By Mike Garrison
A Moment with Mike is a weekly opinion column where LiveRC’s Mike Garrison gives his take on hot-button issues, general topics, and conversations within the RC industry. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of LiveRC.
While many companies this time of year are announcing the newest drivers they have chosen to sponsor, MIP has announced they are putting an end to their sponsorship program after 40 years (CLICK HERE to read the full press release). They are putting together a new “MIP Brand Ambassador Program”, however, this will be a very select few drivers and most likely the worlds best who have truly earned their support.
So why are they doing this? MIP’s founder Eustace Moore stated, “Our new program will allow us to prosper into the twenty first century and allow us to continue to build revolutionary innovative racing upgrades for RC cars. Our new Ambassador program also allows us to take a step back and give hobby shops the opportunity to directly sponsor racers who support their business and who are representatives in their own right of the hobby shop. MIP and its ambassadors will work with hobby shops to support the MIP brand and provide assistance and support in selling MIP product.”
I am one of the drivers effected by this decision and essentially “cut from the team”. Naturally I was very disappointed and a little bit frustrated when I first heard the news, but after thinking more and more about it, I think MIP could be making a decision that more companies should consider. Let me explain…
As a long-time team driver sponsored by MIP I have had the opportunity to be a part of a team, use and promote products around the nation ranging from chassis kits to tool sets, and all at a discounted price. This helped me tremendously as a racer by cutting down the cost of racing, and it helped MIP as a company by receiving the brand loyalty, promotion, and sales. The problem is I don’t race my R/C car at MIP. What I mean by this is that MIP doesn’t own a hobby or a track for me to race at. My sponsorship directly with MIP guaranteed them a sale and guaranteed me a discount, but what does it guarantee the local hobby shop and track…nothing.
While there are many factors that can effect the rise or fall of R/C racing, there is only truly one thing that EVERYONE in the R/C racing industry MUST have to survive, and that is a place to race. Without tracks to race on there is no need for race cars, there is no need for race inspired products, there is no need for any of the companies based around racing, there is no need for racers (pros included), and at that point there is certainly no need for sponsorship as there is nothing and/or no one to sponsor.
Not all, but most tracks do not survive and thrive as a business based solely on providing a race track. Most of them rely on a hobby shop which sells the kits, parts, tools, tires, accessories, etc. which are then used on the race track. The problem is 99% of the time with sponsorships the hobby shop never sees those sales and suffers while the companies and racers benefit.
Sponsorship is an excellent way for companies to ensure they have loyal customers, receive brand promotion, and grow. Sponsorship is an excellent way for racers to ensure they can afford to race by receiving discounts directly from the sponsoring brand. In the immediate future this seems like a great plan, but looking long-term how will the benefits of sponsorship pay off when companies are suddenly struggling to survive and racers struggle to race when tracks and hobby shops no longer exist?
I am not saying that all sponsorships should suddenly be eliminated, but I believe sponsorship should have to be truly earned by only a select few who truly deserve the support for their results, representation, and reputation they bring to the table.
Many say that sponsorships are just “handed out to anyone” these days. To find out how hard it really is to “earn” a sponsorship I quickly put together a very basic fake resume using a fake name, fake results, and fake information with no photos or facts included. To my surprise and disappointment, a generic resume created for a fictious person in less than 15-minutes with all fake information received a chassis sponsor, a tire sponsor, an engine sponsor, and multiple accessory sponsors from some very well-known brands in the industry.
I am truly shocked at the results of my experiment. I am also truly concerned about the short-sided thinking and credibility behind sponsorships today, and the general well-being of the industry moving forward.
To ALL of the companies in the R/C industry – R/C racing needs your help now more than ever. If someone truly earns your attention, respect, and support, then by all means sponsor that driver. If someone sends you a fancy piece of paper, do your research, and consider the well-being of the hobby shops, the tracks, and industry before you “welcome them to your team” with a hand-out sponsorship.
To ALL of the racers in the R/C industry - Deep down inside you know whether or not you are worthy of a sponsorship or if you are just price shopping for a good deal. If you're simply digging for discounts, try digging in your wallet and help out the tracks and hobby shops that provide you a place to race.
With all that being said, I am certainly not excluding myself from all of this. I hope that I have truly earned my position as a sponsored driver with the companies who support me personally. By no means do I hope to lose any sponsors, however, if I have not earned the positions I have received - I don’t deserve them and shouldn't be sponsored in the first place.
A LOT of focus has been put on sponsorship from both racers and companies over the past 5-10 years, and it is time we step back and put that focus on the R/C racing scene as a whole.
Rather than racers chasing sponsorships and companies handing out sponsorships, we should be chasing and handing out ways to support the roots of our racing – which is the tracks and hobby shops that ALL of R/C racing NEEDS to survive.