I will preface this by saying that this is just an opinion. Everyone may think that the sport is doing fine right now. As a fan, I don’t. Since the SCCA dropped rally a year and a half ago, more money has been spent on marketing the sport by the sanctioning bodies than in the previous 35 years combined (which isn’t saying anything as the SCCA didn’t spend much).
In that time – these are the results
Decrease in entries.
Less media coverage
Less factory support
Less participation from name drivers from outside the country
3 different marketing firms in RA
Now, of those five, the only one that really matters is the first one.
Number of entries is the most critical issue right now. Since the organizers make almost all of their money "off the back gate" it is critical that the rallies be fully subscribed. The number of entrants is the economic engine that feeds the whole sport.
Now the reply to this from a pro-marketing guy will be "Well, if you get a good marketing firm and they do a good job it will raise the profile of the sport and more people will want to do it."
The fact is there more than enough people out there, already interested in rally, to fill the entries of the excessive number of rallies we already have. The reasons they aren't doing it relate primarily to cost which is directly related to the rule book. This is the area that needs overhaul. Marketing firms really cannot help with this problem.
Before you can market something you need to have a product. I think the sanctioning bodies need to focus on doing whatever it takes to max out entries and make sure whatever classes they run are competitive. Once they do that successfully, they can start to think about marketing, TV, and the rest. I think it can be done but it will take a much different model than the one that is currently in use.
My biggest problem with marketing firms is that they are expensive. The question becomes is it better to spend money on marketing(including TV production) or to put that money into prize money, tow funds, and reduced entry fees?
I would vote for the latter. I think you would have a stronger series - it just wouldn't be as "cool".
"Rally America Signs Consulting Agreement with Wasserman Media Group Marketing"
The issues facing rally today are not marketing related and won't be fixed by marketing solutions. Hopefully RA, WMG, NASA and the USRC will figure that out quickly and the sport can begin a period of steady, albeit unspectacular, growth.
I've always liked Greg and have to agree with him. When I started rallying I used to worry about getting my entry in as soon as possible because rallies would sell out. I remember the days when Maine had a waiting list due to the number of entries. Last year Pat Richard had the luxury of waiting until the last possible moment to enter a number of events. And the reason I no longer race is that it's become too expensive for all of the reasons Greg mentioned.
>The question becomes is it better to spend money
>on marketing(including TV production) or to put that money
>into prize money, tow funds, and reduced entry fees?
>I would vote for the latter. I think you would have a
>stronger series - it just wouldn't be as "cool".
Oh sure. I said the same thing for years and people tried to burn me at the stake. You say it, and the same people are ready to anoint you as the messiah.
As I have been told by friends: it's not what you say... it's how you say it. Bah humbug, I say.
Rally needs honesty and integrity.... not television.
End of sermon for today.
Edited: to tone down the rhetoric so when I'm burned at the stake people will burn me nicely rather than with epithets.
(also just an opinion) You can say "who is this kid anyway" and "what could he possibly know," but since I fell in love with rally just four years ago, I've told practically everybody I've met about the sport. What have I learned? Virtually NOBODY knows about Rally, everybody knows about NASCRAP, and they all think it's a joke. Sure there are other issues, but on the subject of growth it would cost less for us, the competitors, if more people showed up to create a reason for sponsors to do what they do best - pay us. How do we get people to come? We tell them about it (marketing). Look around, America is whetting it's appetite for more extreme sports, and it has never been more ready for Rally than it is today.
<When I started rallying I used to worry about getting my entry in
<as soon as possible because rallies would sell out. I remember the
<days when Maine had a waiting list due to the number of entries.
<Last year Pat Richard had the luxury of waiting until the last
<possible moment to enter a number of events.
