Motocross can trace its roots back to loosely organized off-road motorcycle races called Scrambles held in Great Britain back in the mid 1920’s. The bikes used in those original races were heavy and rigid street machines merely modified slightly for off-road riding, and the events initially drew sparse attention. The sport has obviously evolved dramatically since those early days. Over the years, technological advances have made the bikes lighter and faster. Today’s rides have been built specifically for maneuvering over rugged terrain and contain sophisticated suspensions capable of handling intense dirt track racing. The sport has also grown in popularity producing many dirt bike enthusiasts and hard core fans. Some though, including many devoted fans, believe that motocross racing has stagnated in its development and needs to modernize the off-road motorcycle racing experience in order to stay competitive in today’s action sports arena.
The American Motorcycle Association (AMA), the governing body of motocross racing in the US, has heard these cries and taken action. Up to this point, the AMA had been handling all of the operations, organization and promotion for its professional and amateur races under the umbrella of its subsidiary organization, AMA Pro Racing. But in March of this year, the AMA spun that subsidiary off to the Daytona Motorsports Group (DMG). DMG, who will operate under the AMA Pro Racing title, now owns the rights for all operations of the AMA Toyota Motocross Championship, the premier US motocross series, and the AMA’s amateur motocross racing events-the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series will still be operated separately. DMG has also entered into a contractual arrangement with MX Sports to handle much of the operations and promotions for motocross racing.
The long and the short of all that alphabet soup is that change is coming to motocross. And that change is coming fast and furious. MX Sports has hit the ground running, and motocross events and the coverage of those events will be getting an immediate face lift for the 2009 season which starts on May 23rd, at the Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, CA. All races have been moved to Saturdays to allow for better fan access. The racing classes have been modified. Nick McCabe, MX Sports’ man in charge of commercial development, has promised that the racing experience for fans at motocross events will be substantially modernized.
Most importantly, however, might be the strides that MX Sports has taken to increase the exposure of motocross racing worldwide. MX has entered into a marketing partnership with the Alliance of Action Sports (Alli), an international organization owned and operated by NBC and MTV. The press release issued by the AMA states the partnership will provide for “unique opportunities in television programming, global media content distribution, online coverage, sponsorship sales, marketing and promotion,” and that, “The companies will work in harmony to develop an even stronger connection with the youth demographic by increasing the exposure of American motocross, while at the same time maintaining the sport’s tradition and heritage.” While official TV coverage for the 2009 season has not yet been announced, rumors are circulating within the motocross community that some events will be televised live on NBC-certainly a major breakthrough for the sport.
In a recent conversation with McCabe, he commented that the changes coming to the sport are things that the hardcore motocross fans will welcome with open arms and an attitude of, “Oh god, it’s about time!” McCabe believes that the sport was due for an upgrade. He commented that the overall motocross experience had become somewhat antiquated, and that these modifications will provide not only for a better experience for the fans but for better racing overall.
What does all of this mean for agents and representatives? First, motocross is poised for growth. Between the current surge in interest in action sports in general, evidenced by the ever-growing popularity of ESPN’s X Games, and the passion and dedication of the new motocross operating group, the sport possesses a unique opportunity to expand its already dedicated fan base. The new media package will inevitably provide increased access to the sport. The top riders in the series routinely earn six figure incomes. While many of those riders may already be represented, the AMA is grooming tomorrow’s stars in its amateur series. The future looks bright for motocross in the US, and now is the time to join in as dirt bike racing modernizes and makes the leap into the 21st century.
Guest contribution by Michael C. Frilling, Esq.; General Counsel; www.fksportsmanagement.com