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No show for BMW as Motorrad pulls out of international expos

BMW Motorrad has become the first major motorcycle manufacturer to pull out of the big international motorcycle shows – a move that could spur others on to do the same.

While the coronavirus pandemic caused the cancellation of almost all 2020 motorcycle trade shows around the world – most notably the massive Milan and Cologne events, which are the biggest in the world – it was hoped they would return when possible.

BMW was the first of the big companies to withdraw from the 2020 events at the start of the pandemic, before the official cancellation of the events, and has now confirmed it will stop participation in all big international shows for the foreseeable future. Support from BMW will still be seen at local shows and we take this to mean shows like the much smaller Motorcycle Live, hosted annually at the NEC in Birmingham, as this will still be an important way of connecting with customers.

Markus Schramm, Head of BMW Motorrad said: “Our strategic communication realignment in which we make use of increased live and digital formats will enable us to inspire even more people worldwide for BMW Motorrad products and offers in the future and to approach them in an optimally targeted manner.”

The money spent on big shows is enormous – logistics, staffing, paying for stands to be designed and built, accommodation for staff as well as travel all mount up. Traditionally the big Cologne and Milan shows have been focal points for new model launches, with dealers and press attending to see the next year’s new metal for the first time, which is why manufacturers have usually announced the bulk of their new models in October and November, to coincide with the opening days of the bike shows.

Online launches were used in 2020 to replace these big shows and clearly BMW Motorrad is happy to spend its money on this kind of launch from now on, adding: “This realignment of the communication strategy for new BMW Motorrad products and offers includes in-house BMW Motorrad and BMW Group formats as well as external formats - both live and digital - taking into account the respective defined requirements of the different target groups and media genres.

“By using our own trade fair-independent live and digital formats we cannot only time world premieres and product launches more flexibly, but it also enables more intensive interaction with all target groups as well as an increased information reach.”

Whether other manufacturers will follow BMW’s strategy remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that the pandemic has allowed for motorcycle manufacturers to re-evaluate how they communicate with their customers. Even before Covid-19, manufacturers were starting to live stream their launches to reach a wider audience but the strategy of launching at shows has always meant that companies have had to fight for the limelight with their competitors.

With new launches staggered and budget spent on engaging digital content, it will be interesting to see if manufacturers choose to go back to the traditional way of launching new models at trade fairs when the opportunity returns.

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