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Ainslie: Sturgis needs partners to market the Rally

October 13, 2018

STURGIS — Janet Wetovick-Bily understands the economic impact of the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to the entire Black Hills region.

But, she learned Thursday at the second Sturgis After-Rally Summit just how important it is to put out the welcome mat for those visitors.

“I thought it was very valuable,” Wetovick-Bily said of the summit. “They provided great information and ideas for embracing the event going forward.”

Wetovick-Bily, Hill City Chamber director for the past five years, said that Hill City businesses and the community as a whole do a good job of catering to the rally audience. They hope to build on those successes in the future.

“We plan to work with our business members and partners to encourage them to welcome the rally attendees and make it a good experience for them while they are here,” she said.

Sturgis city officials say the purpose of the After-Rally Summit is to help business owners and other interested parties get the most reliable Rally related information available and to learn more about what it takes to market to riders.

The city of Sturgis surveys visitors a few days before the Rally starts and during the 10-day event. This year the city gleaned pertinent information about Rally goers based on 3,363 random surveys.

Here is some information about those who attended the 78th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in 2018.

• 49, average age of attendee, that is down from the peak average age of 52 that occurred during the 2015 Rally.

• 65 percent, number of attendees who want to return during non-rally times

• 6.6 percent, number of attendees who are interested in relocating to the Black Hills

• $365.82, estimated expenditure per day by first-time Rally goers.

• 24 percent, number of first-time attendees

• 5, average length of stay in days

• 50 percent, number of attendees who stayed at a campground

• 18 percent, number of attendees who stayed at a hotel/motel

Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie said that for the past 10 years, the average age of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attendee had continued to increase.

“That showed that we really weren’t attracting a lot of new people to the Rally,” he said. The peak age of 52.5 came during the 75th Rally in 2015.

The next year there was what Ainslie called a significant collapse in the average age. So, what happened?

“A lot of the people who had been coming to the Rally for 10, 15, 20 years made it to the 75th fulfilling their bucket list and then they didn’t come back,” he said.

In 2016, the average age of attendees dropped to 45, the youngest ever since the city had done Rally statistics record keeping. That coincided with the city focusing on digital marketing to a new audience, he said.

“This year the people were coming from the places that we were marketing to. It goes to show that if you actually reach out to people there are a lot who want to come to Sturgis. And frankly, we haven’t been reaching out as much as we should,” he said.

In order to bring in more first-time Rally goers, the city, state and regional partners need to come together to market the rally better, Ainslie said.

He said he believes the state needs to up its support of marketing the rally.

Temporary vendors in Sturgis for the annual rally paid about $250,000 directly to the state tourism department

“Should there not be some reinvestment of those funds and others raised through this event?” he questioned.

Currently the state invests about $50,000 in digital advertising to market the Rally, Ainslie said.

In 2019, the city of Sturgis will invest $310,000 in advertising through website, billboards, digital and print advertising, Ainslie said.

“The reality is, if we want this event to grow, we need to increase our advertising. This is an event that generates hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity, yet its digital marketing budget is about $100,000,” he said.

“We’re looking for the state to actually invest more heavily in this event.”

Next year’s Rally, the 79th, will be Aug. 2-11.

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