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Supercross-Motocross Come Together After 50 Years to Maximize Media Rights Values

Supercross-Motocross Come Together After 50 Years to Maximize Media Rights Values

The inaugural SuperMotocross (SMX) World Championship wrapped up this past weekend in Los Angeles. Team Honda HRC’s Jett Lawrence earned the overall win on Saturday night, along with the points needed to become the sport's first SMX World Champion and the $1 million grand prize bonus.

The SMX World Championship is the culmination of the Monster Energy Supercross (think: preeminent off-road series) and AMA Pro Motocross (think: leading grassroots series) seasons. The two homologated motorcycle racing series came together this year, their 50th seasons, to establish a joint postseason and maximize their collective media rights values.

The strategic partnership has also made it easier for Supercross and Motocross to promote their respective seasons, and to tell “the story of [the OEM] brands, [the] athletes, [and the] sport for 10-11 [consecutive] months,” John Hinz (CEO, KTM North America) said.

The results to date have been positive. Race entries, fan attendance, and television viewership are all on the rise; and OEM and sponsor interest has followed.

“It’s the collective voice that we’re all finally on the same page, with a common goal to grow the sport and grow motorcycling [driving business growth],” Dave Prater (VP, Supercross) said.


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Supercross and Motocross have shared OEM partners, fans, and athletes for decades, and the two circuits have maintained a healthy working relationship since Feld Entertainment took over Monster Energy Supercross in 2008.

“We’ve always been friends, always been enthusiasts for one another’s series,” Davey Coombs (president, MX Sports) said.

MX Sports runs, produces, and promotes AMA Pro Motocross.

But Supercross and Motocross ran as separate entities on parallel paths.

“We weren’t pulling in the same direction from a business standpoint,” Prater said.

By 2020 it had become obvious that further cooperation would aid all stakeholders.

Prater and several other Feld executives approached the MX team just prior to the 2020 Daytona Supercross event. Then the COVID-19 outbreak occurred and halted those discussions.

But the shared need to convince local health and government officials it was safe to return to racing soon had the two sides in lockstep, and eventually, “we decided to move [the] Pro Motocross [season] back so that Supercross could finish [its] series,” Coombs said.

The good-will gesture ensured everyone across both series would get paid as contracted (no teams or OEMs were lost during the pandemic), and made it clear there was more Supercross and Motocross could be doing to help one another.

They ultimately decided to unify the sport by creating a combined playoff. Doing so enabled Supercross and Motocross to take a cohesive 10 plus month television package, one culminating in a single championship, to market.

NBC Sports and Peacock ultimately took down the broadcast rights to the two series.

The multi-year pact increased Supercross’ exposure and media rights revenues ~120% YoY. Motocross saw its rise even more as the series had lesser deals in place during last year’s ‘bridge’ season.

“We went from providing 17 Supercross races to 31 races with Pro Motocross and SMX entering the fold,” Prater said. “Plus the quality of the broadcast increased drastically with the inclusion of drones, leader lights, leader pointers, and an all-star lineup of on-air talent.”

Supercross viewership on Peacock rose up 95% YoY, while the sport’s four linear telecasts on USA Network and NBC grew eyeballs 24% YoY.

But it’s not just increased exposure and production value driving the growth. Coming together has made it easier for fans, particularly new fans, to follow the sport. Having the same teams and athletes competing across two series, for multiple championships, under disparate rules, on different networks was too confusing.

Collectively, live event attendance is up 13% YoY.

The increased interest in and coverage of the sport is spurring sponsorship interest too. Sponsorship revenues are up ~30% YoY across the two series.

Coming together has “helped us in getting [existing] sponsors to invest more knowing that they are [now] investing [in the sport] across the board,” Coombs said; and it has opened the door to conversations with non-endemic brand partners.

It has spurred an increase in the number of riders entering Motocross competitions too.

“We have seen an incredible number of new participants, and even some older guys [returning], because they wanted to move up in the SuperMotocross overall rankings and get seeded for the first playoff,” Coombs said.

For context, last year’s event at Budds Creek MX Park (Maryland) had 87 entrants in one class and 85 in another. 130 entrants tried to enter each of the race classes this year. Capacity is 90.

Increased participation does not necessarily drive profitability for MX Sports as entry fees tend to go towards putting on better events. But it does have a correlation to bikes sold, a critical metric for the seven OEMs investing $10-15 million/year in race teams (think: Kawasaki, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, KTM, GASGAS, Husqvarna).

“Racing is the single biggest marketing asset that we have,” Hinz said.

KTM spends nearly twice as much on motorcycle racing as it does on traditional advertising. And that disparity is growing.

“We’re increasing our investment [in racing] because we see an opportunity for growth in the market,” Hinz said. “And growth in the market is in part due to this [combined] series.”

Performance motorcycle manufacturers have long wanted Supercross and Motocross to come together and operate with the same rule book, under the same sanctioning body. And not even for the growth opportunity that has existed.

Doing so saves them “years” of R&D costs, Coombs said.

Come ’24, two more OEMs –and subsequently race teams– will join the SuperMotocross fold.

“Adding [Triumph and Beta] will only amplify the series moving forward and provide more racing opportunities for our athletes,” Prater said.

Coming together has yielded the desired results for motorcycle racing’s two series. It will be worth watching to see if the strategy delivers comparable outcomes for those associated with spring football, women’s hockey and pro pickleball.

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