How brand sponsors created unique experiences at Babes Ride Out
The mission of the women's motorcycle event Babes Ride Out was simple: to provide a unique, and safe experience that empowers women riders. To accommodate the growing scale of their self-funded passion project, founders Ashmore Ellis and Anya Violet couldn't do it alone, but also didn't want to compromise the integrity of the event with ill-fitting sponsors. It was mandatory that all Babes Ride Out brand sponsors had an authentic and organic connection to the motorcycle community that the event served, and that the activation added a personalized experience. Selling product on site was not allowed.
"To us, it's not about money. It's about an experience," said Ellis, whose day job is copy manager at Stance. The two founders opened up about the important role supporting sponsors played in executing their biggest event yet. Additionally, McKenna Taylor, marketing partnerships & culture manager for Skullcandy, and Anna Sherwood, RVCA women's marketing, offer insights from the brand side on how success is measured.
Where: Joshua Tree
When: October 23, 2015
What: Babes Ride Out 3, an annual motorcycle ride out and campout for women
Who: Founders Ashmore Ellis and Anya Violet, McKenna Taylor, marketing partnerships & culture manager for Skullcandy, and Anna Sherwood, RVCA women's marketing.
Full list of event sponsors: Biltwell, 805 Beer, Stance, RVCA, Skullcandy, Stetson, Redwing, Triumph.
SELECT BRAND ACTIVATIONS
Biltwell: The helmet brand supplied the very first Babes Ride Out event with a hand-drawn route map. For the Joshua Tree event, the brand donated helmets to paint and gift bags.
Stance: The sock brand sponsored a "United Nations of Babes" interactive map in which the participants were invited to pin the location where they were from. In addition, they brought in popcorn and a giant movie screen, which played Mad Max on the first night of the event. Custom Babes Ride Out Stance socks were also released.
RVCA: RVCA provided denim jackets that were distributed to different female artists to paint on. These jackets were raffled off at the event in Joshua Tree. RVCA also hosted a Zine Release Party and Gallery Show on February 20 at HOWL in Long Beach, which showcased the work of ten different photographers that captured images at Babes Ride Out 3. A percentage of the profits from the zine sales and gallery prints were donated to a charity called Moto F.A.M. that supports motorcycle riders who have been hurt in a motorcycle related accident, or the family of a fallen rider. RVCA created a limited edition collection of artist Alex Matus denim jackets, sold exclusively on RVCA.com with 100% of proceeds from the jackets going to Moto F.A.M.
Skullcandy: The audio accessory brand customized a limited run of headphones and wireless speakers that were raffled off at Babes Ride Out 3 in Joshua Tree. Skullcandy music ambassador Dorothy Martin performed as the headliner band.
Photo Gallery of the Babes Ride Out Zine Release Party and Gallery Show at HOWL in Long Beach.
What do the brand activations add to the overall event?
Ashmore Ellis: Babes Ride Out is self-funded so we are able to work with the best of the best. There are so many brands that fall directly in line with what we are doing... We have grown [those relationships] and remain brand loyal to all of our partners. To us, it's not about money. It's about an experience. All the brands we partner with bring their own unique brand activation to our event. We help them every step of the way to ensure success on site... It's insane that these brands genuinely care about what we are doing and are so supportive, especially since we do not allow vending at our events.
What is special and authentic about this event that made your brand want to be part of it?
Anna Sherwood, RVCA women's marketing: This event really came about because of Anya and Ashmore’s love for riding, and the desire to empower more women to do it... RVCA, being founded upon "the balance of opposites," has the ability to speak to women with diverse interests: from shark diving on the North shore to riding motorcycles in Joshua Tree. And that's what we love about Babes Ride Out--it provides a new and unexpected outlet to connect with creative, passionate young women.
McKenna Taylor, Skullcandy marketing partnerships & culture manager: Babes Ride Out is the example of a brand living its core values and powering a cultural movement. We had known about their events through word-of-mouth, social media, and in particular, a group of Skullcandy employees who all ride... [and] were planning on attending the camp in Joshua Tree. It snowballed into supporting on a larger scale. Additionally, one of our musician ambassadors Dorothy Martin was performing as the headliner. We wanted to support all of these family members since they are the DNA of Skullcandy: employees, ambassadors, and friends.
…For us the engagement is the most important piece of data, as it is a clear reflection that the content is resonating with our audience. In the case of Babes Ride Out, we also know that we're engaging with a core group of passionate people, so we know that the engagement gained is truly authentic and qualified.
How do you measure the ROI of your brand's participation in Babes Ride Out?
Anna Sherwood: The positive engagement that we see on our social channels is a clear sign to us that our involvement with Babes Ride Out is resonating with our audience. The "balance" that this event brings to other initiatives is important in staying true to what the RVCA brand stands for, and in differentiating ourselves from our competitors.
McKenna Taylor: We first identified the objectives for partnering with Babes Ride Out. First and foremost, we wanted to grow a deeper relationship with Ashmore and Anya. Second, continue to support musicians like Dorothy, an ambassador and a Skullcandy family member. We love connecting with an empowered, influential female demographic, a goal since the launch of our women's specific audio line in 2013.
Which pieces of data do you have the ability to measure, and which of those pillars are the most important?
Anna Sherwood: We measure impressions and engagement, and for us the engagement is the most important piece of data, as it is a clear reflection that the content is resonating with our audience. In the case of Babes Ride Out, we also know that we're engaging with a core group of passionate people, so we know that the engagement gained is truly authentic and qualified.
McKenna Taylor: Given the objectives above, impressions (aggregate of social, skullcandy.com, and through partner channels) are a primary measure for quantifying awareness of our partnership. Engagement (likes, comments, video views) is also considered as a data point for interest.
The founders have tapped into their social network to partner with local organizers for specialized events outside of their California home base. The first East Coast event will kick off on Memorial Day weekend, May 27-30, followed by Babes Ride Out UK on August 5-7. They plan to continue growing events in new locations through organic and authentic connections, supplemented by more strategic product collaborations.
"What we don't want to do is barge into a new area and "Californianize" everything,”concluded Ellis. “We want to partner with local artists, brands, and shops to create an experience that is true to its environment. We have this social network, let's use it to feature real places and real people who make the area so unique."