BMW Motorrad USA went back to its roots in a campaign for the launch of its R18 motorcycles.
Rather than a 30-second spot, the automaker created a five-part docu-series called “Heritage Road,” which follows the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club, a group that honors the Buffalo Soldiers, the first all-Black peacetime regiments of the U.S. military founded in 1866.
Like the Buffalo Soldiers, the BMW Motorrad’s heritage harks back to the early 20th century, when its first line of motorbikes, the R5 was released.
Agency Hill Holliday sought to find a parallel between that heritage and the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club by following two members and BMW enthusiasts in a docuseries: Paul Stringer, a.k.a “Beemer,” and Rob Griffiths, known as “Son of Beemer” or “S.O.B.”
“These people were BMW enthusiasts, despite being in a club that wasn’t exclusive to BMW,” said Khari Streeter, EVP and creative director at Hill Holliday. “It gave us a different way of thinking about heritage.”
The docuseries follows Beemer and S.O.B on a heritage ride from Hartford to West Point in honor of the original Buffalo Soldiers. “We found many analogies that worked,” Streeter said.
BMW went with a docu-series for the launch because it’s always looking for real stories that match its values. “We wanted to have something tailor-made for Americans, and hoped to make them see themselves in the BMW brand,” said Luciana Francisco, head of marketing BMW Motorrad NA.
The story also reflects BMW’s “zero tolerance for prejudice,” Francisco added. “It’s the right way to deliver the message that we honor what African-Americans have done [and continue to do] for this country, and American heritage,” she said.
The docu-series allowed BMW to “start a genuine conversation about real things,” Streeter said. “It’s not manufactured,” he added. “I mean, who’s going to script ‘Beemer’ and ‘S.O.B.’?”