Canadian Superbike… Follow-up To My Rant

In my rant last December about the Canadian Superbike series, I mention that I had tried to reach out to influentials before I ever considered writing a blog story. But nobody wanted to talk to me about it. I get that a lot.

So, when I did set about to ‘rant’ about Canadian Superbike, I can honestly say that my goal was that one or two people of influence would actually reach out to me, and that we’d get together to talk about the current state of professional motorcycle road racing in Canada.

I had set my goal too high… well, not just too high, but out of sight.

Apparently, just about everyone involved believes that the current state is “just fine… thank you very much”. Certainly, everyone involved who has the power to make change believes that. Of course, there is every possibility that right this minute, behind the scenes, major positive changes are being crafted.

Or not.

Here is a summary of the feedback that I did receive. And let me preface this by saying that I do know that the original blog story was sent (not by me) to most, if not all, of the stakeholders in motorcycle road racing in Canada. OEs, sponsors, suppliers, riders, media, etc. I cannot confirm that they all read it, but the few I spoke with sure had. I am not going to name names here, but here’s a summary;

1. I got a phone call from a vendor to the series. This well-known gentleman was really disappointed with my approach and felt that if I would have reached out to the series organizers in advance, that they would have listened to me. I can tell you that my conscious is very clear on this point. I attempted to do exactly that, at least five times in 2010, and never got the call. But imagine if I did speak to them… “Hey I believe that the responsibility of the CSBK series is to generate CONTENT.  This content is to be used as an AUDIENCE AGGRAGATOR for its STAKEHOLDERS.“ Can you imagine the reaction that I would have got? This well-known gentleman who provides services to the CSBK series – maybe for a fee, I do not know – felt that the series was very well run. I guess the takeaway was that I don’t know what I am talking about. I get that a lot. That was in December and I have never heard from him again.

2. I spoke to a rider in the series. One of my points in the rant was that if the series does not provide enough value for the motorcycle industry to support it, don’t even think about going outside the industry for sponsors. This rider felt this is a valid point. I do not get validation very much. I have stayed in touch with this rider and have offered to be a sounding board for sponsorship ideas and brainstorming and we do that from time to time.

3. I spoke with someone who works for the Canadian head office of a motorcycle company. He admitted to reading my blog story, but you could see immediately that he was thinking; “Why did I admit that??” It was a very awkward moment for sure. He definitely did not want to talk about it, but he did say one thing that I found incredible. He said something like: “You know Jim, the motorcycle companies here in Canada are just not big enough to put money into racing.” I asked him to please consider what he had just said. I told him that “no motorcycle company in Canada should EVER put money INTO racing. None. Ever.” I suggested to him that “Canadian motorcycle companies should be investing in targeted marketing communication programs. These programs should use racing as proof-of-concept for their quality, service and performance messages. These programs should be designed to sell motorcycles, be trackable and sustainable, and there should always be a positive return on investment so that these programs never go away – even in the toughest of times.” He didn’t want to talk about it. I get that a lot.

4. I spoke to another individual who responded with this: “You seem angry….”. I confirmed this – “Hell yes, I’m angry. Motorcycle road racing is fantastic and I am angry that nothing is being done to stop its decline”. I agree that I need to chill out.

5. While at the Toronto Motorcycle Supershow out at the airport, another gentleman who is known and respected in the industry approached me and told me that one of the series organizers was at the show, and that he wanted to talk to me. “Super…. anytime…” was my response. This series official was 30 metres away from me at the time and that was as close as we got. I get that a lot.

6. And finally there was this from someone who has been around the Canadian motorcycle road racing scene for 30 years; “I hate to say it but the WHOLE thing needs to end and be reborn or it’s just going to be a further decline.”

That’s about it.

I readily admit that I need stop pissing and moaning OR do something about it. Well, what can I do? I now have 11 pages of notes with ideas and concepts, designed to not only resurrect motorcycle road racing in Canada, but globally. This is not a Canada-only problem. All motorcycle road racing worldwide could use more audience, more value for sponsors and increased return on investment right? While everyone is thinking about “cutting costs”, I am thinking about “increasing value.”

