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Archive for Breaking Into the Mainstream

Is 2009 The Year that the Lucas Oil AMA Motocross Nationals Make it Big?

Is 2009 The Year that the Lucas Oil AMA Motocross Nationals Make it Big?

2008 was big for the AMA Nationals, 2009 will be bigger. Photo by Paul Buckley

The Motocross Nationals have had a tough struggle in recent years. Between mismanaged promotion, loss and lack of title sponsors, the dominance of Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart, and being overshadowed by Supercross, It is incredible that the sport of professional outdoor motocross has survived at all.

Thankfully, it has survived, and for 2009, the landscape of Professional Motocross is looking extremely prosperous. New management, new television packages, great competition and celebrity involvement in the sport are all helping to boost the popularity and exposure of Professional Motocross, and because of this, I believe that 2009 will be the year that the Motocross Nationals make it big.

New Management

MX Sports is running the 2009 Nationals.

For years, the Motocross Nationals have been struggling under the joint leadership of the NPG and the AMA. This relationship has just not worked out for the sport. While they didn’t necessarily do a bad job, they didn’t do a great job either, and as a result, the Nationals floundered when compared to the rapid growth seen by Supercross.

Thankfully, for 2009, MX Sports, has taken the reigns of the nationals, and I am excited to see the same team who runs the Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Nationals work their magic on the professional nationals.

Some have expressed criticism or doubt at MX Sports’ ability to run a Professional race, as up to this point they have only had experience running amateur nationals. However, I am faithful in the fact that they will be able to bring their skill and professionality into the Professional Motocross Nationals.

Update: In the writing of this post, it slipped my mind that the same people who run MX Sports, are also responsible for running the Steel City and High Point pro nationals for a number of years under the name Racer Productions. My mistake, hope you'll forgive me.

In fact, their expertise has already helped the Nationals. They have secured a new title sponsor (Lucas Oils), and an incredible domestic and international TV package (more on that later). I am really looking forward to seeing MX Sports bring the Pro Nationals into the mainstream and showing the world how incredible of a sport motocross is. For years, our sport has been in dire need of a good leadership team to steer the sport in the right direction, and I believe we have finally found it in MX Sports.

Domestic Television Package

The 2009 tv package for the nationals is awesome. Photo by Lee Jordan.

The 2009 Domestic TV Package for the Nationals is awesome. Photo by Lee Jordan.

For many years, one of the major aspects which set Supercross apart from Motocross has been the television packages. Supercross has almost always had better packages with more live races and more races aired on major networks. In the meantime, Motocross has been stuck on sub-prime stations stuck in terrible time slots and simply not reaching the audience it should be.

All that has changed for 2009.

Motocross will have an incredible Domestic TV package for 2009, and I believe that it may be just what the sport needs to make it big. We’ve yet to see exactly how well produced the individual races will be, however, one thing we know for sure is that they will have an incredible air time schedule.

Here’s how the 2009 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship TV schedule will look:

  • 3 Live Coverage events on NBC
  • 3 Live Coverage events on Speed
  • Remaining races have same-day coverage on Speed (450s) and Tuesday coverage (250fs)
  • First motos shown on the web

This package should help get the nationals out to more people, in a more timely fashion, and with a more professional presentation. As a heavy internet user, I am very excited for the first moto web coverage, and look for them to expand this avenue more in the future.

However, this setup is far from perfect. I believe that in order for Motocross to truly benefit from the change, there needs to be more live events, more events on NBC, same day coverage for both the 450s and the 250s.

In addition, there needs to be internet coverage of both motos. I understand that in the current format, the promoters are trying to leverage the first moto internet coverage to increase TV viewers, especially for the second moto. But, in order to truly take advantage of the many benefits internet content distribution can yield, the promoters need to fully embrace it by putting both motos on the internet.

International TV Package

Chad Reed is a foreign rider who has made in big in the USA. Photo by GuyB.

Chad Reed is a foreign rider who has made it big in the USA. Photo by buy generic cialis online without a prescription

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In addition to the surprisingly good domestic TV Package, MX Sports has also secured, for the first time in the history of AMA motocross, an international TV package.

There are an incredible number of reasons why this is good for the sport. It increases the visibility of the sport as a whole throughout the world, increases the potential market for sponsors of the series, and exposes more children to the sport, ultimately increasing the number of motocross riders working, training and practicing to make it as a professional Motocross racer in the United States.

According to Nick McCabe, head of Commercial Development for MX Sports:

Making our series accessible to our international fans was a priority for MX Sports. We want motocross enthusiasts all over the world to have access to our programming and racing action.

This will ultimately make the AMA Motocross Nationals a more recognizable brand throughout the world and will build its popularity both here and abroad.

The full details of all the international television packages are not known at this time, but here are the few details we do know.

  • Broadcasted on the Motors TV, Nuvolari, Fox Australia, ESPN Brazil, and Greenlight TV networks
  • 430 homes throughout the world will be reached via the various broadcast networks
  • This deal will reach people in the European union, Russia, the Orient, Brazil, Australia, and more

Hopefully the international coverage of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championships continues to grow and bring the great competition to the rest of the world.

