Vespa’s Worst Co-Promotion Ever

If you need more proof that VespaUSA is very nearly criminally clueless: co-promotion with Havaianas flip-flops.

I know, people ride in flip-flops all the time. But to PROMOTE that? To ENDORSE it? That’s just plain irresponsible. I’d love to see a flood of tweets to @Havaianas and @VespaUSA from safe scooterists. And as @scooterism points out: “Aside from safety, this is why drivers don’t take us seriously.” (thanks, Eric, for leading the charge!)

And don’t give me “Havaianas makes other shoes” and “You don’t have to wear them on your scooter,” Havaianas is famous for flip-flops, the ad shows flip-flops and a Vespa, their “Make your own” system only offers flip-flops, and the “other shoes” they make are also totally scooter-inappropriate anyway. On top of that, the copy says “You can stay in-style in your Make Your Own Havaianas and be eco chic on a brand new Vespa!” which certainly implies that you’d do both at the same time.

11 replies on “Vespa’s Worst Co-Promotion Ever”

  1. I don’t think promotion of safety is anywhere on the Piaggio playlist. My favorite modern efforts of Vespa Promotion is the 2000 or 2001 calendar with B&W pictures of girls riding ETs on the beach. They were not wearing appropriate footwear.

    If anyone has a copy of that calendar, I’ll give ya 10 bucks for it! I threw mine away.

  2. Glad you agree with me on this one. A lot of people (on MV, of course) are pulling the whole, “They’re not forcing anyone to ride in flip flops” defense.

    Vespa USA’s predictable defense, on FB: ” We are advocating fun in the sun. Vespa and Havaianas go hand-in-hand with summer and bbqs and the beach. No one said hop on your Vespa without proper gear.”

    I think there’s a line between depicting an image of carefree riding and the ideal but unrealistic scootering lifestyle (that most manufacturers promote) and implicitly endorsing wearing flip flops while riding. VespaUSA has crossed it.

    Clearly not DOT flip flops!

  3. I’m thinkin’ OK, then, “armored Havaianas”! A DIY project complete with YouTube how to vids! Anything like this that gets scooter attention and comments is a good thing.

  4. Yeah, honestly, I can totally get behind the calendar. A Piaggio calendar is tradition dating back to the first Vespas, a European tradition, where riders are more experienced, drivers are used to scooters, cars are reasonably-sized, and traffic is designed for scooters.

    But selling that tradition in America is totally irresponsible, and their defense (quoted by Eric above) is worthless, because they couldn’t come closer to saying “hop on your Vespa without proper gear” than the wording in the ad.

    I can see both sides of the helmet debate, I can understand the argument of personal responsibility, I can understand the argument of ‘selling freedom’ and taking artistic liberties in sales materials, I’ll make fun of that kind of stuff all day but I won’t be outraged about it. THIS steps well beyond that line, it’s a marketing campaign that seems almost purposefully designed to undo what little safety education exists in America to sell bikes based on an unrealistic ideal. It bothers me that Vespa doesn’t sell fullface helmets and shows models riding scooters in heels in a photos shoot. But it angers me that they’re coming right out and telling American scooterists to ride in quarter-inch-thick foam soles attached to your feet with a plastic string. Riding barefoot is safer than flip-flops. WALKING is dangerous in flip-flops.

    Even Harley is careful to never show a rider without a (flimsy) helmet in an ad, and they’re supposed to be big-time rebels.

  5. The best part is the color scheme. My orange and blue DOT flip flop t-shirt is my favorite and the orange and blue of the speefight2 is bad ass.

    I’m tempted to call them out for trademark trampling of your artwork!

  6. Ha, Mark, you’re right, they HAVE done that, too, and that’s pretty messed up, yet somehow that doesn’t even seem as bad because it’s just so obvious that you shouldn’t drink (to excess anyway) and ride. Again, people do it everyday, but it’s clearly illegal and everyone knows it. Flipflopgate somehow seems like an endorsement of not taking riding safety seriously, something that should be at the core of PiaggioUSA’s marketing.

  7. To be fair, too, there have been alcohol-branded Vespas and Vespas appearing in alcohol ads (a champagne ad with a crate of champagne on the back of the scooter comes to mind) but I’m not sure how many of those are actually co-branded and how many were initiated by the liquor/beer company. There are certainly many custom scooters made by consumers with alcohol themes, and there’s nothing Vespa can do about that.

    With motorcycle and auto racing having a history of liquor/beer sponsors, seeing a beer logo on a scooter somehow just makes more sense, but it is a weird idea and pretty irresponsible. It’s strange that tobacco seems to come under fire more than alcohol, though both have been banned in some places (NASCAR goes back and forth every few years, it seems)

  8. Screw it, I’m buying a pair, then I’m going to go rent a Vespa for Amerivespa in a few weeks with them on. Then when I rip half my big toe off I’m going to sue the shit out of both of them for implying it was a good idea.

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