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Zulu Alpha Kilo shares how it helped Harley-Davidson protect Sikh bikers with the Tough Turban


By Awards Analyst, writer

December 9, 2022 | 6 min read

Zulu Alpha Kilo won the Automotive and Transport category at The Drum Awards for PR 2022 with its ’Tough Turban’ campaign for Harley-Davidson. Here, the team behind the winning entry reveals the secrets of this successful project...

The Tough Turban camapign aimed to improve safety conditions for Sikh motorcyclists.

The Tough Turban campaign aimed to improve safety conditions for Sikh motorcyclists.

Canada is home to the world’s second-largest Sikh population. In 2018, the Ontario government passed legislation to exempt Sikh men from helmet laws, on the grounds of religious freedom, which empowered Sikhs to wear their turban, rather than a helmet, while riding. For many riders, this new freedom is deeply valued, yet creates a difficult personal choice between the protection offered by a helmet and the deep significance of riding while wearing their turban.

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The brief

Pfaff Harley-Davidson, Canada’s largest Harley-Davidson dealership, serves Toronto, one of the world’s most multicultural cities in the world. While Harley-Davidson has a diverse ridership, it is often perceived to be the choice of older, white men. The campaign goal was to change that entrenched perception, with relevant evidence about Harley-Davidson’s growing focus on inclusiveness, and clearly communicate that the experience at the core of the brand – the freedom and adventure of the open road – is open to all.

The idea

Tough Turban was a marriage of ancient traditions and modern, high-tech engineering. A turban made of impact-resistant materials that also fully respects the requirements of the Sikh faith.

The team assembled 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-fiber 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.

A website was the anchor of the campaign. It housed 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 results

Following the launch of the program and PR assets, media response was significant, including coverage by 171 U.S. media outlets, 54 in Canada, 18 in the UK, and 11 in India, totaling 238.8 million earned impressions with an advertising value of $2.19 million.

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 favorable as well as 86% saw Harley-Davidson as more innovative.

Tough Turban’s open-source schematics have been downloaded over 2300 times. Several manufacturers are exploring large-scale production and distribution, including Hero Motor Corp – the world’s largest two-wheel vehicle distributor.

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This project was also a winner at The Drum Awards for Content 2021 and The Drum Awards for Digital Industries 2021.

The Drum Awards for Marketing are currently open for entry. Find out how you can enter now.

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