Nitro Circus successfully completed a sell-out tour of Australia earlier this year on the back of a sell-out tour of the United Kingdom. The Bugg Report attended the final show in Melbourne which was hosted by Peter Maule, Global Head of Licensing at Nitro Circus and Elizabeth Vitale, Director of Licensing at Velocity Brand Management (VBM).
Nitro Circus is based on an Action Sport Collective concept and is the brainchild of stuntman and daredevil, Travis Pastrana. Nitro Circus combines many forms of freestyle tricks on dirt bikes, push bikes, roller skates and just about anything else with wheels. Travis was one of the first to venture into freestyle motocross and extreme sports, something he has been known for since his early days as a Motocross & Supercross racer in the United States.
The extensive touring program and DVDs that have been available over recent years have paved the way for Nitro Circus to become a major merchandise platform over coming years. We had the chance to speak to both Peter & Travis to learn all about Nitro Circus and better understand the key drivers and the future potential of this amazing spectacle.
Questions to Travis…
Travis, there have been many extreme sports platforms like Crusty Demons, Metal Mulisha & Nitro Circus. Where did Nitro Circus begin and how has it evolved over the past 10 years?
Nitro Circus began as a lifestyle. A bunch of people who were really passionate about action sports who found a way to fund the craziness. Gregg Godfrey took his passion for film making and made a few motocross movies but really needed to get someone on the inside to get the best riders in his films so they would sell. I was that guy. He came to me when I was 18 years and one day old and said, “hey, do you want to base jump a motorcycle into the grand canyon?” I said “hell yea, what else can we do that’s never been done before?” We’ve been traveling the world filming and documenting the craziness ever since.
With the rise of the internet and the instant satisfaction of social media, we’ve had to change from making DVD’s to focusing on live events. The world is evolving quickly but fortunately we’ve been at the forefront of this change. I couldn’t be more fortunate that we have been able to find more and more people with the same passion, love and drive for these crazy sports. It’s an amazing group that expands on a daily basis but we haven’t really changed our company goals… just the path we take to get there.
Nitro Circus has been described as “An Action Sports Collective.” Can you provide us with your perspective on this label?
Nitro Circus is an Action Sports Collective that continues to grow as we find more and more people with our similar passion. It’s not just motorcycles or skateboards. We don’t care what you look like or how cool other people consider your sport. We bring together the people that have similar mind sets and try to help them push past the boundaries of what was impossible yesterday. Nitro Circus helps athletes from all disciplines progress as safely as possible and with the most guidance from the best athletes from all over the world.
Your passion and dedication to Nitro Circus has seen you become the driving force behind the creation of this amazing entertainment platform. Can you take the extreme element any further?
There are no rules in action sports. Go as high as you want, as fast as you want, and spin or twist or move however you chose. Every time it seems that progression has slowed down, someone seemingly reinvents the wheel. The safer we build the landings, the higher they go… It’s my job to make sure the safety increases at a rate as quick or faster then the riders skill levels. It’s actually a tougher job than most would think… but that’s the beauty of our sports.. nothing is impossible… it just takes a little bit of math and a lot of practice.
I noticed with interest during your Melbourne show that your team members are very respectful and demonstrate a high level of manners. Is this culture something that you have engendered into the guys and girls?
Action sports started out with a “rock star” image. Most of the successful action sports brands before us cultivated this image of “freedom” in a way that seemed reckless and disrespectful at times. Growing up with a marine for a father, he instilled hard work and respect as the foundation for everything I do in life. Nitro Circus has continued that and we built a family. The comradery and respect among the riders is unlike any “work” environment I’ve ever witnessed. When people say what are you most proud of in your life, I usually smile and answer “family.” Not just my immediate family… but all the men and women who I have the privilege of touring the world with doing what we love.
You have obviously devoted much time to plan the staging and choreography of the show. Did you set out to have the running order so slick?
It’s been awesome to have the opportunity to tour the world and really perfect the live show. All the riders help make every night something special but it wasn’t always like that. In the first two years the riders would present all of our ideas to Mike Porra and had to rely entirely on his past experience of running live shows. Mike did an amazing job. Honesly, I’m amazed at how well he was able to take our small “family,” add in so many new people and new ideas in the live format but not change who we were or what we were about… he got Nitro Circus from day one.
The market today offers so many entertainment products for consumers to buy into. What is Nitro Circus’ key selling point?
The key selling point for Nitro Circus is the product. We don’t try to be anything we are not… The riders are really great at what they do. They sign autographs and talk to kids because they want to. We are always changing ramps or redesigning bikes or building contraptions because we are constantly searching for something that will be bigger, better and more fun. The audience can see that. Everything is genuine and people really seem to appreciate that.
How do you plan to ensure longevity for the Nitro Circus brand and what is the one thing you will do to help guarantee this?
As for longevity, there has been a cycle in the past with action sports that we need to break. Action sports build from the ground up. Starting with passion and genuine excitement… then money comes in and the level of competition rises but some of the fun is lost and it’s really tough for kids to make it to the top without sponsorship or some type of help. Eventually the passion dies and it goes underground for a few years… then the same process starts again. So, Nitro Circus, in order to continue to grow will need to attack from three directions.
