MV Agusta Responds To Superveloce 800 Ad Campaign Uproar

Italian manufacturer’s CEO stands behind recent controversial ad campaign.

MV Agusta’s ad campaign
MV Agusta’s ad campaign for the limited-edition F3 Superveloce 800 has been met with backlash for imagery of a naked woman atop the motorcycle.MV Agusta

The latest ad campaign from Italian manufacturer MV Agusta has stirred up the motorcycle world for its depiction in a video of a nude woman on the company's latest machine.

As the number of women riders grows year after year (according to the Motorcycle Industry Council, women accounted for 19 percent of new motorcycle owners in 2018), manufacturers have become more inclusive in their imagery and marketing materials. It's now the norm in campaigns to see female riders ripping rather than serving as non-active props or placeholders on the pillion. Marketing is mirroring reality.

Kawasaki 2019 ZX-6R
Kawasaki’s 2019 ZX-6R advertising shows a female rider shredding on a racetrack.Kawasaki

Earlier this week, MV Agusta launched a new campaign for its limited-edition F3 Superveloce 800. In the accompanying 60-second video, a nude woman is shown writhing suggestively atop the motorcycle. The backlash was almost instantaneous from all genders.

We reached out to MV Agusta’s CEO Timur Sadarov to find out why the brand went in this direction and asked for his comment on the negative response.

What was the motivation behind the latest ad campaign?

Our slogan is "Motorcycle Art" so we treat our creations as works of art. The Superveloce 800 video is an artistic expression of the director who wanted to underline the relationship, passion, intimacy, and sensuality between human and machine.

Now that the company has seen the backlash, is it standing behind the campaign or do those in charge view this direction as a mistake?

No, we don’t because this video is an artistic expression of the director. We fully stand behind the creator and director.

With more females riding now than ever, is MV Agusta focused on growing its presence in that market?

Absolutely. With our new product strategy, we are fully committed to design and develop bikes that are appealing to women but clearly with MV Agusta DNA.

Pirelli shifted the photography in its iconic calendars away from sexy imagery. Did that give pause to those in charge of MV Agusta's marketing?

We have our own ideas and our own vision. We will continue to collaborate with artists who, like us, see the world differently and are not afraid to take risks to express their individualism and ideas.

woman riding Triumph motorcycle
Showing women riding is arguably the best strategy for selling motorcycles to women riders.Triumph Motorcycles

Many riders, PR professionals, photographers, and other journalists have voiced their opinions about the campaign. Few who have commented see it as artistic expression. In hindsight, would showing a woman riding a motorcycle, rather than apparently making love to it, have produced more positive results?

For decades, Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli produced an annual calendar with images of barely clothed and/or nude female models taken by some of the most famous photographers in the world. Yet the company decided in recent years to move away from such imagery to focus more on their subjects’ strengths and accomplishments. The 2019 calendar depicts four women pursuing their personal and professional passions.

There have been other takes on the woman-with-motorcycle image. In 2012, Portland, Oregon, Ducati dealer MotoCorsa produced the “MANigale” photo series, in which men posed in women's clothes with a Ducati 1199 Panigale. The spoof was the brainchild of Arun Sharma, MotoCorsa founder. Sharma, who is no longer a part of MotoCorsa, was asked for comment on the current MV Agusta campaign.

“It’s stupid!" Sharma said. "I get that somewhere there’s some guy that’s saying, ‘Dammit, we’re Italian! Let’s show off our machismo!’ But those days off died a million years ago, and I can’t believe they can’t figure out a smarter way to do it. I was at EICMA when [MV Agusta] showcased the bike and it was the most beautiful bike there. Why take away from that?”

MotoCorsa MANigale
MotoCorsa MANigale photoshoot poked fun at the dealership's earlier photo series showing women with the same Ducati.MotoCorsa

This might be the most attention MV Agusta has received in years. Whether standing behind the controversial campaign will have long-term repercussions for the brand remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: Nobody’s talking about the bike.