Great Competition

The 2009 nationals will be more competitive than in 2008. Photo by Paul Buckley.

The 2009 Nationals will be more competitive than in 2008. Photo by Paul Buckley

The big talk throughout the Supercross season has been James Stewart and Chad Reed’s decisions to not race the Motocross Nationals this year. While Chad’s choice is nothing new, James’ was slightly surprisingly.

Regardless, the fact of the matter is that the two fastest motocross riders in the world will not be riding the 2009 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championships.

And yet I still believe that this year will hold some of the best competition we have seen in many years. With the dominating riders taking the summer off, they are leaving the series wide open to the other riders to battle it out for the win. In recent years, we have seen Stewart and Carmichael take off for the win while the remaining riders battle for 2nd and 3rd. While these battles have been great, they have been under publicized due to the fact that they were for the runner up, and not for the winning position.

However, for 2009 these same riders will be battling for the win each weekend making the season one of the most exciting in years. Ryan Villopoto, MIke Alessi, Davi Millsaps, Andrew Short, Broc Hepler, Josh Grant, and many more riders will be duking it out all summer long for the National Championship. There is no clear leader in this pack, and I can’t wait to see who will come out as a winner.

While there is no obvious favorite heading into the series, I believe that Ryan Villopoto will transfer his speed and success from the MX Lites class into the Motocross class and once again have a phenomenal National season.

Celebrity Involvement

Brad Pitt's Pink Project is getting involved in Motocross in 2009. Photo from VitalMX.

Brad Pitt's Pink Project is getting involved in Motocross in 2009. Photo from VitalMX.

For years, celebrity interest and involvement in motocross has risen steadily. This trend has continued for 2009. The most recent development in this trend was Brad Pitt’s partnership with Carey Hart’s Hart & Huntington/Rockstar Energy team for the 2009 New Orleans Supercross. In an attempt to raise money and awareness of the devastation still present in New Orleans,

Pitt’s Pink Project helped support Hart’s team. The Pink Project is a subset of the Make it Right Foundation and the goal is to help rebuild New Orleans Lower 9th Ward. I find it incredibly inspiring that Brad Pitt chose the motocross community as an avenue to raise awareness of this project, and I believe that it is a sign of things to come and a representation of the power within the motocross community.

2009 is Going to Be Big

2009 is going to be big. Photo by FaeryBoots.

2009 is going to be big. Photo by FaeryBoots.

2009 is going to be a very big year for the Motocross Nationals. There are a number of growing factors which are all going to help boost the popularity of the Nationals to a whole new level. The competition will be fierce, the television packages superb and the promotion incredible. I am very excited to see how it will all play out, and I cannot wait for the upward spiral of our sport to continue.

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Does the AMA Hate Supercross?

This post was not planned, it didn't go through draft after draft until absolutely perfect. While researching for another post, the troubles I had while doing the research led to the following conclusions.

What the heck is the AMA doing with professional Supercross? Truthfully, I doubt they even know. Our sport has incredible potential. The riders are talented, the bikes trick and the tracks technical. However, it seems like the AMA is doing everything they can in order to mess it up and ensure that our sport does not succeed.

Branding

SX Logo

I understand that the AMA is not a marketing company, but a promoter, but still, they should know how to brand a series. But it is apparent that they don't. The “Supercross” logo looks nothing like the motocross one. If I didn't race and didn't know a lot about the sport, I'd never know they were ran by the same company and were essentially part of the same series.

Furthermore, the AMA has branded the entire Supercross series so heavily towards Monster, that it seems as if the series is “owned” by Monster. I respect what Monster does and I love that they support the sport, but there needs to be separation between the event and the sponsors. In no condition should the sponsors become the series. Yet this is exactly what has happened. What do we do when Monster folds or pulls their sponsorship? Completely rebrand the sport with another sponsor? Awesome idea. Then the kid who watched “Monster Energy Supercross” last year will have no idea what “{Insert New Sponsor Here} Supercross” is next year.

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Breaking Into the Mainstream {Part 3: Is Supercross the Right Move for the Sport?}

Note: Before reading this post, be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

Breaking Into the Mainstream {Part 3: Is Supercross the Right Move for the Sport?}

In the previous post in this series, I outlined the reasons why Supercross would allow our sport the growth it needs in order to go mainstream. In this post, I will talk about whether or not Supercross is right for our sport.

Supercross is the fancier, more dramatic, and “fluffier” version of Motocross. It wasn't invented until years after motocross, and the truth is that it has become more of a show in recent years. The format is better suited to television, and it makes the industry much more money than Motocross does.

Motocross is beloved by hard core fans. Paul Buckley Photo.
-Photo by Paul Buckley.

However, regardless of money, Motocross is the sport for the hard core fans. Professional Motocross events happen on the same tracks as amateur ones, and the events resemble the same one that hardcore fans participate in week in and week out. This allows amateur riders to personally connect with Motocross riders and events which is why Motocross races are a favorite among hard core fans of the sport.

