February 20, 2013 by BMXNEWS.COM Editors · Comments Off
The top factory pros are awe-inspiring to watch on the track, and role models for tens of thousands of BMXers around the world. But they put their race pants on one leg at a time, just like the fans. Regular guys.
And just like any other USA BMX member, 2012 National Number 1 Pro, Sam Willoughby gets his monthly copy of Pull Magazine, dutifully-delivered by the US Postal Service.
This month’s cover features a photo/illustration by legendary BMX artist, Bob Haro (yes, the very same “Haro” who started Haro Bikes way back when). For the last few years, USA BMX/ABA has been personalizing the cover of the first issue of the new year with the member’s number for the new year.
And while Sam gets his copy of Pull in the mail, just like everyone else, he is the only person in the world with this particular conundrum. As you can see, the photo on the cover has Sam, Willers and Maris chasing a cartoon representation of the USA BMX member on the label. The photo version of Sam is saying “Dang!…That (Sam Willoughby) sure has a whole lotta pull!”
January 8, 2013 by BMXNEWS.COM Editors · Comments Off
Proportionate to their revenues, BMX Racing companies invest heavily in sponsoring athletes and teams. They are making this investment in order to draw attention to their products and, if it all goes to plan, sell more units. It is the ultimate intangible, because it’s rare for riders to be directly responsible for the sale of a frame or set of cranks to a consumer.
So a lot of it is about image, how the riders and teams present themselves to the public–and, of course on-track performance.
It is up to the riders and teams to help their sponsors realize a return on their investment. And since there is not a race every day of the year, the best way to stand above the other teams and/or riders in the prowl for the public’s attention, is to have a sharp media relations game.
There are some over-arching themes where BMX Racing folk miss the mark in media relations. We, in the BMX Media, talk about it all the time while we’re waiting for mains to start, or during practice.
So, rather than just talk about how you can step things up, we decided to come together for an all-hands discussion on the topic.
On the panel, we have (listed alphabetically):
Mike Carruth – BMX News
Ben Crockett – BMX Plus! Magazine
gOrk – USA BMX Communications Director
Jerry Landrum – BMX Mania
Pat Nugent – ESPN/Action
All respondents (including BMX News) did not know the content of the other participants’ responses. So, you will see some similar points being echoed from time to time. When that happens, it’s only because it is THAT widely-practiced.
It ended up to be a fairly-long article, so feel free to print it, or bookmark it if you have to read it in chunks. But we all think there is some important content here, and wanted to give you as complete an account of things as possible.
And now, on to our questions…
1). What mistakes do teams make in how they present their riders to the media?
There is a LOT of opportunity for teams and riders who truly want to represent their sponsors’ brand, and are willing to put in a little non-race-day work to make it happen.
There are many “ideas” on how to make a team more visible, that are not necessarily “mistakes,” per se. I will cover some of these in #3, but one major point that could be characterized as a “mistake,” if we want to use that term, is that I need to know your riders better. Contact me before a national, and arrange a time for me to meet your whole team, and their parents. Let me shoot some headshots on Friday– or Saturday, during second round. I have never had such an invite that I did not pre-arrange myself.
Ben Crockett – They don’t (present their riders to the media). Between racing and freestyle do you know how many calls I received in 2012 from team managers or representatives to set up a meet with a team? Two. The biggest mistake teams make is getting in the mindset of, "I’ve created a great team, with awesome uniforms and a kick-ass pit, now I am going to sit back and wait for the media to come to me." That’s fine, and we will recognize your top contenders, but what about the rest of your team? Teams are more then just top pros, and it shows strength and pride when a team manager will set up meet and greet days with the team, or even set up times at the major races where the entire team will be in the same place at the same time. Media outlets have a very broad reach in the industry, but it generally comes down to one representative at any given race; Mike Carruth, Jerry Landrum, myself… If you have 30 riders on your team, all running wild at a national, there is no way we are going to take the time to track them all down, but if you were to say, come by the pits at 12:30 and meet the entire team, you can bet we will all be there.
gOrk – Whether it’s presenting themselves to the media – or more importantly, to the public (their customers), I can see quite a few mistakes being made. First off — sponsorship is about having a rider who is an advertisement. When you break it down, a factory rider is really a breathing, racing (and hopefully winning) billboard for their brand. Any smart manufacturer wouldn’t run an ad with another manufacturer’s product – but they allow their factory rider to. That’s mistake No.1. If you’re riding for a factory team, yet don’t like, or can’t run, your sponsor’s product – then DON’T ride for that company! Sponsors need to put their foot down as well; if your factory rider is substituting your product for another brand, that’s a breach of contract and that rider should be dropped.
