In order to reach a demographic that was enthusiastic about its Hayabusa sportbike but that it had previously ignored in its marketing, American Suzuki Motorcycles launched its first BusaBeats virtual rapping competition in 2009.
In 2010, in partnership with digital agency Questus, Suzuki launched a second round of the contest to further target 18- to 34-year-old African American and Latino men. That campaign performed extremely well, thanks in part to a surprising surge of activity on MySpace.
Suzuki’s African American and Latino customer base was growing prior to the launch of the first campaign, according to Questus partner Jordan Berg. Suzuki had also gained a big following in coastal cities.
“One night, I was watching 20/20 and it had a whole segment on urban biker clubs, [with young men] riding sports bikes and I said, ‘We have to market to these people. It’s a huge opportunity to expand upon our influencer base,’” Berg says. And thus the BusaBeats campaign was born.
In order to roll out BusaBeats, Questus partnered with Dopetracks, a network of producers and emcees that provided the underlying technology that allows users to rap over different beats. Producers include artist Coop D’Ville. The only major requirement for participation in the MC contest is that lyrics are about Hayabusa bikes.
“We have five or ten background beats and young aspiring kids — regular people who love to rap — lay the beats down,” Berg says. “And when they laid the beat down, they have a finished product — a track — that they can share with friends and enter to win a Hayabusa.”
Winners are chosen by popular vote. Questus says the result is “incredible hip hop music that resonates with the urban community and generates loads of earned media.”
Hip Hop + Social Sharing
Traffic was driven to the site thanks to buzz from the first year and partnerships with Urb Magazine and Dopetracks. But Berg says MySpace was also a huge traffic driver. It was on that site that aspiring MCs posted their tracks to encourage listeners and voters.
In the end, more than 20,000 tracks were submitted or recorded over the course of the four-month campaign from March to May 2010 and racked up over 300,000 plays. (Data for the first campaign was not available.)
Questus, which has been working with Suzuki since 2003, may launch a third campaign next year under a different name that holds broader appeal for all street bikes, Berg says.
“We didn’t know how much Suzuki could play in the [social] space when we launched,” Berg says. So when it came to other social sites, Suzuki and Questus more or less waited for fans to create content themselves.
Fans created plenty of content and BusaBeats now has a Twitter handle — @BusaBattle — but it only has 57 followers.
In addition to 20,000 tracks in the second campaign, the 2009 winner, J. Pigg, has since received a recording contract and now travels with Suzuki to appear at events.
Running the campaign has not come without challenges, however. One was assembling a team big enough to listen to all the tracks to make sure Suzuki was not putting out anything harmful to its brand, Berg says.
Another was convincing Suzuki that it needed to allow some tracks to go up on the site even if they contained material that was risqué. “In order to be authentic, Suzuki had to come along for the ride and take some risk,” Berg says.