Motocross has an Opportunity with Consumer Equity, Safety, & Sustainability
The single greatest area of opportunity for the OHV industry is for our most influential stakeholders to connect with their consumer’s equity and sustainability. It’s no secret that the sports we love are struggling, and often we hear comments that the difficult economic climate and the more expensive 4-stroke are killing it. One can make the case that it is not so, and that rather we struggle because our comprehensive business strategies are failing. After the 2008 Financial Debacle era, USA BMX has emerged as one of the fastest growing sports in the country sanctioning over 14,000 races a year. An industry Motocross versus BMX comparison reveals that they are doing it much better then we are, and that programs like the Kurt Casselli Foundation and a focus on tourism is how we can improve.
Since 1996, the Warnicke Scholarship program has awarded over $425,000 to the members of the BMX racing community. Bob Warnicke was instrumental in growing the sport of BMX through ESPN and other media before his death in 1994. In the 2015, a record breaking $75,000 were awarded to over (70) BMX student college athletes. Funds were raised through (318) USA BMX and BMX Canada events hosting Bob Warnicke Scholarship races. The memorial scholarship fund was created to support the BMX racing community by assisting students and their families in meeting the costs of in undergraduate college education.
The scholarships are awarded to blue and white-collar ambitions alike….And why is this so important? There is some evidence that suggests, that when these student athletes finish college and settle down with their well-paying jobs, they are giving back to the sport that supported them.
Building on this momentum, collegiate BMX has become a reality and so have additional scholarships through a growing number of respected academic institutions. In addition, High School sponsored BMX clubs are beginning to form, with 15 clubs in just the last year through essentially a subsidiary of USA BMX called “Schooled-U BMX”. How is this done? In part its through structure and design.
When a sport is not state sanctioned, the state’s liability insurance is not in play. So for a club sport to take flight, the school must be confident that they are not liable. To address this concern, USA BMX has agreed to include any school participating in a vetted program (such as Schooled–U BMX), on an insurance rider policy statement. This removes liability from the school for USA BMX sanctioned events (practices and races). BMX scholarships are now real and are very obtainable.
The official membership magazine of USA BMX and BMX Canada is called “Pull” and it is exceptional and it’s a reflection of how the entity USA BMX operates. The magazine is very informative and compelling to many stakeholders. Including topics such as step-by-step processes on how to work with communities and agencies (such as Parks & Rec) to build, promote and sustain BMX recreational opportunities. In addition, the magazine is littered with promoting BMX race events around the nation and at times a bit like a vacation or travel destination.
The man behind much of this strategy is arguably USA BMX COO John David. He shares that it is always difficult to have good and exciting locations and to find great partners who add value to the participant and to the customer, which is their most important asset. Good partners have a passion for their community and that gets USA BMX excited about being there. They always want to give something more then just a BMX race. They want to give them an experience.
John David goes on to say “my best advice is a rule that I live by, not only in business but in life and that is to create meaningful partnerships. That means that not only does USA BMX succeed, but when we go to a community or work with a sports commission or work with a Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), we deliver. And when we get their support, we put pressure on ourselves as a staff to bring the numbers that we say that we are going to bring. To make them look good in their own communities.”
The larger Monster Supercross and Lucas Oil Motocross venues probably could not agree anymore with Mr. David’s sentiment. However, in the case of USA BMX the participant and the customer are often one in the same thing. You see BMX mainstream and grassroots are very much synonymous. It’s a lot more like Little League then what random sanctioned race one can participate on “Any Sunday”. If your riding BMX, you’re probably USA BMX. Comparatively, we are fragmented and all over the place.
Earlier this year a young, spirited, and aspiring amateur rider received media attention, as he was pretty quick to call Loretta Lynn’s a “joke” and that it was not a proper gage of talent because it was “flat”. His temperament was additionally concerning as he indicated that he was not going to waste his time if he didn’t have a respectable return on investment. Comparing this young man’s attitude versus other youth sports, this should be considered alarming. Something is “lost” in the sports we love and perhaps there is a need to create a new definition of “making it”. Through the help of a Motocross Scholarship, why not strive to be a successful family man, working professional, volunteer and ambassador?
