A 65-12 months-antique sports league that’s fallen into obscurity is funneling millions of dollars into rebuilding its dependable and profitable fan following.
American Flat Track, the collection that capabilities competition sliding their bikes upwards of 140 mph around a dirt oval, opened its 0.33 season in Daytona, Fla., on Thursday with hopes of making a family name.
“We will do something we want to do to make bigger the footprint, to extend the reach, of the sport,” CEO Michael Lock advised Fortune.
Interest the series, which started in 1954 below the call AMA Pro Racing, waned over the last several a long time with the upward push of other sorts of motorbike racing.
Lock, a former Ducati chief govt, rebranded the collection as American Flat Track in 2016 and started out imposing measures to resurrect the game, from raising price tag charges to imparting a play location for youngsters.
The efforts appear to be running: sales from price ticket income has accelerated at a double-digit clip for the reason that the rebranding project commenced. In 2017, nine,500 people became out for a single race, more than the roughly four,000 expected. Last 12 months, crowds surpassed 10,000-robust twice.
Meanwhile, Lock is gambling up the sport’s grassroots appeal, emphasizing flat tune’s drama and the talent and bravado of its competition. One flat track racer, Johnny Lewis, as compared the bikes’ thrilling lack of grip and balance to “ballet on dirt.”
“There’s not enough cash in the game but for the athletes to come to be cynical,” Lock said. “They run like old school athletes.”
To build an target audience, American Flat Track goes upscale, peddling perks including reserved seating, favored parking and concessions delivered to the stands. “The early adopters buy the most highly-priced tickets,” he stated.
The opposition for clients’ interest and wallets is fierce, particularly for an unmarried-day occasion.
“It’s no longer that tough to convince people to do something that’s quick and finite for a couple of hours, or longer like a two- or 3-day song pageant,” Lock said, “however to say ‘Come and do something for an afternoon, or three-quarters of an afternoon,’ is to get murdered.”
Meanwhile, the collection has to additionally discern out how to entice home viewers who should live stream the races.
“There’s a compelling case to do that,” Lock stated. “Sometimes more compelling than to go to an event two, 3, four hours away.”
American Flat Track also started out airing tape-not on time broadcasts on NBC but desires at least 1/2 a million visitors to signal blue-chip sponsors like Coke or M&M’s. “I don’t think we are able to get there on a tape-behind schedule display,” he said. Reaching an target audience 500,000-strong could “exchange our world.”
He additionally was taken into consideration setting the collection’ content behind a paywall, but “anybody I’ve spoken to who’s performed that asserts you will lose 75% of your target market.”
Meanwhile, Lock is exploring how to enhance the sport’s profile the world over, in which he thinks it is able to resonate with viewers and sponsors such as American motorbike-makers seeking to develop past the U.S.
“Motorcycles are well-known, whether you’re in Bangkok or London,” he said. “We’ve were given a product that is quite packageable.”
Lock said American Flat Track should appoint a strategy similar to the NFL, which hosted exhibitions in London earlier than including regular-season video games that can check the weather for a local franchise.
Said Lock, “They’re growing a fan base for something that 20 or 30 years in the past changed into inconceivable.”