The multi-year marketing partnership was announced this month and the two companies will honor the father of American old school tattooing, Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins and unveil a series of twenty-two customized Harley-Davidson motorcycles designed by high profile artists and visionaries from around the U.S.
If you are unfamiliar with Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins story, after serving in the U.S. Navy during WWII, he dedicated his life honing the art of tattooing out of his shop on Hotel Street in Honolulu. His shop became the must-stop destination for sailors on their shore-leave.
In the 50’s and 60’s, Americans getting tattoos included the most aggressive elements of counterculture. And it was a time of another level of commitment to inscribe your body with an image that permanently stated your beliefs, affiliation or anti-establishment attitude. In the 70’s and early 80’s, getting aggressively tattooed and pierced became a mark of punk culture’s disdain for conformity and social mobility. Today the range of things that people express with tattoos continues to widen.
But, I’m intrigued about this motorcycle and spiced rum marketing partnership which has some historical IRONY. First, as previously mentioned the two companies chose April to kick-off the marketing partnership which officially celebrates Alcohol Responsibility Month. On the surface, that seems a bit tone deaf considering the increasing number of automobile and motorcycle accidents/deaths related to impaired driving. In addition, is the fact that Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins was out riding his Harley-Davidson in 1973 when he had the heart attack that took his life (after collapsing in a cold sweat, he got back on his bike and rode home). So, when Scott Beck, Harley-Davidson director of marketing stated: “We are struck by the natural ties Sailor Jerry has to the motorcycle culture” it raises some awkwardness in my view and wonder how the two companies ever got mixed up in all this in the first place.
But I’ll stop reflecting and focus on the announcement.
According to the Milwaukee Biz Times — the two companies said the partnership would “come to life in bars, restaurants, Harley-Davidson dealerships and joint celebrations around the country” and consumers should expect a number of shared events leading up to Harley’s 115th anniversary in 2018. “Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and Harley-Davidson are all about freedom of expression and customization, whether that is expressed by a Norman Collins tattoo or a bike,” said Scott Beck, Harley-Davidson director of marketing.
The first event will be the unveiling of 22 customized motorcycles at the Harley-Davidson Museum on May 2. Harley’s Forty-Eight, Iron 833 and Roadster models were used for the project.
The artists will incorporate the flash art style of “Sailor Jerry” into their motorcycle design. And members of the Harley-Davison styling team will also work on the motorcycles to inspire their designs. The custom motorcycles will be on display at events at liquor retailers, Sailor Jerry’s Fleet Week New York celebrations, the Harley-Davidson Museum and more. The motorcycles will also be available to win in a sweepstakes that starts May 15.
Clearly the reckless spirit of motorcycle riding and alcohol don’t mix. However, the collaboration with Harley-Davidson and Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum does have a natural feel about it and I’ll be curious to see some of the artwork and craftsmanship that comes from the partnership.
Photos courtesy of Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and Responsibility Org.
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