Sturgis Motorcycle Rally: Here’s How Much Money City Pours Into Promoting the Rally

by Clayton Edwards

For the last 81 years, motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world have flocked to the rally in Sturgis. In recent years, the 10-day event has seen crowds of nearly 500,000. The event is always a financial boom for the small town in the Black Hills as well as the surrounding region. So, the City of Sturgis regularly spends money to spread the word about the rally. It makes perfect sense that they would want to get the word out to as many riders as possible. However, the amount of money that they spent this year might be surprising to some.

According to Keloland, a Sioux Falls-based news outlet, the City of Sturgis spent around $100,000 to promote the motorcycle rally. However, they aren’t alone in the funding. The report states that the city and state split the cost down the middle. Each entity puts up about $100,000. Then, they divide the $200,000 total. The bulk of the money goes toward the promotion of the rally. Between the city and state, they spend about $150,000 on promotion. The rest of the money goes to “leisure activities and non-rally events.”

A Closer Look at Promotional Spending for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

 Sturgis’ City Manager, Daniel Ainslie, had a more precise figure. According to him, the city spends $85,000 to promote the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally every year. They give an additional $25,000 to non-rally advertising for Sturgis.

Sturgis, South Dakota houses under 7,000 people when the motorcycle rally isn’t happening. So, many would be surprised to hear that the six-square-mile town can afford to spend that much to promote the event. However, the advertising expenses pay off in a big way.

The Keloland report stated that the city of Sturgis pulled in $997,000 from last years’ motorcycle rally. Additionally, the rally generated $159,425 in tourism taxes for the South Dakota Department of Tourism. That tax is the 1.5% tax applied to hotels, campgrounds, and things of that nature.

So, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally pays for the city’s annual promotional budget and then some.

This year will be especially good for both the city and state. By late July, the advertising had resulted in over 21,000 hotel and campground bookings.

Early data shows that 30,000 more vehicles rolled into Sturgis for the motorcycle rally this year than for last year’s event. In fact, some are estimating a total attendance of over 700,000 people before the event ends on August 15. So, the city and state stand to make even more money this year than they did in 2020.

So, the city of Sturgis spent nearly $100,000 to promote the event. However, they stand to make over $1 million from the crowd. That sounds like a solid investment.