Jerry Landrum – I think that the first thing that people miss is that they don’t do anything at all. There are some great options out there for publicizing your team on the internet. I think most of the web guys I know are "Up For It" when it comes to publishing team news from those who understand what good publicity can do for their team.
Pat Nugent – I think the single biggest mistake is the brands often side- step the media when making announcements. Rather than sending out a press release to a handful of media outlets, they prefer to release the news themselves on their blog/Facebook/twitter. I realize that this has alot to do with the instant gratification of the news being done and out as soon as they post it. A link to an article on BMX News or espn/bmx would make their news seem like actual news instead of some internal release. Rather than it just saying “here is our news” it would say “we have this big news and it’s been posted here, here and here because people outside of our brand are interested in it!” Send a press release out to the media the day that the news is official and then wait a few days before tweeting/posting to your website. Along with having links out to show that your news was relevant, you will also have people thinking it’s a rumor and talking about your brand for a couple days extra.
2). What mistakes do individual riders make in how they present themselves to the media?
That means whenever you are on the track, you need to be in your FULL racing kit, including pants and number plate! It is so frustrating to get a great shot in practice, but not be able to use it, or pass it on to the sponsor for their promo, because the rider is not fully kitted-up. For the top riders, I may only get two or three chances to shoot them in a day, since they are out first round, then we do not see them again til the semis and/or main. Practice adds more chances for coverage, but not if you are in warmup pants, with bare bars– or, God forbid, a random USA jersey from the worlds five years ago. Speaking of jerseys, when yours is off, have one of your sponsor’s T-Shirts on, so any pit photos also represent what your sponsor and, by extension, you, are selling.
Ben Crockett – Ego. Maris Stromberg is the greatest thing in BMX racing right now, but if he never took the time to sign an autograph, teach at a Free Agent clinic or make himself accessible in the pits because he was too full of himself, or he felt it was beneath him, his Gold Medal would count for nothing. This also spins off into riders who feel as though they are above the team. When you have an entire team in one set of gear, or running hubs made by a team sponsor, but you are running something different without good reason (i.e. They don’t make a part in your size), it projects very negatively on you as a rider and team player.
Finally, poor sportsmanship and excuses. If you or your parents are contesting passes or moves other riders are making in every-other rac, and you have a laundry list of excuses every time you don’t win, then no one want to deal with you. You don’t need to tell us why your loss was everyone else’s fault, racing is racing and you won’t win them all. We would much-rather run a story on the fastest rider in a class who was beat by the slowest and be able to quote the fastest rider as saying, ‘John Doe got a great start and really owned that race, they really deserved the win,’ versus ‘They cut me off and I got balled-up on the outside, after drawing gate 8…’ Want me to put names in these? Because I will do it all day long.
gOrk – In the same sense, a company wouldn’t normally run a blank ad with none of their products in it — yet you see some factory riders doing the “blank ad” thing at the races. Example? I don’t think there’s ANY excuse – other than laziness, as to why a rider doesn’t have his numberplate on his bike during practice. There are still photographers out there, there are still plenty of fans watching and idolizing them, and that rider is still sponsored as if they are in a race – and by not running a plate, they took away their number-one form of logo placement for their sponsor and all of their co-sponsors. …not to mention, they set a bad example for the young, impressionable fans who strive to be like them. That to me, is just plain stupidity… yet you see so many factory riders – both Ams and Pros, doing it.
If you’re sponsored – you should be promoting that brand from the moment you get to the airport (or when you hop in the car) to go to a race, to the time you get home Sunday night. I’m amazed when I see a factory rider who’s wearing some other brand of shirt when I see him in baggage claim, or when he arrives at the track to sign up. I often think to myself, “How much is that cool t-shirt brand you’re wearing, that has nothing to do with our sport, paying you to be here?” Riders need to remember who’s signing their checks – or simply, who they REALLY ride for.