I am not suggesting that I am going to start a new, competing – for now – Superbike series here in Canada. To do that, I’d need the entire industry to come together to share new ideas and a fresh perspective, and certainly, they’d need to have open minds. They would have to leave “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.”… at the door.

But… they’re not going to listen to me. I get that a lot.

And, In case you missed it, here is my original rant.

Jim

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Canadian Superbike – My Take!

** I originally wrote this on December 14, 2011. I am working on a follow-up blog story to let you know the outcome of this; my take on Canadian Superbike. Any guesses on the feedback that I received? Stay tuned… **

When Parts Canada announced that they were pulling the plug on Canadian Superbike, I have to say, I got pretty excited. I felt that this was finally going to be the impetus needed to change the sport. To me, Parts’ decision was much more impactful than that of an OE, or other sponsor. Think of it as ‘creative destruction’… a process where a shock to the status quo leads to positive change for the future. Clearly, the sport was broken, and I thought… “Finally!!… this is great – here we go.” I immediately reached out to some influentials that I knew and expressed my desire to talk to someone…. anyone. And I got some names, and I tried… but no one seemed to have the energy or enthusiasm that I had, and as time passed, so did my energy and enthusiasm.  The attitude was either indifference, or that “nothing is gonna change”.  If someone would have listened to me…. here is some of the propaganda that I would have spewed…

1) What is the responsibility of the Canadian Superbike Series?

The responsibility of the CSBK series is to generate CONTENT.  This content is to be used as an AUDIENCE AGGREGATOR for its STAKEHOLDERS.

Let’s identify the stakeholders:

– B2B companies that are endemic to the motorcycle industry

– B2C companies that sell motorcycle-centric product to consumers

– Media that is endemic to the motorcycle industry

And…. let’s identify the audience:

– B2B – Decision-makers who manufacture, distribute, sell or buy endemic products

– B2C – Fans/spectators of motorcycle racing (consumers of CSBK-generated content)

– B2C – Consumers of motorcycles and associated products

– B2C – Consumers of non-endemic products and services

And finally… the content providers:

– Team owners

– Professional racers + support staff

– Promoters

– Race tracks

So, to summarize; it is the responsibility of the CSBK series to deliver great content that builds and sustains ‘audience’ which can be monetized and measured. Period. Think about properties that are successful, and you’ll quickly identify they are very good at delivering on the responsibility of being an audience aggregator.

Let me use this in a sentence… “Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment used great content to grow a large, measurable and sustainable audience. This large, measurable and sustainable audience was desirable to all of MLSE’s stakeholders. ALL OF THEM. The content was so effective as an audience aggregator that the two largest distributors of content in Canada, namely Bell and Rogers…. bought it all…. for $1.32 billion.”

Now… let’s talk content.

First, when you think about the NHL, NFL, MLB. MLS.. etc., the game has fundamentally stayed the same since their inception. The size of the playing fields are the same, and for the most part, the rule books have not changed. There have been tweaks to the rules to make the content better for the audience… such as the NHL’s regular-season overtime and shoot-out rules. But in general terms, the content generated by these sports is the same.  They have not changed the content – they changed the experience with the content.

The exact same thing is true with professional motorcycle road racing. The content is the same as it has always been.  In fact, it’s fantastic!

So…. as other pro sports have used their (same) content to create multi-billion dollar enterprises, CSBK, using its (same) content, cannot generate enough audience to justify participation from Kawasaki Canada? (as an example)

The point that I am trying to make here is that you do not have to change the content. Professional motorcycle road racing in Canada has all of the elements in place that are necessary for success. It is already FANTASTIC CONTENT.

So, what has changed with the stick + ball sports? The quick answer is; “everything else”. They have completely changed the stakeholder, audience, customer and fan experiences with their content.

While the CSBK ‘executives’, the tracks, the promoters, the teams and the riders were all out “looking for sponsors”… MLSE was out “looking for value”. Think about that for a moment….

