but for the industry — we can broaden the scope of viewership and awareness of motorcycles, of powersports, it’s good not only for Kawasaki, but for the entire industry,” Jenkins added.
The timing of the Takeover aligned with Kawasaki’s delivery of the new models, which began the following week.