RJ: First off, tell me about Jam Sports, and the people that run it.
Tony Dimitriades: Jam Sports is a group of people, all successful in different fields, that have known and respected each other for a very long time. All of us have a passion for sports, and for the business of sports.
Two of our principals, Mike Held and Donnie Graves, learned that AMA Pro Racing was soliciting proposals for their AMA Supercross Series. We took a look at the opportunity, where supercross is at currently, and what it needs to be in the future. We came to the conclusion that our collective experience and our varied qualities could contribute to the growth of the sport. We decided to pursue it. That’s how Jam Sports itself came about. Contrary to what many people think, Jam Sports is not Jam Productions. Jerry Michaelson runs Jam Productions, and is one of the principals of Jam Sports. Jerry has a tremendous amount of experience promoting live events. In the 25 years I have known him he has done this with integrity and a more than usual amount of creativity. But then you could say that the others share those qualities and also bring their unique talent to Jam Sports as well.
|Rick with Tony and Donnie|
RJ: Give us some background on you and the others.
Tony: I’ve been in music management for 29 years, although originally I was an attorney. I’ve had the privilege of managing and working with many successful artists, including Tom Petty (who I have managed for 26 years), Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac including both Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Yes, Billy Idol, The Cars, and others. What does all that have to do with supercross? It gives one the ability to understand what the artists and talent (in this case the riders) need, what can be achieved on their behalf and of course how to achieve it. I want to find out what’s needed for the riders. Why is it that Jeremy McGrath is such a huge and unique star, a legend in fact, in motorsports, and yet does not seem to get that acknowledgment in the outside world, well certainly not as much as he should? We want Jeremy and many others of the top riders to be as well known as any baseball, football, or basketball stars. Why aren’t the top 15 riders well known like that? What is keeping more riders from attaining that stature?
I’ve traveled all over the world with the artists I have managed and have overseen the production and marketing of an event in every conceivable situation.
Spencer Churchill. Spencer is in charge of all financial aspects. He has worked with the biggest and most demanding stars in the world and he understands them and they like him. He’s extremely conscientious; he gets the big picture and knows how to work well with others to achieve preset goals. He has had financial responsibility for some of the biggest and most extravagant events ever produced and yet he still finds time to be nice to people.
Robert Richards. Robert and I have worked together over 20 years. He has experience in both management and live production of worldwide-televised events. Robert has raced motorcycles, and has a passion for everything he does and a particularly deep passion for motorcycles.
We have Donnie Graves, and I’ll let Donnie speak for himself.
Donnie Graves: I have a passion for both cars and motorcycles. I raced motorcycles in my teens, and four years ago started racing Shifter Karts for the joy of it. The services I will provide are taking the unknown or little known riders and helping them become well known, looking towards International growth opportunities for both for the athletes & series … plus working with the factories & teams to make sure their needs are being met as far as our responsibilities go. We would like to help educate the riders, and help them become even better spokespersons and promoters of themselves.
The public needs to know who these guys are. In music, a star is not made … they are discovered. Too many times, I see people trying to force an athlete into some unnatural “box” in order to become a better spokesperson … it’s a joke and neither the fans or riders buy it …you hope, you can help someone play to their strengths and become comfortable being who they are … a quiet person, should not be taught how to become a talkative person, they should learn how to use their demeanor to get their point across.
What a lot of people don’t seem to want to understand is that most racers are focused and quiet by nature … in this day and age of X-Games “Superstars” beating their chests in victory, there appears to be a marketing movement towards spectacle over competition. Yes, I believe that Supercross and Motocross are the first and the true action sports, but I would not want to see a move to “sell” the sport compromise the integrity. In order for the sport to grow, we need 15 riders who are known like Ricky or Jeremy or Travis or Bubba.