Supercross Abandons the Fans

Outdoor Motocross draws large crowds of dedicated fans. Paul Buckley Photo.
-Photo by Paul Buckley.

Supercross abandons the fans. I'm sure some of you right now are wondering what I am talking about. I listed several reasons in Part 2 why Supercross was better for the fans. The difference, however, is that Supercross is not friendly for the hard core fans who actually ride motocross. Supercross is a great way to bring new fans to the sport, but Motocross keeps them interested in the long term.

What keeps fans interested in outdoor Motocross in the long term? As I previously mentioned, it is the connection with which the fans can make to their favorite pros which keeps them loving the outdoor Motocross Nationals. Just like any good piece of literature, Motocross fans can identify with the struggles, triumphs, tragedies and emotions felt by pros while riding on an outdoor motocross track. This deep personal connection leaves them craving more races and is what leads them to battle the elements year in and year out to watch outdoor Motocross races.

Supercross simply cannot match this connection to the fans. Sure, there are some local Supercross tracks, and amateur Arenacross events allow riders to ride almost the same tracks which are used in Supercross. But, the truth is that most riders will never ride a professional caliber Supercross track, and if they do, they will not be able to carry any type of speed and rhythm. By nature, fans simply cannot connect with Supercross as well as they do with Motocross.

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Breaking Into the Mainstream {Part 2: The Three Pillars of a Mainstream Sport}

Before reading this post, be sure to check out Part 1: Introduction to find out more about this five part mini-series.

The Three Pillars of a Mainstream Sport

Motocross is at an important part in our history where we must decide whether or not to break into the mainstream, or continue to grow slowly and maintain the strong core fan base which we have built.

Before we can truly examine the effects which the transition to the mainstream will have on the sport, it is important to analyze the three pillars of support which are present in every mainstream sport in America and throughout the world.

Going mainstream will require 3 pillars of support for our sport. First of all, more fans are needed. While the motocross community is currently of a healthy size, we are no where near the size of football, baseball, or even soccer. In addition, motocross will need more advertising money to fund the sport as it grows, and a better television deal to get the sport out to more telelvision viewers.

The only way for the sport to build these three pillars is to move away from outdoor motocross and focus on Supercross. While this transition will provide newer fans with a more enjoyable experience, mainstream companies with more advertising options, and a more feasible live TV setup, it will also leave the hardcore fans in the dust.

Supercross Will Attract New Fans

The sport of Motocross will require many new fans to go mainstream. Photo by Paul Buckley.
-Photo by Paul Buckley.

For new fans, supercross provides a much more enjoyable experience. The events are held inside, where climates are controlled, food and bathrooms readily available. Furthermore, supercross events are generally held near or in large cities. Meaning that a weekend trip to watch a supercross can be incorporated into a larger excursion. Motocross, on the other had, is held outside, and fans are susceptible to the harsh summer weather. At almost all of the outdoor professional motocros events I have attended, it has either been scorching hot, or heavily raining. Neither of which are prime environments for newer fans. For the dedicated hardcore motocross fan who is already a fan of the sport, braving the elements in order to see a race. However, for newer fans, the harsh weather conditions at outdoor motocross races will quickly drive them away from the sport. If you are not intensely interested in motocross as a sport, than going to watch an outdoor motocross race is simply not worth it.

Weather is not the only way that Supercross provides a much more enjoyable experience to new fans. Supercross guarantees a specific seat. You can come when you want, leave when you want, and your seat is still yours. Finding a good spot to watch Motocross, on the other hand, can entail climbing hills, pushing through large crowds of people and holding on to your foot on the fence for dear life, because, if you leave, there are more than enough people to fill the gap instantly. Once again, for hard core fans, this is not a problem at all. In fact, this is one of the joys of going to the nationals. For newer fans, finding a spot to watch at an outdoor motocross race is simply not worth the trouble.

As a result of these stark differences between Supercross and motocross, Supercross is the “gateway” drug of motocross in that it attracts new fans to the sport. Conversely, in order to go mainstream, motocross needs to attract (many) new fans. This can only be accomplished by putting more of our industry's effort and industry behind the sport of Supercross.

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Breaking Into the Mainstream, A Five Part Mini-Series {Part 1: Introduction}

Breaking Into the Mainstream

The sport of motocross is at a crucial crossroads. The sport is gaining popularity, press coverage and active participants. We are quickly approaching the point where we must make a decision. As a sport, are we going to “go for gold,” and try to break into the mainstream? Or are we going to let our sport grow as it has been, slowly, but steadily. The decisions made by the promoters, sponsors and organizers of professional motocross events in the next few years will shape our future forever.

Trey Canard. Paul Buckley Photo.
-Photo by Paul Buckley.

In this five post series titled Breaking Into the Mainstream I will begin to examine what going mainstream will mean for the sport, and whether or not it is truly good for the hard core fans of motocross.

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