Jeff Crutcher, team manager and racer of the new ATC FLPSDE Arenacross team, has spent a considerable amount of time and effort to secure sponsors and support for his race team by pitching to them a more unique alternative to the traditional 'logo on the bike' concept in terms of exposure for outside sponsors. Jeff sat down with us to chat a little bit about his unique team approach to providing value to outside sponsors in unique and engaging methods that most race teams don't often do, along with his background and other business ventures, including a fully custom graphics company and a coffee shop.
To start, can you tell us a little bit about 'your story'? (background, upbringing, how you got into riding, etc.)
I'm a 27 year veteran of the sport, beginning with my first bike in 1995- a KTM 50sx.
Motocross was passed down to me from my dad, a pro moto and offroad racer in his day, and within my first day of riding I knew as a boy this was the thing for me. I got equally excited to put my gear on as I did riding, which is an exemplary character of me still being obsessed with both style and safety gear in my 30's. Racing has since in fact been my thing, and here I am transitioning from sole proprietor racer into team manager, a pretty normal step for guys like me looking to stay in it while the body slows down.
When did you realize that you wanted to work in the powersports and motocross industry growing up?
To this degree, it was a couple months ago. Being a team owner and manager was not something I thought I wanted to do, until the idea hit me one night. I've been in the industry at a half measure for a handful of years by tinkering with writing for various publications and promoters. Additionally I operate a design company focused on custom moto decals, with general design services such as logos and branding assets. I saw a vacuum inside moto, and it's my goal to fill it entirely. Transparency is a virtue of mine I love to stand behind, but in this specific instance of what the exact vacuum is stays eyes-only inside my 5 year plan dossier.
What’s it like running your own graphics company and coffee shop at the same time?
Hectic. Designing decals and having them fulfilled by a third party by morning then switching gears to being a full blown shipping department for a consumable product is a heck of a task. However, the diversity in jobs keeps every day fresh and I would not go back to clocking in for someone else. I screw up stuff regularly, but that's part of being a small business(es) owner. Throughout the day I sprinkle in my duties as team manager. This morning I woke up at 4am with no hesitation, jacked to start the day with this email (and a fresh brew of Gimmick coffee, shameless plug.)
The ATC FLPSDE team approach to the upcoming Hoosier AX series is catching a lot of attention with your ‘rolling tradeshow’ concept. Can you walk us through how that idea came to be and what your thought process is behind it? How is it separating you guys from other teams?
The truth is that I am not securing partnerships off my race results. I'm solid and still competitive, hell I could win a round or two. Results are what I hired Yates to do, and I expect him just off his talent to be ahead of me regularly. However, he has a weekly salary with the team and no win bonuses because more important to me is his sterling personality and off-bike conduct. But this is not 1989 anymore, podium speeches in a tassel-laden tire hat aren't blowing up the mail order phone lines. I'm trying to reconceptualize what it means to be a team. The paramount key is developing relationships with the brands we represent for a successful two way partnership. Almost every brand we have brought into the organization has no presence in the Midwest and Midsouth, where our series runs. Many brands do not have the resources to send an employee to these B and C market events after rigorous training and all the accoutrements that come with dispatching a representative. Where we come in is being racer-representatives with countless hours in the product. For example, I can dissertate how the EVS Axis Sport feels against the knee while leg-gripping the bike through the infamous Millville sand whoops to a Schoolboy class racer at the Hoosier round in Memphis. Brandon and I are doctorates in motocross, and are both capable of conveying the products we use as the superior choice in a manner that ad-copy cannot. That is endorsement 101.
It's my goal to have hands on activation with the products we use on a level better than you'd find at supercross. I have taken a lot of notes from Carey Hart, who brought in Jimmy Johns, Soaring Eagle, Dodge, and a handful of other out of industry (OOI) brands to the front of the sport. He did so by presenting activation and deliverables as opposed to championships and results. I'm not writing the book on this kind of approach, but just applying my own spin as we compete in arenacross.
Do you think more teams could move to something like this down the road as sponsors start to look for more unique, engaging, fun and different ways to gain exposure?
Personally, I would love to see more team presence in every faction of our sport. Ideally, those teams would bring in an outside sponsor. The first goal is to cross brand between companies, especially as an OOI entity presents our sport to their demographic. A perfect example of how this works would be with FLPSDE, one of our team partners. They manufacture an insulated dual chamber beverage and storage container for the outdoor enthusiast. As we bring them in, and their demo, we want to turn all of their mountain bike riders into EVS knee pad customers. On the other side of the coin, the team's job is to see that every EVS customer is leaving their Yeti or Hydroflask inclinations in the backseat to the less expensive and doubly functional FLPSDE drinkware. If there is anyone considering how to get funding to start a team for OOI partners, I've given them the golden ticket to the chocolate factory in that last bit of info. I would love to see more participation on a team level given that a rising tide raises all boats. OOI brings in more OOI, which brings in more wealth for the aftermarket manufacturers.
Be on the lookout for the ATC FLPSDE Race Team throughout the Hoosier Arenacross season!