Firstly, we need to be able to provide a way for athletes to make a living year round in an environment that encourages creativity and fun (touring the world with your best friends and pushing yourself on jumps that have forgiving landings to allow progression without injury). Secondly, have a place where up and coming athletes can practice with the newest and safest technology available… for free… (Nitro Academy of Excellence – we have one in California, one in Maryland and one in Australia). Thirdly, there needs to be a continually evolving World Championship caliber event that evolves yearly as the athletes do. An event that stimulates the creativity which got these athletes excited about these sports in the first place. This championship event will give sponsors a gauge of who truly is the best and most progressive athlete in the world (the World Games). This event has to be open for anyone to qualify or there will never be new faces.
What is the origin of your loyalty to Suzuki and the number 199? Do they both play a role within the Nitro Circus brand?
My loyalty to Suzuki and my number 199 are more personal than business. Suzuki was always there for me when I was a motocross racer and I like to repay that favor by not leaving them for a paycheck this late in my career. I bleed yellow. The 199 was my racing number throughout my career so I’ve held onto it in everything I do.
You have recently become a fully-fledged Nitro Circus sponsored rider after 10 years with Red Bull. This is a big call. Why the change now?
I’ve had a lot of amazing sponsors that have helped me over the years. Red Bull gave me the wings to be able to do what I do for a living and I’m forever appreciative of them. Nitro Circus and Red Bull aren’t a competing brand but they are both media companies to an extent. I’ve given up all of my sponsorship so I can fully get behind those people who want to get behind Nitro Circus and our athletes. Of course I still have my loyalties but at the end of the day, I don’t want to hold back Nitro Circus or the athletes in it because of something personal.
Questions to Peter…
Peter, you are in a fortunate position where you are beginning with a clean slate from a merchandise standpoint with Nitro Circus. What are the three most important aspects of your global plan here?
Finding best in class licensees who have a reputation for bringing real innovation to their respective categories and a heritage of broad and strong retail distribution. Providing our partners with a portfolio of tools and support to be successful, including world class creative assets along with the ability and opportunity to integrate into our 360 degree IP business. Provide support like retail pass through rights into our show as well as athlete appearances etc.
Secure anchor retailers in key markets and promote awareness and drive traffic back to stores through live event marketing, TV advertising, athlete support and strong social media.
What are the three most important product categories for Nitro Circus that you will look to develop and launch first?
We are very fortunate that our brand allows us to cut across a wide cross section of categories throughout both hard and soft lines. With that said, our key initial areas of focus include ride on products/sporting goods, video games, toys and apparel/headwear. We plan to move into other areas including party goods, stationary, posters, home décor.
We have talked about your ability to be flexible with retail partners in terms of being able to bring the spectacle to their door. Can you give us a brief insight into how you will achieve this?
We are fortunate to have a massive touring business that covers all four corners of the world. We rotate each year from regional outdoor events to capital city arena shows. This allows us to be in market in large and smaller cities with our tour, promotion and athletes. We have successfully completed in-store signings with the athletes, and head office demos with the best athletes in the world.
I notice that you have recently launched your online store (www.shop.nitrocircus.com). Outside of your own Nitro Circus platform, will you look to expand your offer to other online players?
Yes, but our goal is to secure the appropriate anchor bricks and mortar retail partnerships in key markets and ensure we are leveraging their e-commerce capabilities. Our fans are both socially and digitally active and we need to provide access to Nitro Circus consumer products where they like to shop.
How does the event merchandise program fit into your global strategy?
Our event merchandise is designed separately from our licensing and more traditional consumer products division. We treat this segment as “concert or souvenir” style merchandise rather than lifestyle or performance products.
In terms of selecting your key partners, will you focus on global arrangements or will you look to localise your deals by market?
We plan to secure global deals in categories that command expensive or elaborate tooling or designs like toys, construction sets, and video games, but remain committed to finding best in class localized licensees who understand in market retail and consumers.
We spoke about the official rider merchandise being available to the consumer; how will this play out?
Nitro Circus is truly an aspirational brand and our fans want to wear and ride what our riders do. We will be working with licensees to time when and what will be going to retail and outfit our riders in shows to support retail placement. All this combined with in-show messaging driving consumers back to retail which will be our biggest weapon.
As Travis is such an important part of the overall brand, will there be merchandise ranges dedicated specifically to him, or other riders for that matter?
Yes. We are working on a fully expanded line of Travis Pastrana 199 headwear, apparel and socks. As of January 2016, Travis moved from Red Bull exclusively to Nitro Circus and we certainly plan to leverage this iconic shift.
What markets will launch first?
Based on our tour plans and brand awareness, we are focusing on North America, UK and Australia with Europe and South America to follow. We are in discussions with several key licensing agents currently to help us develop European countries and will announce appointments at Brand Licensing Europe this October.
The Bugg Report would like to thank Travis and Peter for this interview. We really appreciate the opportunity to learn about Nitro Circus and wish you the best in the future to further build the brand globally.
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