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Talon Kawasaki: Crowd Funding

Yep, you have read that right. Talon Kawasaki are believed to be the first team to offer crowd funding in order to help finance part of their 2014 campaign. The team owner (and MX Vice founder) has revealed that they have recently lost two sponsors, because of the recession, hence why this new approach has been adopted. Crowd funding is not a completely new way of funding motocross projects, but this is the first time that it has been applied to a professional motocross team, and also the first time in British motocross.

In recent months, crowd funding has helped well known American motocross videos to be created, so it is clearly a path that has been tried and tested. Also, a football club in the UK (Ebbsfleet) inspired a generation of people that crowd funding is a viable option not too long ago.

Whether this is going to work or not remains to be seen; after all, it is going to fall on the fans shoulders. But, by exploring this option, Talon Kawasaki are really pushing the boundaries of traditional sponsorship, and if it works, we wonder how many other teams would follow suit in the off-season next year.

We caught up with James Burfield to find out exactly why he has chosen to go down this route, and how successful he thinks this approach could be:

MX Vice: James, why have you adopted the crowd funding approach for the Talon Kawasaki team?

Burfield: Well, we set out in October with everything in place; all the finances were agreed, and we were ready to hit 2014. I got a call from a long time friend who supported me this year and he said that they have hit tough times, so they had to look at cutting costs and the marketing budget was the first thing to get cut. Obviously, it’s disappointing, but you have to put these things into perspective – you either put people’s jobs at risk, or sponsor a race team. I’m a business owner myself, so I completely understand. What we have done is tried some digital solutions (i.e. Web Site, SEO and Social) to get some more business in for him and we have done it for free. If we can help him get more work then hopefully he’ll remember we were there to help and maybe we could be in a better situation in 2015. But, as if that was not a big enough blow, another sponsor pulled out the next day for the same reason. So, at that point, we were down £700.

MX Vice: So, are those the only sponsors that have dropped out for the 2014 season?

Burfield: We worked hard to give two product sponsors exposure this year, but unfortunately they never responded to my phone calls or emails when I was trying to get everything in line for 2014. Obviously, that is a blow, as we would have hoped to build a long term relationship with them. However, we have got two new sponsors in this year to replace them. I guess we are pretty new to this, we had a baptism of fire last year, and we are still trying to figure out how things work.

MX Vice: How did the crowd funding idea come about? It’s definitely a unique approach.

Burfield: Since day one I have wanted to build support for the team from the people that are passionate about what we are trying to achieve. We want people to financially and emotionally invest in the team, to follow it through the highs and lows, and to be part of the journey. As a fan, I love the idea of supporters having unique clothing that can not be purchased in shops, but can be earned through support. Everyone wearing a Talon Kawasaki t-shirt, hoodie or coat would have invested in the team; they would be a part of the reason that the riders are out on-track at the highest level. Not only that, but we want our followers to feel like they are a part of the team, to hang out with us at the track and away from the track – we want them to feel part of the Talon Kawasaki family. So, crowd funding is a way of achieving that – the success that Ebbsfleet Town had made me wonder if the same approach could be transferred to motocross.

MX Vice: Why did you decide to not follow the traditional methods like the other teams in the pits?

Burfield: I’m not speaking for everyone in the Maxxis, Pro Nationals and MX Nationals pits, but I’m sure they might agree that this year has been particularly tough, and the economic situation really isn’t helping. We have tried everything, and everyone. We even talked to companies like B&Q, who first asked what motocross is, before stating that they were concentrating on football, as that hits their demographic and it’s on TV. As a team, what can we offer? At the moment, outside the normal circles of MX our output is delayed sky sports coverage. When you are dealing with large corporations and big companies they want to know how their brand and message will be maximised. Anyone within the MX sector is fine with that, but what can we offer to those outside of the MX circle?Anyway, that’s a conversation for another day.

MX Vice: So, do you think this approach is going to prove to be beneficial in the grand scheme of things?

Burfield: [Laughs] I hope so, otherwise I would not have invested the time. I genuinely think that there are people out there who want to feel like they are a part of something, rather than stood on the outside of the teams awning, they would love to be part of the team, but they either don’t know how or do not have thousands to invest. If they buy a tee shirt, it instantly helps the team – if we sell ten tee shirts that’s £250 towards fuel, parts etc, which goes an awful long way. If a small business is looking for a website in the New Year, then Burfield Digital Agency will build a responsive template of a website from WordPress that would be perfect for their business, so the small businesses are actually getting something back from their investment, as well as the exposure and also being part of what we are trying to achieve.

MX Vice: What if the crowd funding does not turn out as expected? Will it be business as usual for the team?

Burfield: Of course, we made the decision to run regardless of the funding that is received; we have a long term strategy for the team. We are hoping that the money we are able to raise will help us build an infrastructure for the team going forward. With the correct infrastructure we can command a bigger presence, better parts etc. We know what we are trying to do with the team and after last year’s issues early on, we started again and finished the season really well with Nez [Parker]. Now, with the two riders we have in MX1, we believe we can really make a difference.

MX Vice: You mentioned you have two riders in MX1. Yentel is the only one that has been announced at the moment, so can you tell us who will be partnering him?

Burfield: Well, we are hoping to put out a press release either today or tomorrow.  He’s English, he’s talented and weirdly enough, he has been overlooked for a ride this year. It’s Dorren Coutts – he is not signed on the dotted line yet, but we are both 99% sure, which is enough for us to to put it out there for the public.

MX Vice: Well, good luck for 2014 – hopefully the crowd funding takes off.

Burfield: Thanks! It’s a little bit weird being interviewed by you guys!

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