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Harley Davidson vs Victory Motorcycles – The Pepsi Challenge

In the Fall of 2010 the marketing folks at Victory Motorcycles came up with a promotion entitled, The Victory Challenge. It was a somewhat novel method of attempting to convince potential purchasers of Harley Davidson motorcycles the benefit of various models in the Victory Lineup and allowed riders to ride a Victory model and what was considered to be its Harley Davidson equivalent back to back. Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 9.19.43 AM

Some may remember that prior to that point, Victory attempted to use a marketing theme with the words “Fuel It” and that one didn’t seem to go over well. Possibly it was the timing of that promotion that coincided with rising fuel prices that showed that promoting burning fossil fuels might not have been the right theme for that era.

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The Victory Challenge was a very similar concept to what cola manufacturer Pepsi attempted many years previously with the Pepsi Challenge. In the cola comparison, Pepsi would set up tables in public locations (such as malls) and do a blind taste test and record the reactions when someone could pick Pepsi over Coke.

In the Victory Challenge, Victory Motorcycles trucked various Harley Davidson motorcycles along with what they felt was the equivalent Victory models to various dealers around the country. While this promotion was not (in my opinion) promoted well, when I heard the trailer was headed to Volusia Motorsports, I took a drive to New Smyrna Beach, Florida with camcorder and microphone in tow to check it out and produced a few videos designed to capture the reactions when someone took a back-to-back test ride of the two bikes.

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The Victory Challenge promotion seemed to be one that would go hand-in-hand with it’s Ride One And You’ll Own One campaign that had factory trucks loaded with various models from the current Victory lineup setting up at dealerships who were willing to pay a fee for this service.

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Upon my arrival at this service-oriented Victory dealership in December of 2010, I found it strange that instead of adorning the trailer with logos promoting the Victory Challenge that could have acted as a billboard on wheels, the bikes were transported in a somewhat aged, non-descript trailer. I can only guess that Victory marketing management thought it best not to openly harass its Harley rival while it traveled the highways and conduct this promotion in a more subtle manner. If memory serves me correctly, this mobile comparison wasn’t highly promoted to the masses and was more of a quiet type of promotion.

In the videos I produced during that trip, I wanted to play things down the middle of the road and get the opinion of the participants immediately after taking a ride on both models. After more than 300,000 views, some of the posters on YouTube have shown through the comments that I was a shill for Victory, nothing could be further from the truth. Simply stated my relationship with the factory was pretty much non-existent. But to address the seemingly endless opinions of the YouTube posters, as in all of my VOG videos, all I did was ask the questions and I let the rider provide the commentary.

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One of my favorite VOG video interview subjects was DSJR70 (aka Don), a well known and respected VOG member. Don was the perfect subject for this comparison as it was noted in the video, he had owned a number of motorcycles during his lifetime and many of them were derivatives of the Victory Vegas and was a call ’em as you see ’em kind of guy.

Don took the Victory Challenge and rode the demo bikes provided by Victory and provided his opinion of the Victory Vegas to a Harley Davidson Dyna Wide Glide and went into this with an open mind and as expected, he provided an honest opinion. What I wasn’t expecting was the backlash from the Harley Davidson faithful in the YouTube comments section. However, this video proved to be one of the most watched VOG videos on YouTube.

As things turned out Polaris (Victory’s parent company) must have realized that after more than ten years of attempting to lure buyers from Harley Davidson, its sales were barely a blip on Harley’s radar. Just a few months after this Victory Challenge promotion, Polaris made the bold move of purchasing the rights to the Indian Motorcycle name and within a few short years created a new lineup of V-Twin models that appear to be geared directly at the same niche Harley Davidson has so for many years dominated.

The question remains…

Which direction will Polaris now head with Victory?

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