Harley-Davidson continues to languish as one of the worst performing S&P 500 stocks of 2015. It's down about 16% year to date. Several analysts have been beating up on the company; insisting the brand is still only popular with aging Baby Boomers and can't resonate overseas.
But don't hit the hand breaks on your Hog just yet! An unexpected, unsolicited, and unusual marketing boost for Harley could be just around the bend: the Scott Walker presidential campaign!
Yes, you read that right. The Wisconsin governor's expected run for the White House could be worth millions in free publicity for the motorcycle icon because Walker plans to make his love for the Milwaukee-based company's products a centerpiece of his campaign. He recently announced that he will ride his 2003 Road King this weekend in Iowa and has plans to do the same in the other early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina. Walker at least appears to be a legitimate rider, and it doesn't hurt that it seems to help him connect with a solid voter base in his blue collar state. Oh, and it kind of looks cool too.
Before you laugh off this little political pageantry wrapped into an investment theory, consider that Walker's photo-ops will feature his and other Harleys in a way that would otherwise cost the company millions in advertising dollars. And we've seem gimmicks like this help candidates before to look less buttoned-down and political. Ronald Reagan had his horse and cowboy hat, Barack Obama had his pickup basketball games, JFK had those family touch football games. And you really can't forget that as soon as then-candidate Bill Clinton played his saxophone on the Arsenio Hall Show, the Clinton campaign really took off. So did sales of saxophones in the months following that according to a national report by the Associated Press published just after President Clinton took office.
But there was really no stock play to execute based on horses, pickup sports, or even saxophones. Hogs are a different animal altogether and you don't have to be a ridiculously optimistic Harley bull to at least consider the possibility that Harley's sales could get a boost as long as the Walker campaign stays revved up.
Of course, there's the biggest variable. If Walker is out of the race before the spring of next year, there probably won't be enough national publicity to accelerate Harley sales. But as he continues to poll well in the crowded Republican field, the chances that he could grab the GOP nomination are relatively decent. And can you imagine if Walker rides a Harley up Pennsylvania Avenue during the Inaugural Parade? If the Secret Service allows it, that would probably be the best thing for Hogs since "Born to be Wild."