We have not come into the sport to manage the riders, but to work with and help their managers and agents reach their, and the riders goals. We want to make any resource or experience we have available to the riders, managers, agents, teams and sponsors. Additionally, we’ll try and bring opportunities to help them with many things, including exposure and media, outside of motorsports. Our TV package, with its 3-hour coverage, will allow us to highlight riders as never before. We have a goal of one day looking out onto the field and seeing twenty, fully sponsored two-three bike teams … we know this will be a lot of work and are not coming into the sport saying, we’re going to be the answers to everyone’s prayers.
We are simply saying that we see a need and we want to help and create an environment that is conducive for big time “outside the industry” sponsors to come to Supercross. Mike and I have come from a sport (CART/NASCAR/IRL) that is virtually 100% driven by sponsorship … we are willing to work long and hard to help teams, factories and riders raise the bar. Right now, there seems to be a tremendous amount of sponsorship lacking, especially at the team level … We think that the riders and teams should be making and have access to more money.
We will be making some of the inventory of sponsorship available to the riders and their teams. For example, we’ll offer TV and commercial time to their sponsors to fit into an overall package that will hopefully benefit their entire racing program and marketing goals. This is something that I don’t think has never been done before in the sport.
My work experience was initially in music. And I realized the services I provided in music were needed in motorsports. Setting goals, building profiles, PR, creating sponsorship opportunities, fans clubs, web sites, E-commerce, putting the right athletes with the right team, the whole lot. The prototypical manager in car racing was usually an attorney who negotiated a deal, and once the deal was done went on to finding another driver, another drive. The racers didn’t receive any real “services”, I simply want to help where and when I can, I’m new to this sport and don’t have all the answers, but I care a tremendous amount for the people who risk life and limb in the pursuits of their dreams and the fans that show up to support them.
Above all, our group has one goal – to grow the sport. If the sportgrows, everyone benefits.
Tony: Then of course there’s Jerry Mickelson. Jerry is one of the originals. His company Jam Productions, started in the 70’s and it is the biggest independent event production company in the U.S. Jam Productions produces over 1000 shows per year. They gross over 100 million dollars per year. They are a very successful company. They produce every kind of event from concerts to sporting events to inaugurations. They are a privately held company. I’ve known Jerry for over 25 years, he is not just a promoter, he is creative and has integrity and really understands marketing and new technology. He started the company that is now Rolling Stone.com. Jam Productions does everything SFX does and more. Jam Productions is the biggest event promotion company to not sell to SFX.
Now Mike Held he’s an interesting guy with a weird sense of humor. He has a great deal of experience in motorsports, he has managed drivers, and owned his own NASCAR team with Robby Gordon. He has won awards for designing safety helmets. His specialty is sponsorship and he has an exclusive deal with several major companies including Sony for sponsorship in motorsports. He’ll work with sponsors, and make sure they are getting full value for their investment. He’ll make sure all the participants and stakeholders in the sport have opportunities. His mission is to bring in sponsors from outside the industry and to make sure they get value for their money. We will be a resource, especially for sponsors outside of motorsports. You’ll find we’ll use the term ‘stakeholders’ a lot. That’s Mike’s term for everyone who has a stake in the success of the sport – the factories, the sponsors, the riders, tech persons, everyone involved in the sport.
Since we are a privately held company, and each one involved is a principal, we don’t go for titles like ‘Chairman’ and ‘President’ and such. Each of us has responsibilities, and each of us has different areas of expertise. We are a ‘team’, each person with unique qualities.
Jerry Michaelson: Tony has done a good job of telling you a few of the people we currently have involved. There are also the people that we will hire.
We will bring on-board people that have ‘hands-on’ experience in all facets of supercross. Let’s not forget – we have almost a year to prepare. We will be bringing in people with expertise in defined areas that will help with the production.
My focus will be on supercross. Since our announcement on November
5th, I have devoted my full time to supercross, and it alone is my priority.
RJ: Has Jam Sports ever produced a supercross event?
Tony: No, but when you have produced a thousand events a year like Jerry has and when you have supervised huge production tours on every continent like I have you have probably encountered every production scenario out there. If something new comes along then at the very least you know where to go for the solution.