Jerry Landrum – Once again, not making the initial effort to do something is always amazing to me. Why not give it a try. Another thing that I feel might add to team’s efforts is for someone on the team to be in charge of getting photos. With today’s phones being so easy to use to take good candid / lifestyle shots, someone could easily get some good shots that could be posed or taken in the pits to add interest to team news releases or race reports.
Pat Nugent – I feel like, for the most part, the riders do a pretty good job of presenting themselves to the media. The thing that alot of riders don’t do well at is meeting up on a race weekend to shoot some side photos (for a bike check or something else). I understand that on a race weekend they are under alot of pressure to perform, but finding 5-10 minutes to shoot a few photos and chat shouldn’t be that difficult to come by.
3). How can someone who has never met you personally, get on your radar?
Obviously, meeting you is not a guarantee of coverage, but it puts you “on the radar,” as the question asks.
Ben Crockett – I will find myself admiring riders at the track I have never heard of or seen before if they have crazy lines or bike handling skills, but I don’t always have the time or means to track them all down, especially since riders take off their jerseys and head off to pits-unknown, immediately after crossing the finish line. If I get the chance, I will catch these riders while they are on the track or in staging and introduce myself, but what really makes the name and face stick is when a rider follows up without a full-face helmet and gear on. It really makes a rider pop when they have skills but they are also acutely aware that there are thousands of other people in the same place, in similar gear and on similar bikes, doing the same thing and they shouldn’t hesitate to put a name and a face with a compliment when it comes around, not simply bury it in the ego pocket and disappear into the woodwork.
gOrk – When I was at Redline, a few riders caught my eye by just being out there on the track, in the lead and looking good. Anthony DeRosa got on Redline way back when by wearing a blank white jersey and totally dominating his mains. I could tell by his style that he was a kid worth tracking down. Then there was Denzel, who we watched for a coupla years and slowly began helping out with parts. Denzel was consistent and persistent. Every year at the Winter Natls, he’d come up to me and ask if there was room on the team for him. After two years of that, it really showed how serious he was – plus, at the time, he had a grey-background numberplate on his bike with a No.1 on it.
For the most part — Redline, and myself, look for what I call the “complete package.” Bubba Harris is the best example of that – he was the total package. He was not just fast and always a title contender, but he was great in the pits – friendly and approachable. He’s a good looking guy, so he was easy to use in advertising and outside-the-sport promotions. He spoke well for interviews and knew how to plug a sponsor … the list goes on and on. Some riders can go fast, but then they’re so tatt’ed-up that it scares away parents, or keeps outside-media attention away. Or other pros who go really fast, but may not know how to speak well to their fans; either they’re too shy, or soft-spoken. There are just too many factors to list them all. But I’d recommend a rider to just try to be the BEST they possibly can be, in all aspects of life. There’s more to being a factory superstar in BMX than just winning races.
Jerry Landrum – Email me at BMX Mania, just hit up the Email Link on the front page and check in with me, I’m easily available and welcome the opportunity to help team managers or media personnel to get their stories published on BMX Mania. My policy on BMX Mania is that we treat everyone the same, and I will run just about anything that is sent in regardless of what team it is from. I love helping teams get their news out.
Pat Nugent – It’s as simple as them introducing themselves. BMX isn’t my full tine job, I follow it pretty closely, but if a rider isn’t in the top 10-15 he is probably off of my radar. So aside from doing well at races, the only way onto my radar is by actually meeting the rider.
4). Give us five things teams and riders can do to boost their media profile in 2013.
I almost-never run press releases, or stories that are going out to every news outlet in the known-universe. If your plan is to send me a release that you are also going to post on Facebook, and then email to all the other outlets, I will probably not run it. In this day of Facebook-as-magazine, our readers do not benefit from seeing the same content everywhere they turn. I want the stuff nobody else has. The size of our audience rewards your efforts in coming to us first. Scoops are great, if they are newsworthy. At the very least, a different version than you are sending to everyone else will improve your chances of getting it posted on our sites.
For riders and industry insiders (team managers, brand managers, etc), if you have a Facebook and Instagram presence, be sure to take some photos of you, with your jersey or a company T-Shirt on every once in a while. If there is news about you, I am going to go there first to grab a photo, if I do not already have it in my library.
