Zulu Alpha Kilo shares how it helped Harley-Davidson protect Sikh bikers with the Tough Turban
Zulu Alpha Kilo won the 'Best content marketing diversity and inclusion program' and the Chair's Award categories at The Drum Awards for Content 2021 and the ‘Automotive and transport’ category at The Drum Awards for the Digital Industries 2021 with its ’Tough Turban’ campaign for Harley-Davidson. Here, the team behind the winning entry reveal the secrets of this successful project...
Harley-Davidson is a brand built on a love for the open road and its riders are passionate for the freedom that it offers. Yet for some riders, that freedom has come at the expense of their safety and their very identity.
For Sikh men, the turban is a deeply important part of their identity. For decades, Sikhs who rode motorcycles found themselves choosing between their beliefs and their safety as all Sikh men are required to cover their hair as a symbol of respect and humility.
Because traditional motorcycle helmets violate this religious tenet, the government in the Canadian province of Ontario passed legislation in 2018 that exempts Sikh men from the law requiring all motorcycle riders to wear protective helmets. The exemption was a hard-won step forward, but it also introduced a critical question: how could Sikh riders engage in their passion and still ensure their safety while riding without a traditional helmet?
This created an interesting and unusual challenge: how to develop an alternative to a motorcycle helmet so Sikh motorcyclists would no longer have to choose between their beliefs and their safety.
The latest marketing news and insights straight to your inbox.
Get the best of The Drum by choosing from a series of great email briefings, whether that’s daily news, weekly recaps or deep dives into media or creativity.Sign up
If anyone could address this challenge it would be the world’s most iconic motorcycle brand and its largest Canadian dealership, Pfaff Harley-Davidson in Richmond Hill, Ontario.
Harley-Davidson attracts riders of all cultures, yet is often perceived to be the choice of old white men. Stepping up to a challenge like this was an opportunity for Harley-Davidson to help a group of riders overcome a big hurdle to fully embracing their passion – and to send a signal about the importance of diversity. The size of the need is large – Canada is second only to India in the number of Sikhs in the country.
Through conversations with Sikh riders an interesting historical truth was discovered. In ancient times, Sikh warriors would go into battle with chain mail woven into the fabric of their turbans. This provided protection without violating religious tenets. It sparked our thinking: why couldn’t a modern-day equivalent be created to provide the safety that Sikhs deserve? It also led to the insight driving the initiative: with the right motorcycle gear, Sikh riders could be empowered to protect who they are.
Tough Turban is a marriage of ancient traditions and modern, high-tech engineering. It’s a turban made of impact-resistant materials that also fully respects the requirements of the Sikh faith.
A critical step was the development of the turban itself. Armed with a powerful concept, we assembled our team of industrial design experts with experience in 3D printing and composite fabrics used in bulletproof clothing. After a series of prototypes, a final design was developed. About half the overall fabric is normal turban material, but the outer layers include Dyneema, a 3D-printed carbon-fibre take on chain mail, and non-Newtonian foam, which is normally pliable but hardens instantly on impact. These are the elements that make it a tougher turban.
With the design complete, the next part of the plan was the communications needed to get the word out. A website was the anchor of the effort. It houses a video that profiles several Sikh riders discussing the need the Tough Turban addressed, as well as highlighting how the turban was actually engineered. Along with the video, open-sourced production files for the turban were published to enable manufacturers anywhere in the world to be able to produce the turbans in their own markets. PR support outlining the initiative launched in early June, including posts on all of Pfaff Harley-Davidson’s social channels.
The Tough Turban initiative has been a resounding success.
Media response exploded overnight with coverage in 171 US media outlets, 54 in Canada, 18 in the UK and 11 in India, totaling 238.8m earned impressions and an advertising value of $2.19m.
Quantitative research with people who own or are planning to buy a motorcycle showed a significant shift in perception after they’d been exposed to the Tough Turban initiative:
87% saw Harley-Davidson as more favourable
86% saw Harley-Davidson as more innovative
83% saw Harley-Davidson as more inclusive
85% were more likely to consider buying a Harley-Davidson
Three manufacturers have reached out to explore large-scale production, including the world’s largest producer of two-wheeled motorized vehicles. The potential to save lives through this idea is enormous. It could offer protection to millions of Sikh motorcyclists globally.
This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for Content 2021 and The Drum Awards for Digital Industries 2021. Find out which of The Drum Awards are currently open for entry.