Jerry: We have produced stadium events for almost 30 years. No matter what the event, in a stadium, many aspects of it are similar. One difference will be building a track instead of something such as a stage. All the other aspects of putting on the event, advertising it, and distributing tickets, are similar.
We’ve produced live and closed circuit events for boxing, music, tennis, ice shows, circuses, ballet, gymnastics, and an entire range of others. We haven’t confined ourselves to just one facet of the entertainment industry. We know how to identify and reach every type of demographic.
Reaching the fans and understanding their needs is something we know how to do. We do it every day. Our experience in producing events, and specifically stadium events is substantial.
RJ: By teaming up with AMA Pro Racing, along with the confidence you have with your own team, why do you feel you will do a better job than Clear Channel? Do you think their experience makes them more qualified than you?
Jerry: First, when we looked at what’s currently happening in the sport, we felt that the primary promoter was making decisions for themselves. Not for the sport, not for the manufacturers, not for riders, and not for the teams. They are in thesame markets year in and year out. They do that to enrich their pockets. That’s definitely one critical issue where we feel we can do a better job. The priority should not just be about how we can make the most money, but rather how we can help it grow.
Our 2003 schedule shows that supercross will be in markets that have not been visited in a long time, more large markets, and will reach more people than in the past. We are not just looking to go to markets that make the most money, but what’s best for growing the sport.
Secondly, the AMA has signed a deal to have live television, not tape delayed. Not only is it live television, but Speed Channel will also help promote the events and the TV shows. It’s not just that supercross will be on TV, but it will be promoted by Speed Channel. The public will know and will be constantly reminded where and when supercross will be on TV.
That commitment for promotion is just as important as the live TV. Our three hour show gives us the time to profile the riders and the production by The Indianapolis Motor Speedway production company will take the quality of the telecast to a whole new level.
Third, if you look at what’s been going on in the sport, the riders have been underpaid. Clear Channel keeps most of the money.
Now that we’ve come on the scene, all of a sudden Clear Channel has increased bonuses. Suddenly we are reading about availability of money for all sorts of increases. That just happened, that did not happen when there wasn’t any competition.
Those issues will always be part of our game plan. We don’t need competition to do the right thing. Compensating the participants, growing the reach of the sport and television are three critical issues that I can say with confidence we will do better.
Tony: You should not forget the AMA. The AMA has been a constant in the sport since supercross started, long before Clear Channel and the other companies they gobbled up came along. All the AMA ever needed was a partner they could work with. Clear Channel was not that partner because they had a different agenda. The AMA makes the rules, they’ve been the sanctioning body from the very beginning, and they are our partners. No one should underestimate the contribution they have made to supercross.
Because of the experience of our partners we bring many different skills to the table. Being a promoter of an event or series is one thing. Knowing how to grow the sport, knowing how to grow the brand, and knowing how to grow careers are all very critical requirements if you are going to take things to a whole new level. That’s what our experience has taught us to do.
Jam Sports shareholders (and by this I mean the people we feel responsible to) are the stakeholders. They are the essential ingredients of the sport itself, the participants, the manufacturers, the sponsors, everyone involved in the sport. We believe we share a common interest with them, which is the future well-being of the sport.
As a result of our game plan more people in the entire United States are going to be exposed to the great spectacle of live supercross. More media will be exposed to supercross. More people will know about Ricky, Jeremy, Travis, and eventually Bubba, the manufacturers, and more. That’s a big part of growing the sport.
RJ: How about major networks? Will you be able to get supercross on one of them?
Tony: That is part of the deal with The Speed Channel. We have eight events that can go on network TV or anywhere else for that matter. Our deal with Speed Channel gives us flexibility to take the sport to a whole new audience.
This is one of the reasons we brought in Indianapolis Motor Speedway and their production people. To get the sport consistently on network television takes growth. To do that takes great TV production and vision. If you look at the Indy 500 or the Brickyard 400, you’ll see the production that we hope to introduce to supercross. Secondly, you need people that have ‘been there and done that’ with the means to do it. We are not reluctant to bring in people that add something of value that we might not have. The IMS relationship is a good example of that.