For Team Managers: If you are sending me news of a new rider pickup, plan ahead and send me a photo of the new rider, in your jersey or a company T-Shirt, as part of the scoop. Give me a quote from the company, a quote from the TM, and a quote from the rider (that you are not sending to anyone else, or posting on Facebook). Bonus points if you make the photo 580×440 pixels in size.
Write an article for us on something other than yourself or your team. With five Websites online, I am always looking for solid, original content. Maybe it’s a BMX mom’s guide to going on the road, or a how-to vid of one of your riders (in full kit, of course), taking a tour of next week’s national track where s/he’s a local. I am open to ideas, so come on with it! That is all stuff I would love to run, and would get your sponsor(s) a link, and some coverage for your initiative.
Bonus: Choose your pitches strategically and wisely. I can’t run stories on you or your riders every day, or even every week. So look for the good opportunities (upcoming news that nobody has yet is best), then hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org. And send your copy in plain-text (.txt) format with attached JPG images at 580×440 pixels in size.
Ben Crockett – Keep us posted with media blasts, but don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know what you are up to on a more case by case basis, especially if you are passing through our town.
You never know when we may have a hole to fill in the mag or online and could use a rider.
Don’t use Facebook or the like as your sole form of PR. If we don’t follow you, then we have no clue what you are up to and if we don’t know what your up to, then we aren’t going to follow you.
Contact us directly with news. We all want the scoop, or at least a unique quote on what in the news; so don’t hesitate to follow up.
Finally, be a good sport, be positive and represent your sponsors
gOrk – I’d just like to see more professionalism from the teams. Riders are getting away with things – like the no numberplate, or Adidas sweatpants in practice, because sponsors are allowing it. The look of their team pits should emulate AMA Supercross — I’d say Redman~Rockstar does this best. Their set-up is 100% Factory. I like the consistency of GT’s team numberplates, with their bikes lined up on custom bike stands. The more BMX can look like Supercross, or other pro sports, then the more likely it’ll be to draw outside the sport sponsors — like energy drinks and cell phone companies. Lastly, I’d say communication is also key – Morphine does a great job getting their post-National news writeup to the BMX media, and more teams should do like that … but not limit yourself to just the BMX media. Send that stuff to other sports outlets. You’re just preaching to the choir on most BMX sites – when the goal should be to reach new, potential customers.
Jerry Landrum – A. Communicate with media outlets to see what they can offer the team as far as media coverage is. You don’t know til you ask!
B. Take some good photos with your camera or phone around the pits and use some of those cool free photo apps to include with your news release or race report.
C. Appoint someone within the team family to be responsible for writing up team news. It’s important to have a Go To person to be responsible for this important task.
Pat Nugent – A. Facebook. Most brands and riders are on their already, use it more. Share more photos. Post your race weekend updates. Tag all of your orders. DO NOT TAG MEDIA PEOPLE. I haven’t been tagged in anything, but I imagine after saying that there would be a likely chance.
B. Twitter. I hardly follow any brands on twitter because anything relevant is retweeted by all of their riders. I do follow most of the riders. I see that half the Elite class is spending their winter riding snowboards and all of that. It is still important for the brands to tweet and for their riders to represent them on their as well.
C. Instagram. I personally don’t use instagram (due to an outdated iPhone but I play it off as thinking Instagram is lame).
Link your instagram to your twitter and Facebook. Post photos from the pits at the races, the travel to/from races, save some of the photos for off weekends so you can still throw some stuff up there. Kids in 2013 are lazy and would rather see photos than read a release. The written stuff is for older riders, parents and the records when someone has a question in the future.
D. Talk to media people at the races. I regularly chat with Dale Holmes (Free Agent), Pete D (Chase), Derek Betcher (Haro) and Brian Fell (MCS) at the track. It helps to have an idea of what is going on in the future of their brands. Pete and I were talking back when their brand was starting up and did a full bike check pretty much immediately after they released their frame and lines of parts. Dale has had Maris all over the place this year. Those dudes are doing it right.
E. Do something different.
5). Anything else you would like to add to the discussion?
Ben Crockett – On the independent rider front, let your sponsors know what you are doing. Let them know at regular intervals what you have been doing, what tracks you have been going to and what you have been doing to rep the brand. We are seeing more and more big name riders dropped because they are either coasting, or their sponsors are under the impression that they are coasting because the riders aren’t keeping them sufficiently up to date. Don’t expect people to follow you, but strive for them to.
