Benita Chacko

Royal Enfield uses art to give people a taste of the riding life

The Art of Motorcycling Campaign drew 15,000 registrations says Puneet Sood, the brand's global head - apparel business. Some 84 per cent of them were non-Enfield users.

Royal Enfield recently concluded the second edition of its designing platform – Art of Motorcycling. The two-month long campaign not only brought together a diverse audience within the Royal Enfield community but also non- Royal Enfield owners.

In an interview, Puneet Sood, national business head - North and West India, Nepal, Bhutan and global head - apparel business, says the key goal was to get the non-riding community to think about the motorcycling way of life. While in the first season they got 65 per cent registrations from non- Royal Enfield owners, this time it increased to 84 per cent.

“Our biggest intent was to make more people taste the motorcycling way of life, and engage them into this thought and hopefully then get them to experience it,” he said.

The campaign fulfills many purposes for the brand. Apart from getting a larger audience to engage in and experience the motorcycling way of life, it also makes it more authentic when the community represents what it thinks about the brand and motorcycling. It makes the brand a part of their lives.

“It allows us to reach an audience that doesn't ride as of now and makes them experience the motorcycle way of life. For people who ride a little bit, it engages them a little more so that we can push them to ride more. And for the purists who are already riding, it gives them a channel to express themselves and also for us to partner with them. This provides a platform to the larger motorcycling community, but beyond that to anyone who believes that he could be in love with the motorcycling way of life for them to express themselves,” he said.

It is easy to reach out to one’s own community members for a campaign, but how did Royal Enfield attract the non-owners to participate?

“Our social media handles have a reach to people who aspire to ride our motorcycles. But our partnerships with the jury also helped us reach a larger audience in the adjacencies like photography, illustration and fashion,” Sood explained.

It also partnered with Comic Con and some design schools and colleges to reach out to specific newer audiences.

The brand wanted to go beyond the motorcycle space and explore those adjacencies where it saw synergies in terms of thought and subculture. The jury was also chosen keeping the same consideration in mind- fashion designers Shantanu and Nikhil, illustrator Vimal Chandran and photographer Bobby Joshi.

The top three winning entries will now make it to Royal Enfield merchandise. They will co-create a capsule range. The next three winners will get an internship opportunity with the company’s design team. “We will get the thought of our community into what we're building and what we build is what we give back to them,” he said.

Launched in 2020 to fuel creativity amongst artists, creators and motorcycling enthusiasts, the second edition witnessed a 50 per cent jump in registrations from the first year (from 10K in the first year to more than 15K). 65 per cent of the participation was from non-metro cities.

“Royal Enfield is as much about self expression as about exploration. A lot of artists and riders have used our motorcycle as a canvas for self-expression. So it was only logical that we extend this beyond just the motorcycle. The only way to reach a larger audience and engage them into the motorcycling way of life was to do something beyond the motorcycle. And that is what Art of Motorcycling does for us,” he said.

Sood says Art of Motorcycling will be an ongoing property and will continue it year-on-year. “We started it with the thought of building it into a continuous property. We are working on making this even larger. We are seeing if it can have on-ground parts and can be taken into international markets.”

Royal Enfield is not new to the artistic world and has engaged with artists over the years and supported art projects, celebrating the ethos of exploration and motorcycling through the lens of various art forms. Some of the past initiatives were- Chifumi’s Art Tour 2016, Ronny Sen’s Highway Star 2017, Tank Project 2017, projects at Wheels & Waves 2017, Aid of Asia’s endangered elephants 2018.

Many of these initiatives are user-generated content, like Art of Motorcycling, while many others, like the 120th anniversary campaign, are driven by the brand itself. Sood explains how these campaigns are conducted differently.

“In the 120th anniversary campaign we talk about ourselves. But in UGC campaigns, it is them speaking about us. The community’s creativity takes the brand to places where when we tell our story, we don't go. When we create content, it's limited. We have one story or one film. But when our whole community comes together, it becomes diverse,” he explained.

However, it comes with the challenge of having to create that interest. “We were lucky that it wasn’t difficult for us to generate interest as our community is keen on contributing and already very deeply engaged."

As the country gets back to normalcy again after the third wave of Covid19, Sood is optimistic about growth of Royal Enfield’s Lifestyle Apparel range. Many people have missed the experience of outdoor adventure in the last two years, so their need to be outdoors will tend to be higher.

“Many people who bought a motorcycle in the last two years and weren't able to ride are now looking at that opportunity to step out. And they're now looking at the right products to enjoy that experience. So it's not just the new riders that are joining our community, but it's also the existing riders. International travel is going down and a lot more people want to spend their leisure time within India. When the riding season completely opens up, as winters are behind us, there should be a great demand for the gears,” he says.

Royal Enfield apparel is now focussed on sustainability and has shifted to using a lot of recycled material. It is also looking to build the right packaging for its products to replace cardboard with other alternatives. It recently partnered with the Better Cotton Initiative.

“It is a global initiative that ensures that the cotton we use as a raw material for our lifestyle apparel is made in the right way- less pesticides used and fair wages paid to the farmers. As our riders become more responsible regarding safety, the business is also becoming more responsible. Sustainability becomes a big pillar for us to work on,” he said.

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