RJ: Doesn’t Clear Channel’s experience in motorsports make them more qualified?
Tony: You can have experience. It’s how it’s used that’s more important. Sometimes, when you’ve been doing something for a long time; you can get complacent in the way you do it. When someone new comes along, they can have a different and better perspective. They can have more incentive to do things better. The Clear Channel TV package is a clear example of that. All tape delay, some ABC but little or no promotion, and no apparent new ideas for production judging by the production company they are locked in to. They cannot be compared to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway production people.
And who has more experience than the AMA? They’ve been sanctioning and helping produce motorcycle events for 75 years. They also negotiate more motorcycle related TV programming than anyone else in the country including their Superbike series. Their TV package for motocross is every bit as good as the new TV package Clear Channel has just announced for supercross. Clear Channel’s apparent experience has not, in my view, served them very well when it comes to TV.
Donnie: The promoter’s responsibility is the first row of the grandstand to the top row of the grandstand. What happens on the racetrack is the AMA’s responsibility. Is competition balanced? Is the track safe? The AMA has done a great job to make sure what happens on the field is correct. That is not going to change in 2003.
RJ: Word is Clear Channel controls many venues, partly in leveraging Monster Trucks and other events. How do you get around that? Can they close you out of markets?
Jerry: Can they close us out of markets? They are definitely trying! They are trying to control as many venues as they can to keep us out. They are trying to restrain others like us from competing. They are trying to leverage different buildings via their other properties. That is clearly ‘restraint of trade’ and anti-competitive. And they have threatened us with lawsuits.
Jam Productions fights Clear Channel every day in the music business. We refused to sell our company to them. We don’t like the message or business plans they use. It’s all about them, nothing for the fans. And it’s not about the stakeholders in the sport. So yes, I expected them to try to keep us out whether by fair or unfair means. They are even trying to make exclusive deals with two venues in one market.
However, our schedule shows that we are in markets they have tried to close out plus the new markets we are going to are far better.
Tony: Our schedule will be in major cities, in major stadium venues, across the United States. Comparing the 2002 schedule vs. our nearly finalized 2003 schedule, we are in seven of the top 10 markets in the United States, while Clear Channel is in only five of the top ten markets in the United States.
Yes, Clear Channel has been very busy recently making deals with some venues. Last time I checked, America allowed for fair competition and we think that’s a good thing. Clear Channel seems to have a problem with that concept.
RJ: So when will you announce your 2003 schedule?
Tony: I know that people are waiting. We have already announced our cities and will announce our schedule when we are ready, not because Clear Channel has put out yet another release claiming to have an exclusive deal with yet another venue. We will demolish that myth. We’ll start in Los Angeles, and finish in New York. Our schedule will show that it’s not possible for anyone to control every city in America. Every venue will be top-flight, major NFL type stadiums. They are all top-notch big league stadiums in major markets so apologies in advance to anyone who was looking forward to going to Boise or Des Moines. Although I know for a fact that Jerry promotes a lot of shows in Des Moines and I have personally been to a sell out show in Boise just earlier this year.
RJ: You’ve been hammered in the press, especially with all the recent Clear Channel releases. Your thoughts?
Jerry: Interesting point. Clear Channel seems to think it’s important to announce everything they do now. They’ve made a big deal out of announcing ‘exclusive’ relationships with venues. I’m here to say that whenever we approach a venue, we don’t need exclusives. We don’t need to use a building for a protection period to leverage ourselves.
Tony: They sure seem to be coming out with all these announcements at an interesting time. It’s obvious why they announced their 2003 schedule so early. I find it interesting to see a press release about their dirt deal. But yes they are out their trying to stop us getting dirt and even a dirt guy. Hey they even called the people at the Speed Channel and other potential partners to try and find a way to kill our deal. So people should ask themselves why they would resort to these tactics? Are these the people you want to entrust the future of your sport to?
