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Sleazy Ads

Sleazy Motorcycle Ads

Sleazy AdsLet’s get a few facts out there from the very beginning: women in motorcycle advertising have been around forever, they will continue to be, sex sells now as much as ever, this industry is still largely male dominated, and I’m a marketing professional telling you that Mad Men is the most boring television show on the air. Unlike Mad Men, this post features beautiful women, while actually standing up for them, so whatever your gender or orientation you might actually enjoy reading it.

It seems like just yesterday Harley-Davidson was running its series of motorcycle ads featuring fake-blonde supermodel Marissa Miller.

The “American Bombshell” campaign was sometimes classy, sometimes trashy, but there was a theme there. For the most part Miller’s pinup photos did manage to pay homage to an era of more modest sensitivities, especially when we compare to the advertisements of today…

A couple pictures from Harley-Davidson’s “American Bombshell” campaign.

American Bombshell

Ever wonder why there aren’t pictures of ripped men on YouMotorcycle?

The campaign was retired as Harley moved its focus from targetting female riders, the armed forces, and improving its own brand image in favor of a much needed new direction. The company, facing an aging customer base and declining sales started targetting younger riders more directly. They phased out the American Bombshell run and brought in the new “Start Something” campaign.

American Bombshell

Miller and her figure stayed on with Harley-Davidson advertising, but her once classy ads suddenly turned into grungy teenage dreams. While that sure was yummy to look at, the innocent charm wore off, but unlike the pics from some other companies, at least she had charm to begin with.

Recently I was reading through the last couple months of the Dealer News magazine. In each short issue I saw an ad that just made me shake my head.

marketing at SYM

First off, check out this photoshopped woman! She’s about as natural looking as the image background. I can’t help but wonder who at SYM dreamt this one up. SYM has a really cool looking machine in the Wolf 150. The advertisement should present a unique product offering in the market. It doesn’t take an industry expert to know the cafe racer retro chic styling is in right now. Rather than placing emphasis on the “old school cool” look, the advertisement is centered around what one of the Dumb and Dumber fellas would see as “the headlights” while about to drive into a truck. There’s no need to be classy, just like there isn’t need for fake everything either.

The next shot comes from Kuryakyn. This advertisement is about a woman with exposed cleavage and an unflattering fold in her pants. Tucked off to the side, so as not to distract you, are the products Kuryakyn actually sells. What’s too bad is there’s actually a significant message here. Kuryakyn’s “A Brave New World” is meant to showcase the training Kuryakyn reps have been through. A more knowledgeable representative is one that can best help dealerships help their customers, and that means an increase in PGA (Parts, Goods, and Accessories) sales, as well as an increase in labor revenue on installations. So why is the message in small font white on grey?


Finally, while searching through the rest of Dealer News, I found one advertisement I liked, by a brand I also happen to like. Yuasa. And I think you’ll like their ad to, because it’s different, and it doesn’t make women out to be simply something to be gawked at. Check out the next page to see it.

The ad stars a happy looking girl in plain clothes on her bike, some powersports vehicles, and a battery (the product) displayed prominently. There’s a short message, phone number, web link, big logo for branding, the end.

It’s a clear-cut, no messing around, simply delivery and of all the ads its the only one I see and immediately know what it is I’m looking at. That helps me build brand recognition and positively reinforces brand impression in mind.


This isn’t to single out any two brands. Sleazy motorcycle advertisements are a trend in this industry as much in North America as around the rest of the world. Maybe it’s time the industry’s marketing and advertising departments start thinking a little more creatively.

Yes, sex sells, but competing with sex is like competing on price. Ultimately this is neither the most efficient, nor the most effective means of building your brand image, delivering your message, or promoting a good or service. Something of quality and value to a customer should be shown to sell itself.

This third and final ad just works. Kind of like my Yuasa battery. Nina’s an Original.

About Adrian from YouMotorcycle

I started riding motorcycles in 2007, founded YouMotorcycle in 2009, and was working in the motorcycle industry by 2011. I've worked for some of the biggest companies in motorcycling, before going full-time self-employed in the motorcycle business in 2019. I love sharing his knowledge and passion of motorcycling with other riders to help you as best I can.


  1. As a woman I agree with you about how the motorcycle industry is missing the mark on how to advertise, especially if they are trying to market to the growing number of women motorcyclist.(If they even care at all)

    My impressions: The first four ads almost offend me as a motorcyclist, it makes me associate the company with being fake and doesn’t give me any confidence in their brand.

    I actually can relate to the last ad. She looks like a woman who is a motorcyclist, and gives some credibility to the ad. She is not only beautiful, she also lends the impression of someone ‘down to earth’ which in turn gives me the feeling of trust for this brand.

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