By Bud Wilkinson of RIDE-CT.com
There’s a well-known phrase that you’ve probably heard: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
It was coined in 1967 by graphic designer and copywriter Charles Rosner for an advertising campaign that promoted VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), the national anti-poverty service program started by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. The famous slogan, which has become part of our vernacular, popped to mind as I mulled with increasing discomfort a press release that arrived Wednesday evening from Harley-Davidson.
The release touted a promotional partnership between Harley-Davidson and the MillerCoors brewery. It began, “Born across the street from each other in Milwaukee, Miller High Life and Harley-Davidson have been making timeless American products for 110 years. Now they’re making something together.”
Bill Davidson, vice president of the Harley-Davidson Museum and great-grandson of company co-founder William A. Davidson, kicked off a multi-year co-branding effort between the two companies on Wednesday by visiting the brewery and helping make an actual batch of Miller High Life beer.
In addition to making the special batch of brew, Miller will sell its suds with cans and packaging that display the Harley logo, while Harley will build some customized bikes with Miller High Life graphics that will then be shown at participating retail stores.
When the release arrived nearly two days ago, my first thought was “OK, maybe worth a mention” here, but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered about the wisdom of the partnership; aside from the obvious potential monetary gains.
Bikes and beer don’t make for a safe mix. Don’t get me wrong, I drink and I like beer, although my taste runs more to Smithwick’s, Blue Moon and Harpoon than Miller. I just make damn sure that if I’m riding, I don’t drink. And if I’m drinking, I don’t ride. Ever.
The problem is that many motorcycle operators do drink and ride. Another press release, issued on May 6 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as a reminder for drivers to “Share the Road,” noted that in 2011 a whopping “42 percent of motorcycle riders who died in single-vehicle crashes had blood alcohol levels or .08 or higher, higher than any other type of driver.”
A total of 4,612 motorcyclists died on America’s roads in 2011, so you do the math.
Another NHTSA survey in 2009 similarly revealed that “motorcycle riders were more than twice as likely as passenger vehicle drivers to be drunk” – 5.6 percent to 2.3 percent.
These stats don’t merely suggest, but flat-out scream that “riding while intoxicated” is a problem in the motorcycling community. By teaming up with a brewery in a cross-promotion, Harley-Davidson not only isn’t part of the solution, it becomes a big part of the problem itself.