Then look at what they are doing to the AMA. Part of their deliberately passive aggressive campaign has been to paint themselves as the victims of a bad decision by the AMA. The AMA Board are all good guys who care first and foremost about motorcycling. They are not political animals and so far you have not read their side of the story because they chose to take the high road. But seven years ago Clear Channel (then SFX) decided they would create their own sanctioning body but had to back down when the Manufacturers told them their allegiance was to the AMA. Clear Channel pays nothing to the AMA except a sanction fee which barely covers their out of pocket expenses for providing personnel to run the races. They (Clear Channel) have no obligation to put anything back into the sport and it shows. That is one thing I am sure the AMA was unhappy with.
Racing in the same markets year after year will make more money for the promoter, but will not grow the sport. So it costs a few hundred thousand to race in New York. Are you telling me Clear Channel cannot afford that? They are making millions every year from supercross and I am not impressed when a multi billion dollar company crows about investing $100,000 in their web site but does not race in the city where any major national sport must be in order to grow. Neither do I consider buying up all independent promoters an investment in the sport as Charlie Mancuso called it. I call it getting control so you can make more money. And we know for a fact that long before they knew the AMA’s decision to change promoters they went behind the AMA’s back and were negotiating to bring FIM to the US to sanction their series. Then they acted shocked and hurt when they heard that the AMA had picked a new promoter. The AMA was the only thing standing between Clear Channel and total dominance and they are going to great lengths to eliminate them.
So I would say, ask yourself how come they were ready within hours of the AMA press release with all those announcements about exclusive deals with buildings and dirt deals and increased bonus funds. And if they are so concerned about privateers why wait so long to do something about it? Right now they are making special proposals to the factories and I am sure they will soon announce FIM as their sanctioning body. The timing is all too suspect for me.
RJ: Part of the initial response from some is that Speed Channel does not reach enough people. Are you aware of that?
Jerry: You have to look at the numbers. How many people actually watch tape delayed supercross under the ESPN/Clear Channel TV set-up? Not enough. The TV package should be a driving force in expanding and growing the sport, and the production should be exhilarating like the live event. I don’t think you can say that about their ESPN package. Our ratings will be higher because people are more prone to watch live than tape-delayed and because we will have great production and a TV partner who will promote our sport and our telecast. I can guarantee you more people will watch live on Speed Channel than Clear Channel’s tape delay
Tony: Fox Entertainment has just bought Speed Channel. Fox is very aggressive, and on an expansion course right now. By 2003, when the numbers become relevant, Speed Channel will reach over 60 million homes. That might be a little less than ESPN2. However, as Jerry has said you’ll have to look at whether people will want to watch live supercross with great cutting edge production, or would they rather watch a tape delay a week or two later? That to me is the most relevant question. The other thing to realize is that our deal with Speed Channel is just phase one of our plan to revolutionize supercross TV coverage and production. As I have already said the Speed Channel deal gives us the ability to take up to eight events elsewhere. This opens up many exciting possibilities; from network to niche stations and we will make sure that whatever we do will improve upon the coverage we are already guaranteed by Speed Channel. As the sport grows the possibilities we have are unlimited. And unlike Clear Channel who made their TV deal without speaking to any of the stakeholders in the sport we will discuss with all relevant people what we intend to do with the eight events and will solicit their opinions and do what’s right for everyone including the sponsors, manufacturers and riders.
RJ: Is Jam Sports looking at making a larger presence in motorsports by doing other events and series as well?
Jerry: We are concentrating on supercross right now, but it’s only the first motorsports venture we are in. Others are in the pipeline.
RJ: If there were two series starting in 2003, will it hurt the sport?