Just before the short period of some two years you are referring to,
we had a long period during which we experienced fields of as little
as 15 to 20 cars at the national rallies. Here are the numbers
1994: POR (now LSPR)33 entries, Maine 23, Ojibwe 28, Rim 24,
Prescott 16, Wild West 25
2004: LSPR 29 entries, Maine 45, Ojibwe 28, Rim 35, Oregon 27
If we are to talk about promotion, PR and marketing, this is a vast
area of endeavor that includes three target groups:
- General public
As a minimum, one thing is for certain: The small band of rally
enthusiast in the US is not going to generate the numbers needed
for the growth of the sport. New competitors and additional
spectators can come only from the outside of the existing group.
In order to do that, we need promotion, PR and marketing directed
at the general public to make this secret sport much better known
in the US. This is the most important task we are facing in US
rallying today and that is the only way to generate greater number
of competitors, spectators, and media and sponsor interest.
<And the reason I no longer race is that it's become too expensive
<for all of the reasons Greg mentioned.
There are three main reasons why rallying is more expensive than
in the past:
- Higher insurance premiums: There is nothing we can do about this
- Much higher requirements for safety, required numbers of marshals,
emergency services, emergency communications and associated costs:
Gone are the days of intersections on special stages in the woods
without marshals and sometimes without safety tapes or spectators
freely roaming the stages without supervision.
- Quality of road books and other documentation, stage notes,
reconnaissance and promotional costs: We no longer rally in faraway
wilderness, preferably at night so nobody would see us, on blind
events with sparse, hand-written road books. Part of this is done for
greater safety and the promotional part is a necessary requirement
these days if we are to demonstrate the economic benefits to the
local area in exchange for obtaining special use road permits and
Yet, the current entry fees cover only 50 to 90 percent of the total
cost of the event and the rest comes from sponsors or, in the end,
from the promoter's pocket.
All good points. I hope this doesn't turn into an us vs. them argument. This post was meant to be an objective look at the value of marketing versus other issues. Doug, JB, Ray Hocker, Ivan, John, Ted and everyone else are all great people who have worked hard for the sport in different ways.
M360, Greer and WMG are all top notch firms who I'm sure did their best possible work. I just think this sport is the wrong place for them even though they are all very capable in other areas.
It was late last night and I missed a few points so I will put them down as a post script here.
1. How many rally winners from the years 1995-2005 are still competing in the sport here in the US? ( I haven’t checked, I am just doing this from memory)
2. When an extremely well-known world champion rally driver and a professional team doesn't even bother to show up for the last round of a championship they are leading, what message does that send about the championship?
It is inefficient to try and solve both of these issues with marketing. It can be done much quicker and more effectively by other means.
There are a lot of rallies surviving on 30 entries. I can't believe that if they got 70 entries they wouldn't be much better off financially. Spending money on marketing might move the money needle and it might not (look at how many companies spend millions on marketing yet still go bankrupt). I think the fastest way to get money into the pockets of the organizers is to fill up the entry first then work on the other issues.
>There are three main reasons why rallying is more expensive
>in the past:
>- Higher insurance premiums: There is nothing we can do about
Actually there is a way to control insurance costs; it's called risk management and companies do it all of the time. People make a living developing improved methods of controling risk and insurance companies recognize the effort through reduced premiums. I do not know what NASA or RA have in place for risk management so maybe they are doing more about it than is clear to the public.
Anders Green put on a terrific rally Sandblast two weekends ago, with enough maps, guides, and supplementary regs to keep you busy for a week. Sure there were some problems, as there are in every rally, but everything was handled well, it was safe, and I'd say not too bad for a first time organiser.
The problem? Not enough entries. Chances are the rally will not break even.
The real problem? If rallies become too expensive for the organiser _and_ the entrant, all the grand illusions of making rally into the 'next greatest extreme sport' are lost.
There is no clear cut solution, and as Jens points out, we are just rehashing the same points over and over and over again.
Is it possible that people are trying to make the sport into something it can never be in the US? We all want US Rally to be comparable to the WRC, but is it really a realistic goal to expect Rally New York to be a candidate for the World Championship? I'd love to see it happen, but I've also see Rally Charlevoix bankrupted, even having had over a million dollars of support from the regional government.