One of the people that I did speak with suggested that what CSBK needed right now was a big non-endemic title sponsor. I don’t disagree that this would be great, but think about it this way; If you run a professional motorcycle racing property, and the motorcycle industry cannot find enough value to participate, how is $$$ from a non-endemic sponsor going to fix anything? You might argue… “Well, Winston did it for Stock Car Racing…” This is an undisputable fact for sure, but this is not 1980…. there is absolutely no way that you can have that conversation because everything has changed. Everything. You continue to argue… “But if Red Bull came in and ‘promoted’ the series, more people would see how fantastic it is, and more people would buy tickets to the races, watch on TV and buy stuff…” Balderdash!!…. Millions and millions and millions of Canadians have been exposed to Superbike Racing in Canada in one form or another and didn’t come back. Exposing the same product, in the same way, to a new group of people will not have the desired effect – that being to attract and retain sustainable audience.

When Mopar was announced as the new title sponsor for CSBK at the Toronto Motorcycle Show, a series official actually said something like: “When companies see that Mopar has come on board, perhaps now they’ll take a look as well.” Take a look at what??? This is like inventing a widget and taking it to market year-after-year with no one buying it. And, instead of modifying the widget, the answer is to show the defunct widget to ‘different’ people. Really?

So, I do not think this is a content issue. Sure, we need more teams and riders, and better teams and riders… but we do not need to change the rule book as it pertains to sporting regulations. Technical regs absolutely need to be modified from time to time to match consumer-driven decisions with OEs, but if the goal is “world-class motorcycle road racing”… everything is in place for that.

So… if I was large and in charge…  here is where I would start…

1)   Admit there is problem. This is the biggest problem…. getting the prideful people in charge to admit that there is, in fact, a problem.

2)   Stakeholder input. Talk to everyone identified as stakeholders above and ask them what they want from the series. They’ll use different words, and descriptions, but their answer will be “audience”. It’s just that the audience to Parts Canada is different than the audience to Honda Canada, which is different to the audience of TSN SportsCentre. Not much… but it is different. Talk to them. Get it defined. Make a plan WITH EACH ONE to capture, sustain and monetize THEIR audience using CSBK content.

3)   Capture, package and deliver the content – differently. This is critical. The content is good – we’ve established that. It stays the same. How it is captured and distributed determines size and scope of measurable and sustainable audience.

4)   Sponsors: STOP looking for sponsors and start looking for value. You need to do an asset audit. When you discover value – sponsors will come. It’s magical.

5)   Audit your human resources: Step #1: Re-read the definition of insanity. Do you really expect the same people who got you into this mess to get you out…. by doing the same ^&$%ing thing??

6)   SWOT analysis. Do you know why major, successful corporations still do SWOT analysis?? Because it works. Capitalize on your strengths. Eliminate your weaknesses. Act on your opportunities. Neutralize your threats.

7)   Write a 10-year Strategic Plan. Realistic. Sustainable. Year-on-year growth in everything measurable. Innovate. Include flexibility to change with your audience.

In conclusion…

1) To those people that are charged with organizing professional motorcycle road racing in Canada, you need to take your responsibility seriously.

2) You need to understand, appreciate and respect your impact on motorcycling in Canada – positive and/or negative and/or indifferent.

3) You need to understand, appreciate and respect your impact on Canadian motorcycle racers – positive and/or negative and/or indifferent – especially those that have the ability go on to World Championships at the highest levels of the sport. (Maybe one day, you’ll be the highest level of the sport)

4) Treat people… and make decisions… and take actions,… that will result in your induction into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame, the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame as well as put you on the front of the sports, business, lifestyle, automotive, motorcycle and technology sections of all of the national media outlets.

5) You need to OVER-DELIVER in everything tangible and non-tangible, in everything measurable and non-measurable… to EVERYONE defined as audience, stakeholder and/or content provider above – with NO exceptions.

6) You must become the envy of sports marketers and content producers world-wide.

All it takes is the right people doing the right things. Simple.

Good luck