Tony: If they are really competing, yes it’s possible. But ask the question ‘Why would there need to be a series without the factory riders? What sort of series could it be? And what sort of sanctioning body would it be? I find it interesting that one of Clear Channel’s press releases stated that they will be running a supercross series no matter what in 2003. I know they don’t have a commitment from the factory teams. Also, I’ve heard that they plan to put tickets on sale to their 2003 events soon. If that’s true, what are they going to tell the public about who will be racing? That’s the kind of stuff that in my view can hurt the sport in the long term.
RJ: When you started to build your 2003 schedule, did you look at venues, cities, and markets, or did you look to go up against Clear Channel?
Jerry: We looked at past history. We saw some weaknesses. One of the weaknesses we saw was that 50% of the races are west of the Rockies. We said to ourselves ‘This is a National sport, why is it not in all parts of the country?’ We looked at what’s best for growing the sport, not what’s best for promoters.
We then looked at the top 50 markets in the country, and then analyzed what was best to do. We thought about what and how we can do things better.
RJ: I’m a privateer that’s trying to break into the sport. I’m trying to get from place to place. I’m trying to earn a living. What do you say to me and guys like me that are trying to make it into a main event? What series should I go to if there are two?
Jerry: The privateer issue is a big issue for us. We have to make sure that those without the luxury of being sponsored by a manufacturer or team can be a big part of the sport. We feel the privateers have been abused for too long. As I said, the promoter has been keeping as much money as possible. Now it’s time for others to share in the rewards.
Tony: We are working on a privateer fund and were doing so long before Clear Channel rushed out their proposal. We want to make sure ours covers every situation itneeds to and we are speaking to a lot of people for their feedback to make sure we get it right. We have only had six weeks to do this and Clear Channel has had many years. Why did they wait until now to rush theirs out? I don’t think I need to answer that question. Riders are not stupid they can figure it out. We will make every stakeholder a part of the process.
We are going to create what we are calling the ‘Dirt Board’. Everyone who has a stake in the sport will be represented on the Dirt Board. It will be our advisory board, and everyone will be encouraged to speak their mind about anything they think. Any injustice. Anything wrong. Anything that needs to be improved. There will be a continuous dialogue.
RJ: Will this board have power? Will it have teeth? Can it bite back?
Tony: We are good listeners and the board will not be a puppet board. They will need to be persuasive first amongst themselves and when they speak with one voice we will have to listen.
Donnie: One of the first things we learned is that everyone in the sport does not feel like their opinions are being heard. And certainly not acted upon. The goal is to give everyone a voice. The bottom line is that no one entity, including Jam Sports, the AMA, or Clear Channel, should be allowed to dictate what happens with racing.
What happens on the racetrack is the AMA’s responsibilities. Outside of that, we are open to hearing and having conversations with everyone.
RJ: Has anyone from Jam Sports been in contact with Clear Channel since your announcement with AMA Pro Racing?
Jerry: Yes. Charlie Mancuso and his lawyers have been in contact. They have contacted us via letters threatening us. They want to make sure their position is very clear. And we have to respond very clearly as well.
RJ: You want long-term growth. How?
Tony: Sometimes you have to say ‘No’ to something’s that might make money immediately. You have to think about the long-term plan and adhere to it.
I’ll give New York as the classic example. It’s expensive to put on an event there. It definitely will have an effect on our bottom line. But, we have to do it for the growth of the sport. The media capital of the world has to have a supercross event. Every decision must be made for the long-term as well, not just the short-term. When you are trying to build a brand such as supercross, and many people’s careers are involved, it requires short-term sacrifices for long-term growth. When our series goes to New York everyone in the biggest market in the country will see race highlights on their local TV station. The New York Times and the Post and the New Jersey papers will write about supercross and the riders and New Yorkers will see the races live either at the stadium or on TV. That is a huge step forward towards taking the sport and its stars into the mainstream. That is growth. Without a plan for growth the sport will stagnate. It is not enough to play the same markets over and over again, even if you sell them out, and it is not enough to accept a TV package based on tape delay and no guarantee of promotion from your TV partner. You have to fight and, if necessary, sacrifice for growth.