Jerry Landrum – I can’t speak for the print media guys but I can speak for some of us who run BMX racing web sites and I think it’s important to point out how available we are. Get in touch, allow us to help you, I’m sure it’s easier than people think. I know it is on my web site, I love it when people get in touch and allow me to serve them.
Pat Nugent – I think a lot of people don’t realize that media guys pretty much all come from within BMX to an extent. For a while a lot of people thought I was just some random dude who stumbled into the role that I am in. For the most part, I AM some random dude who stumbled into this role, but it was through having a lot of mutual friends and acquaintances that I know solely from riding BMX for the last 17 years, with Brian Tunney (the general editor for espn/action).
The other misconception is that this is a full time job for me. It isn’t. Not even close. When I go to races, I typically leave from my regular job on Friday afternoon, take the last flight out to wherever. Get there late. And then on Sunday, if I am fortunate enough to be on the east coast, take a late afternoon/evening flight, get home at 10 or 11pm and have my alarm set for 6:30 Monday morning. If I am not on the east coast, I fly redeye, get in at 5:45 am and head straight to the office a couple hours early.
My regular job is shooting photos and doing photoshop for a corporate photo studio in NYC called Camera 1 (www.camera1.com).
I would like to thank Ben, gOrk, Jerry and Pat for participating in this important discussion. All of us share a deep commitment to the sport, and want to see it grow in participation and as an industry.
September 13, 2012 by BMXNEWS.COM Editors · Comments Off
Pull Magazine is out with its Olympic Coverage this month, and to honor the five Team USA athletes who participated in the games, the magazine will release its August/September issue as a “multi-cover” edition. USA BMX members from the respective home states of each Olympian will receive the cover bearing their local hero. Thus, Minnesota residents will get Alise Post smilin in their mailbox, Coloradans will get David Herman, and Nevadans will get Connor Fields. Since California is home to two Olympians, Brooke Crain goes to Nor. Cal; Nic Long to So. Cal.
And BMX Canada members are in on the fun too, with a special Tory Nyhaug cover, honoring their sole Olympian in the 2012 Games.
USA BMX members in other 45 states will get their cover at random. Last year, when Fast Company magazine did a multi-cover issue with tech titans Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Jeff Bezos, we got the Jobs cover–exactly the one we wanted. We are not going to spill here who we’re hoping for on our issue of Pull, as they are all good in our book.
The inside content is the same for all six cover executions, so this is one opportunity in life where you’ll get to judge a book by its cover.
USA BMX will also be selling a limited number of “box sets” with all six of the commemorative covers. More details on that will be available in the coming weeks.
April 15, 2011 by BMXNEWS.COM Editors · Comments Off
So there I was, chatting with Jason Carne$ in the Redline pit, about the upcoming “Flight School” Tour, when all of the sudden, a picture of Mike Redman was all I could see. Before I could adjust my eyes, another photo, looking like someone from Blue Man Group. Focusing in, it wasn’t a Blue Man at all, but Marc Willers in a Blue Man-Meets-KISS motif, riffing on his home country’s flag.
It was the new issue of Pull Magazine, enthusiastically presented by BA Anderson. The new issue indeed, had Redbone on the cover, and a very nice profile on the industry legend and famed announcer. Some great photos from the past 25 years packed in there. Page 31 starts the race coverage, with some very nice photo work by Jasen Krenek from the Super Nationals. Further in, you get some serious mind mechanics laid down by Dr. J. Rich. Good stuff.
But on Page 46, the whole thing gets turned upside down and is impossible to read.
…It gets much easier if you think “Down Under.” You know how the vortex in your sink is supposed to swirl down the drain in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere? Well close the magazine, flip it over, and you’re back in “discovery” mode of this month’s Pull.
On a “second cover,” we find the photo of Willers. Issue 02 “.5″ has an equally-compelling profile of Marc Willers to its counterpart of Redman on the flipside. Also, the Winternationals photospread, and a track profile on Cedar BMX in Pennsylvania. The balance is Track Directory and Points.
The issue is a quick and entertaining read, down to the red, white and blue staples holding it together (gotta love those little details!). Look for it in your mailbox soon!