Superbowling For Dollars


courtesy of Dain Gingerelli

It took crafty promoting to fill the stands of a Supercross race, as seen here during the 1977 Superbowl of Motocross at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Beyond actually promoting the race itself, a motorcycle race promoter’s main duty is to fill the bleachers with ticket-paying customers. You know, race fans. At that point the world of racing transcends into the world of marketing, such that the activity is nothing more than a business enterprise for the promoter and, generally speaking, a sports event for participants and fans.

There’s another key point worth considering: Through the years race promoters have come and gone. Many have failed, while others, armed with marketing savvy, have earned decent livings in the business. Names such as J.C. Agajanian, Bill France, among others, relied on sound marketing principles — much of which they learned through trial and error — to fill bleachers with loyal fans.

Among those stalwart promoters to invest in motorcycle race promotions was Mike Goodwin, promoter of the Superbowl of Motocross in 1972, a race that ultimately led to the form of racing known as Supercross. Goodwin’s marketing tactics were progressive in nature, and successful in practice. At one time in Goodwin’s career as a promoter he held an impromptu seminar with the motor press corps at which time he described how he went about planning his stadium-based Supercross races.

Goodwin’s formula began by sending a research team to a designated site to investigate more than just the targeted sports arena’s spectator capacity. The team also surveyed the local community’s economy. A strong economy suggested good cash flow within the populace, important for ticket sales.

Next Goodwin checked motorcycle sales for the region. Supercross fans, reasoned the crafty promoter, were motorcycle enthusiasts as well. Strong motorcycle sales suggested a potentially strong Supercross market.

If those two criteria were met, then it became a matter of determining overall costs for the intended race. If Goodwin’s accountants gave the nod, then, generally speaking, the race was on. Its exact date was ultimately determined by the availability of the sports arena itself.

Goodwin also used further demographics research to help seal the deal. Through ongoing marketing Goodwin learned that about 98 percent of Supercross fans learned about the stadium-held races via broadcast radio commercials; nearly half of those people who would fill the bleachers owned and drove pickup trucks; nine out of 10 spectators were likely to return the following year; and three out of four fans were males between ages of 12 and 34.

One more interesting tidbit that Goodwin and his associates learned over time: Cities and areas where Supercross races were held generally boasted exceptional ATC (All-Terrain Cycles; later known as ATV or All-Terrain Vehicles) sales, too.

Supercross remains one of the leading forms of motorsports today, but Goodwin is no longer a player. He was found guilty of hiring two gunmen for the 1988 contract murders of former business partner, Mickey Thompson and his wife Trudy. The two assailants were never captured, while Goodwin remains in prison, serving his time.

Published on Feb 18, 2022

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