In the corporate world today, that is not so easy for big corporations to do. A big corporation must show every quarter that they have made their financial numbers. When you are a privately held company such as Jam Sports, and the individuals come together with an understanding about what we are going to do, then it’s easier to implement that policy of long-term growth.
RJ: It appears as though Clear Channel and the AMA have not had a ‘good’ relationship over the past few years. How will your relationship be any different?
Jerry: It’s hard to comment on that, since we are on the outside looking in. The AMA would probably be best to answer that. However, if the relationship were better, Jam Sports wouldn’t be in this relationship with the AMA today. Again, everything has been run in the past for the benefit of the promoter, not the benefit of anyone else. Now that the AMA has taken a stand things will be better. But I wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t taken that stand.
Tony: When we initially discussed things with the AMA, it was apparent that the relationship between those two had spiraled out of control. I cannot speak to that exactly, since we were not involved. However, our relationship with the AMA will be a partnership. We produce the events, and they create the rules and sanction the events. As to the marketing of supercross, the television, and sponsorship, we will do that together.
We feel it’s important that the AMA have more say in what happens in supercross than what they’ve had recently. We are happy about that, as we’ve found a lot of common ground in our discussions. Scott Hollingsworth (CEO of AMA Pro Racing) cares passionately about the sport. He cares about doing the right things. People need to understand that every penny AMA Pro Racing gets will go back into the sport. It doesn’t go to shareholders like in a public company – it all goes back into the sport.
Jam Sports is still a company that needs to make money and so we can put our egos aside and say the body that has been a part of more motorcycle events than anyone and which is required to put back into the sport every penny it makes should have some say about the marketing of the sport. Logic says they will be a rational and objective voice in the decision making process. They cannot be excluded as Clear Channel has tried to do.
Every sport must have a strong and respected sanctioning body. For everyone out there who is asking the question, why would the AMA make this big move, what was wrong with the existing situation? Ask yourself one more question. Where would the sport be right now had the AMA not stood up to Clear Channel? The sanctioning body stood up to the biggest promoter in the country and within 45 days you have all these advances: Improved TV, higher bonuses, privateer funds, bigger markets for the live events. Even Clear Channel is scrambling to create the appearance that their series will be better and improved. None of this would have happened without the AMA and a courageous board who decided to speak up and do something about it when they did not agree with Clear Channel’s methods or lack of vision. Everyone who loves this sport should realize that the AMA has done their job and opened the door to a much more exciting future for the sport. What you have seen in 45 days is just the start. Everyone should have the courage that the AMA has and everyone should stand up to be counted.
RJ: How is your history in music and managing music stars going to help supercross?
Tony: It has certainly taught me things that we do not want to do – have a noble endeavor (supercross) be ruined by ‘Corporate America’. We’ve seen it happen in the past ten years when business takes over artistic or talent driven endeavors with lawyers and accountants making decisions for big companies. It’s all about profits on a short-term basis. Prices go up and not enough is invested for the future of the business. In live entertainment ticket prices have doubled and tripled in just a few years, and guess what? Attendance has been affected and CD sales have gone down. Those things have done immeasurable harm.
This should not be allowed to happen in Supercross. I have learned to fight the status quo. If you are representative of talent in the music industry you learn to do that to survive. We will make sure the talent (the riders) are heard loud and clear. They are not the sideshows, and they are not there to make sure the show goes on so that some big company with an anonymous board can make all the money from their talent. They are the ones that the public pays to see. They don’t pay to see Jam Sports or Clear Channel or anyone else for that matter. They are there to see the riders.
Then lets take New York as an example one more time. It is the media capital of the world. Media opportunities exist there that are not available anywhere else. So apart from the coverage of the races I have already spoken about there will be the opportunity to make sure that the foreign press and non-sports media such as VH1 and MTV and lifestyle magazines that have a compatible demographic are exposed to the excitement of the sport. Jam Sports principals have a lot of friends and contacts in these areas and we fully intend to take advantage of that.
RJ: Where is Jam Sports located?
