Recently, a young rider who I designed a resume for asked me how I became so good at getting sponsors and if I had any advice for him. Although I was very humbled by what he had just said, I didn’t have an exact answer for him right away. My “Plan A” advice was to tell him to keep chasing his dreams, working hard and he will be successful. My “Plan B” advice was telling him to stay in school, go to college and get a real job. Real jobs aren’t any fun though, so I went with my “Plan A” advice.
When I started racing in the amateur ranks, my Dad supported our racing 100%. We owned a family Harley-Davidson dealership and he had his fair share of contacts through that business that enabled us to get items at good prices. As I came up through the ranks, I took the initiative to go out on my own and start my own relationship with my sponsors. I thought it was cool talking to people who worked in the industry and it was even cooler getting free stuff. It’s every kids dream. I was getting free product simply because I was fast on a motorcycle. Hell yeah, I could get used to this. It was a mini plateau of success for me I guess you could say. A sign that I was starting to make it in the sport.
The moment I started to get product and even cash from sponsors, I considered racing a part-time job. I use the word “part-time” before job because I wasn’t making nearly enough money to call it a full-time job. Heck, I have yet to make enough money in racing to call it a full-time job. However, the moment these companies started to invest in me, I felt it was my duty to give back to them. I felt like a part-time employee for each of the companies who were sponsoring me. I spent some time almost every day communicating with them, sending them photos and race updates, plastering everything I owned with their logos, and thinking of innovative ways to represent them. I kept things in check for the most part. I didn’t ask for too much. I tried my best to remain patient waiting to hear back from return phone calls and emails. Everything was starting to come together and I had a bunch of great sponsors who were helping me and continue to help me to this day.
As great as sponsorship can be, it can also be very disheartening. I guess that is the biggest reason for this blog. To let the younger riders know that even at the professional level, I still have to work very hard for sponsorship.
I would call 2014 a successful year for me. After taking the whole 2013 season off from the AMA Pro Flat Track series, I came back last season and qualified for almost every single national I lined up for. Even though I missed four rounds on the schedule and I DNFed a handful of races with mechanical issues, I finished 16th in points. I was featured on ESPN during the X Games as part of the Harley-Davidson promotion. I qualified for main events on a mile, half-mile, short track and a TT. I won two semi’s (Hagerstown and Springfield Mile). I won most of the local races I competed at. I started my own successful online radio talk show. I started working for Cycle World and had a 4-page print story featured in their January issue to a circulation of over 250,000+ people. Shayna and I became the first brother/sister to qualify for a main event in the history of AMA Pro Racing.. in ANY discipline. I accomplished all of this while finishing up my business degree in college where I graduated with highest honors. I even found time to train, compete and win my first ever Duathlon event last September.
The purpose of the above paragraph isn’t to brag about my accomplishments, but to put things into perspective for this paragraph. Even with all of the above, I still struggled this off-season to find sponsorship needed to go racing this year. At this point, I still don’t have a twins ride in the series. I lost my gear sponsor and my boot sponsor. I lost one of my big monetary sponsors. I asked two different gear companies for just two free sets of gear for the WHOLE SEASON and was declined by both. This came even with the mention there is a good possibility I would be apart of the X Games this year.
It’s a tough sport to make a career out of and it’s a shame. I look at some of the riders in Road Racing & Motocross who drive fancy cars and live in million dollar houses and it bugs me. Here I am, working my ass off trying to make enough money to make it to the track and these guys are driving Maserati’s around town.
I do have a lot of great sponsors who help me and make sure I get to the track every weekend. I feel very blessed for this. Most of my sponsors have turned into life long friends and people who I can turn to for anything. Motion Pro, Arai, Wiseco and Saddlemen are a few of my sponsors who I have had support from since I was an amateur rider! My sponsors have not only taught me a lot of about the industry, but about life in general and that is something that is irreplaceable.
Do I feel like I am succeeding in this sport? Yeah I do. I mean, I think I am. Very slowly. What am I doing to succeed? I am attempting to use racing the same way it uses me. What do I mean by this? The best advice I can give a young rider is to work hard at what they do. Practice, get as much seat time as possible, and do everything possible to make a career out of racing motorcycles. There are other options if that doesn’t work out though and it doesn’t involve working a 9 to 5 at some crappy job for a company who doesn’t give a shit that you are there. Throughout your years as a racer you should make contacts, develop business skills and learn as much about the industry off the track as possible. Be social. Talk to fans. Market yourself. Create a brand. The money for just winning races isn’t there anymore. If you want to make a career out of racing now-a-days, you have to think outside the box. The opportunities are there, but you have to dig deep. Is it worth it? Only you can decide that.
It’s about a week away until I leave for Daytona and I just bought myself a 2010 CRF 450 so I would have something to ride this year. I thought for sure I would be going down south this year to kick off the 2015 season as a spectator. However, this morning I decided to take my own advice. My “Plan A” advice as mentioned in the opening paragraph. Never give up and keep chasing my dream.
The next sentence is something that I have to remind myself everyday. Although it takes time, the hard work will eventually pay off.