Is it possible we, as the North American rally community, are trying to walk before we can crawl?
One thing is clear to me though, and that is, if you want any kind of spectacle, you better work on making it fun to watch. There are plenty of people who will come out of the woodwork (who know what rally is) if there is something to see. And that means depth of field. Its hard to sell someone on the idea of how great and extreme and exciting rally is when the reality is that only five or ten percent of the cars are being driven anywhere near their limits. Pretty hard sell to someone standing there thinking quietly to himself "man, I can drive faster/better than that".
It's great that Pastrana is in there, and bringing more guys in... this can only help. And while it's absolutely necessary to promote the series, it's also massively important to make sure that the bottom doesnt drop out.
- Right on!
- RA's new marketing dept should do this (a good start):
1. Get RESULTS easy to find on their crappy web site
2. Re-do that crappy web site
3. Start to post links and news on THIS site (still #1 in the US rallying after all these years)
- If somebody wants to know what's going in the championship they come HERE, specialstage.com. NASA guys seem to know that, RA don't, and it shows. RA's an hidden organization spending money like Tony George with same results.
<Actually there is a way to control insurance costs; it's called
<risk management and companies do it all of the time. People make a
<living developing improved methods of controling risk and insurance
<companies recognize the effort through reduced premiums. I do not
<know what NASA or RA have in place for risk management so maybe
<they are doing more about it than is clear to the public.
<Loose Nut Racing
You should not underestimate us. Without risk management we would
have been dead. We even have our own risk manager. Take it for
granted - risk management is a given.
The other side of the coin is that in this process, we are
implementing safety procedures that were unheard of a few years
ago and do not come cheap.
Beyond that, there is nothing we can do about the insurance premiums
in the current environment and market.
Having a risk manager (hopefully at least an ARM, better would be a CPCU) is a good start. Now beyond looking at implementing additional risk control mechanisms there should be some analysis of alternative risk transfer tools and entities. There are options outside of the traditional market place. It sounds like NASA's intentions are good and hopefully their results will be better.
I have to agree that NASA has listened to the competitors and been proactive in making changes to help entice additional entries. Lets hope this pays off as well.
<Is it possible that people are trying to make the sport into
<something it can never be in the US? We all want US Rally to be
<comparable to the WRC, but is it really a realistic goal to expect
<Rally New York to be a candidate for the World Championship? I'd
<love to see it happen,
We have a chairmanship of one of the committees ready for you if you
want to chip in to make it happen.
<Is it possible we, as the North American rally community, are
<trying to walk before we can crawl?
You really think that we are trying to walk before we can crawl -
after 35 years of rallying in the US and Canada just celebrated
the 50th anniversary?
A quote from Greg Pachman:
2. When an extremely well-known world champion rally driver and a professional team doesn't even bother to show up for the last round of a championship they are leading, what message does that send about the championship
I am going to explain to everyone for once and for all that Stig Bloomqvist made the decision with David Sutton that they have as a TEAM overspent....plain and simple....it had nothing to do with the championship series. They figured after COG that Pat Richard was leading in the points and it look like they might not have a chance to overtake the lead in one more event.So looking at cost versus points...cost became the factor decision. Now they understand/ educated what it takes to run a series over here a little bit better.
How about the reality that finding decent sponsorship $$$ for competitors is almost impossible in US rally. Alot of it has to do with motivation....If you win A US rally championship... what are you going to get you? Pretty much it will put you in debt. You need to have a championship thats not dependant on sponsors or factory teams. A big prize fund would solve that. It would help increase entries and competition. Its kind of like playing poker... nobody would play it if you couldnt win anything.
Nice try Denise but imagine Ferrari saying, "we didn't want to spend the extra money just to secure a worthless Formula One championship."
Greg was right in saying that if the championship was meaningful, money and effort would have been found.
North American rally is too cluttered with meaningless goals.