Tony: Jam Sports currently has two main offices. The Chicago based Jam Productions will be the eastern home for Jam Sports, and we have new offices in Los Angeles starting January 1.
RJ: When did you get in contact with the AMA to start dialogue? I heard there were many companies in the negotiations with the AMA, including other big names like IMG.
Tony: We initially had contact with the AMA, I believe, in May of 2001. All of us had been to supercross events, and we wondered ‘What can we do to make this better?’ We submitted our proposal to them in June. We waited a while, and then we knew we had made the first round of cuts because we were sent a series of detailed questions that the AMA required we answer in writing. When I saw all the questions they asked, I felt comfortable with our presentation and confident that our approach was the right one.
The AMA did not just give the AMA Supercross Series to the highest bidder. They made it very clear they cared about a lot more things than that. They asked for proposals from many companies. I do not personally know of all those companies, but there were some big name companies, including Clear Channel.
RJ: What are you doing now?
Tony: What we want to do is reach out to as many folks as we can. We did not do that immediately – we wanted to put our TV package together first, and then complete our 2003 schedule. Now that those are in place, it’s time to go out and speak with people. We want to let people know whom we are, and that we can do the job, and do it very well.
Internally, we are finishing up a bonus structure for privateers, completing our Championship bonus figures, and finalizing sponsorship programs. Jerry on the other hand S
Jerry: My main focus has been venues and production related issues.
RJ: Why should anyone choose to attend the AMA Supercross Series produced by Jam Sports over others?
Jerry: We analyzed the entire sport and it’s history. We have a better schedule. We have live television. We have great TV production with Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s production company. That will bring up the production value of television tremendously. It won’t compare to what’s being done today.
We will rely on input from everyone in the sport thru our Dirt Board. This board will be people in the sport people that know the sport people that want to improve the sport. We listen. Instead of thinking we know it all, and doing everything for our benefit. We’ll make it a better sport for all of the stakeholders.
Tony: The most important reason will be the riders. We believe we have more to offer as Jerry has said and therefore the riders and factories will come with us. The other reason is the AMA. The AMA has been involved since 1927 supporting everything to do with motorcycling in this country. They help make laws that benefit motorcyclists on the local, state, and federal levels. They sanction and help produce thousands of events in every different discipline of motorcycling. They are the heritage of racing, and the sport.
Look at corporate attempts to break away from the sanctioning bodies. Look at the XFL. It doesn’t matter how much money you throw at something, you need the heart and soul of the sport. That’s what the AMA is to supercross.
We want people to know we care about the long-term. We want people to know we care about what they think. We want them to know we are fair and hard working people. We believe that will make a difference to people.
RJ: Should anyone even care who promotes a race?
Tony: Don’t confuse promoting a race vs. sanctioning. Some promoter’s feel their job is done because they put people in the seats. What’s more important, and what they should care about is who sanctions the race and who cares about improving and growing the sport.
Rules are important. That constant needs to be there. Safety and fair competition is important. You’d be surprised how much communication there has to be between the participants and the AMA to make sure one team does not get an edge over another. That’s a huge job that doesn’t make anyone very popular. If one entity controls all aspects, then they control the sport. That’s not healthy if it is a company that needs to make a profit.
We don’t see ourselves as just promoters. We are one of the custodians responsible for the growth and success of the sport and for the well being of all its stakeholders. We take that responsibility very seriously and everyone, the factories, the teams, the riders, the sponsors and the fans should care who they entrust with that responsibility.
RJ: Any last comments?
Jerry: We are always up for a challenge, especially with a sport where there is so much opportunity for improvement. As much as it has been a lot of hard work, it’s also been exciting, challenging, and it’s helped to make me a better person.
Tony: Supercross has a tremendous amount of potential growth and everyone should benefit. Greed must not be allowed to take over. Greed needs to be taken out of sports for it is affecting too many great sports. Everyone needs to fight against that happening to supercross. That takes passion and hard work.
Editor’s note: We will have an interview with Clear Channel ASAP