This young man highlights a number of topics that are noteworthy. One, he wants to be noted for his ability to ride a motorcycle well on a consistent basis, which he feels the current amateur motocross platform or structure does not offer. Two, he has an “all or nothing” persona about what it means to be a competitive motocross racer and how he should make a living.
The structure in which USA BMX versus amateur motocross or off-road racing operates is much different. USA BMX has a comprehensive points system for all of its riders and races across the nation. Amateur to Pro and local to national races, points are always accumulated. The bigger the event the bigger the points, however with local races being held every Friday, Saturday and Sunday it’s pretty hard for a well performing local rider to not get noticed. Which also makes it harder to sandbag by the way, because a race win is the same as anywhere in the country. In addition a track operator has the authority to move a rider up if they feel it’s appropriate, and it does happen.
While motocross, off-road “scrambles” and trials have roots going back to 1906, our sports struggle compared to ball sports or BMX with growth, sustainability, collegiate scholarships and safety for its stakeholders. Perhaps with the push to make Motocross and Supercross so mainstream, the industry lost sight of its customer at a grassroots level. Consistently we have been loosing our historic and culturally important closed course and open riding areas, and really cool support programs.
While some businesses have diversified (often within the action sports industry with sports like BMX) and pushed for additional economies of scale through globalization, they have waivered with relevant market-based solutions – perhaps analyzing it incorrectly as an opportunity cost. In addition our most influential nonprofit generates millions a year in revenue and has millions in investable assets. Unfortunately, for too long our most influential stakeholders have not offered a channel for scholarships for athletes and grants to invest in OHV economic impact studies.
Suddenly the Kurt Casseli Foundation (KC66) looks very important and becomes a paradigm shift in the right direction. The mission of KC66 in short is all about safety and scholarships, which our sports most desperately need. As enthusiasts we have acknowledged the calculated risks involved in our sports, however negligence or inability to evolve should not be considered a risk factor.
For some reason, at all levels and all over the world we are struggling with simple safety precautions and standards. We are doing things like going the wrong direction on the track, crashing into heavy equipment that are still operating on the track and not making specific efforts to keep our youngest riders safe. Most recently Matt Moss crashed into a skid steer that was at the other end of 90’ tabletop, and Colton Haaker made mention of mini bikes out on the Glen Helen race track at the same time the worlds fastest were out zipping around – clearly not safe.
If KC66 can connect with race events, organizations and tracks the way BMX has with their scholarship program, significant improvements can be made in our community. What if our community began to make ambassadors, like BMX has, through the KC66 Foundation at (70) collegiate motocross athletes a year? Think of a young, educated John-Erik Burleson and what he did for KTM North American, and now multiply that by (70). What could that do for our community? Hypothetically, how cool would it be to have a track that meets safety standards? One that has multi level controls that keep our young riders safe? Parents could travel to a track and with a higher level of confidence knowing that their kids can ride safely.
USA BMX promotes itself through a number of public agencies, often with local communities and these agencies supporting the build and long-term sustainability of a track. This maybe assisted with economic impact studies from the tourism sports industry. There is plenty of indication that local communities have been involved with the closing of our OHV recreational opportunities without fully understanding their negative economic impact of that decision. We desperately need our most influential stakeholders, nonprofit and for-profit organizations, to create a channel for local and state advocacy groups to conduct their own OHV economic impact to a region. These studies cost real money, often more then a small state organization or club can afford.
It’s a simple notion, that business leaders spend money to make money. And somehow as a community we have failed to reinvest in ourselves and to grow our own equity effectively. The Kurt Caselli Foundation is a trend in the right direction for our community and our industry. It’s an investment in our future. Perhaps it will encourage additional market based solutions, like a grant funding source for OHV economic studies through out our country at the state level.