How Babes Ride Out became a social media marketing phenomenon
The first Babes Ride Out women’s motorcycle rider meet-up was an informal gathering of friends who also happen to love riding together. Organized by Ashmore Ellis, copy manager at Stance, and Anya Violet, women's design director at RVCA, they expected 15 women to answer the open invitation to ride and camp out at Borrego Springs, Calif. Fifty women showed up through the power of social media, some from as far as New York.
For the second event in 2014, more than 500 women rode out. For the last event held October 23, 2015, in Joshua Tree, more than 1,200 women checked in—some hailing from Australia, London, and Japan. The event was covered by endemic bloggers and digital magazines, to mainstream news outlets such as NBC Los Angeles and Marie Claire magazine.
Women riding motorcycles and camping in the desert is not a new thing. What was the domino that set up Babes Ride Out, a women's motorcycle meet-up, to grow from a grassroots semi-local event to exponential reach on a global scale?
Violet and Ellis lay the groundwork about what caused Babes Ride Out to catch like wildfire.
In PART 2 of this study, we look at the importance of brand partnerships in helping build Babes Ride Out
Where: Joshua Tree
When: October 23, 2015
What: Babes Ride Out, an annual motorcycle ride out and campout for women
Who: Founders Ashmore Ellis and Anya Violet. McKenna Taylor, Marketing Partnerships & Culture Manager for Skullcandy, and Anna Sherwood, RVCA Women's Marketing.
Format: Friday night welcome party hosted by 805 Beers, including an astronomy show, movie night, and food. Old friends reconnect and Instagram friends meet in real life for the first time. Saturday morning, everyone grabs a route map and chooses one of nine different destinations, varying in distance and difficulty. Saturday evening the riders return for dinner, drinks, live band concert and DJ set that goes late into the night. Sunday morning, after everyone says has said their goodbyes, the campsite is empty by 11am.
Why did you choose Joshua Tree as the last location?
Anya Violet: Joshua Tree is one of the most beautiful places on the earth. There are countless roads to ride out there that take you from desert to mountains, to weird art installations, through national parks, and out to rivers and lakes.
Ashmore Ellis: We made Joshua Tree our home for several logistical reasons. The location is a perfect distance and offers amazing rides from major airports in San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Arizona, etc… All of these locations have rental agencies so women can fly in, do not have the time to take off work, rent a bike and still get in one hell of a ride. Joshua Tree also has a ton of day rides that are all uniquely different… Joshua Tree is also a dark sky community and is so dark you can see satellites orbiting the earth. The space we rent is a private property, which aids in obtaining permits and licenses from the county, which is crucial! Did we mention the sunsets?! Also, possible alien activity.
It wasn't necessarily what we did, but rather what the attendees of our first event did. Out of the 50 women who attended, 751 photos were posted with our hashtag #babesinborrego. It goes to show when the environment and experience is unique and the demographic is right, things catch fire on social media.
What role did Instagram play in spreading the news about the event year after year?
Violet: Without Instagram I believe our events would be half the size. The majority of our riders connect through Instagram. It's just such a great platform to get a glimpse of what other people are into. You start to find things you have in common, which make you want to hang out in-person. It's a pretty simple recipe, actually. I think once things over-complicate themselves they become obsolete really fast.
Ellis: Instagram and a blog were our only source of communication up until recently. It wasn't necessarily what we did, but rather what the attendees of our first event did. Out of the 50 women who attended, 751 photos were posted with our hashtag #babesinborrego. It goes to show when the environment and experience is unique and the demographic is right, things catch fire on social media.
Women are not ashamed of their enthusiasm and are the most active on social media. When we experience something we believe in, we want to talk about it and share it. Those 50 women inspired 500 women to attend the next year, and those 500 inspired 1,200 this past year. It's going to be amazing to see whom those 1200 inspire to attend Babes Ride Out 4.
How was the event promoted? Were there any specific influencers who contributed to taking the visibility of the event to the next level?
Violet: We have not done any paid advertising and it is 100% correct to say that it has grown totally organically through word of mouth and social media… Babes Ride Out is what it is because of the women who attend. It is an amazing atmosphere and it is simply our (Ashmore and I) job to provide the environment.
Ellis: Total organic. Paid advertising would never feel right for something like this. We do not use influencers or programs to encourage women to talk about it. That message goes infinitely further than forcing someone to post about it. The motorcycling community does attract some very strong independent types that organically fall into an influential status, but they express their experience at our event however they want. Our main objective is to create and facilitate a safe environment that is riding focused.
How do you measure the success of the Babes Ride Out Events? What does success of this event mean to you?
Violet: We track the stats to help us get better and better at providing a fun experience at each event. However, I don’t really measure success that way. I measure success by hearing that women were encouraged to learn to ride motorcycles after coming to one of our events. It's not just our goal to connect more women to riding, we want to encourage them to be skilled riders and safe riders!
Ellis: We track EVERYTHING! Our analytics always surprise me and we love sharing those with our partners. Success to us is measured by the smaller and more personal things. At our Zine Release and Gallery Show, I met a woman who came to Babes Ride Out 3 and it was her first time doing something on her own. After she felt the freedom of self-reliance, she took more trips on and off the bike that she was scared to do prior. That is all it takes to make us feel this event is a success…
That excitement when we open gates and see motorcycles as far as the eye can see coming our way is incredible. Seeing people meet for the first time that may have become friends online and have finally connected in real life, seeing moms with their daughters enjoying the event, and overall attitude of the ladies make these moments worth every single second of work.