Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Flatchat part 2 with Diversion TV's Bobby Carter


Your comment on jams I completely agree with, jams are rider friendly... pros talk to ams, ams go away stoked, contests in some ways don't help too much, people bitching, personal pride at stake, sponsorships, and for the most people losing sight of what riding is all about..
Yes, and that brings up another point. With contests you get all that complaining and stress for little to no money! Guys are out there putting all their time practicing combos 5 in a row, spending all that money to travel to the contest, ride really well, get 4th place, and receive very little money. Magazines don't really cover contests anymore and even if you place high, there's no guarantee that you'll be able to even get a web picture for your sponsor. I think a pro contest needs at the level of Circle of Balance, or at least Ninja Spin to be worthwhile for pros. The Flatland world circuit will hopefully become this for flatland, but it needs more time to grow and develop.
While big money contests should be reserved for the pros, the other contests should focus on the AMs and not even have a Pro Class. The pros should judge the AMs. If you look at Japan, KOG is really more of an Am contest than a pro contest. Although the pros get the recognition on the internet, when you go there in person, AMs way out number the pros. It happens in three different areas in Japan throughout the year, so that the AMs can participate without traveling far.

Ams need something to have some structure in their development and an award for their accomplishments. Ams need the spotlight! All they are looking for is product or a trophy- some recognition. Product is something flatland companies can provide much more easily than cash sponsorships. As a company owner, I would want Ams to get free samples of my product. Ams are the ones who are buying products and keeping the economy going. These types of events can be fun for the participants, cheap to organize, and an effective marketing tool for companies. They can happen all over the world at the local spots.
For the pros, I think that shows are the future. Even Circle of Balance is really a big show. I think shows are more effective at building flatland, the riders are can get consistently paid and the riders can represent their sponsors more effectively. At a contest, a pro is one of many people with various sponsors trying to get in front of the crowd. At a show there's usually one main sponsor being promoted.
I don't see a reason why any of the teams like A Bad Thing, Odyssey, Suelo, Ares, KHE, etc. can't be booking shows and going on tour. They could be making money off each show and promoting their brands. They could notify the media of the show and guarantee that their riders would be getting the coverage.
Another analogy to the music industry- when you're a local band and you think you have some skills, you might compete in a battle of the bands. Once you get on that record label, you don't need to go back to competing in a battle of the bands. You go out and perform concerts and drop record albums. Metallica doesn't need to battle Megadeth at a battle of the bands anymore. They make their money off records sales and concerts. A pro flatland team can make money off of shows and selling the company's products. Just ask Matt Wilhelm, Terry Adams, Jon Dowker, and Trevor Meyer about making money from flatland shows.
At a contest, the pros are trying to get as much practice time in as possible before their run, they don't have time to talk about the brand they are representing. If I had a team, I would send the riders to all the major jams around the world as opposed to contests. At a jam, pros have time to talk, show the new bike parts, teach a kid a trick, get people stoked. All without the stress and drama of the contest scene. People can relax and have fun riding again!
Yet again I agree totally, part if reason I did the UK groundroots series last year was to encourage the riders, but I noticed fairly quickly certainly in the UK, we get way more riders at jams than the contests....
Do you ever see it going in that direction where sponsors are sending riders to jams rather than contests?
That's the proof of what I'm trying to say right there!
I call this era, around 1997- to present, the "tournament era." Contests were around before 1997, but I think since Espn jumped in the game, there's been more focus than ever on the contest as the backbone of professional flatland riding. X-games days are over for flatland. Personally, I think flatland is very special and pro riding has progressed passed the competition level. (Except for Circle of Balance type contests, which are more of a show.) If companies really step back, look at the big picture, and take time to think of all the ways to promote their companies they will find much more effective avenues besides sending their riders to a contest. When that happens we will really see how flatland grow to be all it can be.

Besides that, In all the other disciplines of pro BMX riding, one rider comes up with a trick and eventually bunch of dudes are doing the same trick. Pro flatland is about trying to be as original as possible. It's like trying to judge paintings in an art gallery.
I think the traditional formula- go to a contest, rank high, promote the brand, doesn't work as well for flatland at this stage in the game. We need to innovate passed that to bigger, better, and more effective routes that really fit what flatland is all about.
Just as the presentation of flatland has evolved over the years, the marketing strategies and the way we participate in flatland everyday should evolve as well.
I have attended, judged, and filmed a lot of contests over the years and I see people continually dissatisfied.
I think the reason is much deeper than poor judging, poor event organization, or poor flatland areas. I think it has to do with trying to hold on to systems and methods that don't fit pro flatland anymore.
There are reasons why flatland is out of the X-games, why flatland didn't grow as much as the other disciplines, and why pro flatlanders and companies are struggling to get paid.
When we understand those reasons, we can then innovate.
Flatland itself as a whole is trying to tell us something. We need to listen and move forward on all levels.

With that said, lot of hype about flat being in the dew tour, do you see that happening?
I know there are people pushing for flatland to be in the Dew tour. They are trying to get flatland to the same position it was with the X-games. However, the main question is this: Have we addressed all issues that we had with the X-games as we push for the Dew tour?
The presentation of the flatland contest has been developed to make it a much better presentation. In person, it looks awesome. The crowd can get into. It's exciting. However, Dew tour is really a TV show. That's the main unresolved issue.
I've been working in TV for a number of years, broadcasters have to target the lowest common denominator when they air a TV show. Dew tour isn't just for the riders. It's more for the couch potato that doesn't necessarily participate in the sport, but seeks to be entertained by it. You have to simplify everything. When you start a TV show, you have to tell the audience what they are about to watch in a simple manner.

Example: Hockey -Guys skating on ice trying to get a puck in the goal with the occasional fight.

Formula One- Cars racing on a track at high speeds with the occasional crash.

Action Sports- Guys flying through the air doing maneuvers and the occasion wreck.

HOLD UP! That's not flatland...Flatland is guys performing balance maneuvers on the ground, battling with style and flow.

There lies the conflict. Flatland entertains in a different way than the rest of BMX.
The guy on the couch is waiting for high flying airs and crashes, and you don't get that with flatland. When people don't get what is expected to be delivered, the channel changes.
You can't advertise a Heavy Metal Concert and then throw Cyndi Lauper into the line up. That's not what the people are there to hear and see.
However, Cyndi CAN sell out a venue on her own, with people who came to hear that kind of music.
I think flatland has that same potential and Circle of Balance is proof of that.
Flatland can be successful on TV, but it has to be done properly and presented on it's own or with things that entertain with style and flow, not airs and wrecks.
It has yet to be proven if flatland in the Dew Tour would be successful or not, but it would really be a bummer to put so much effort into it, have them try it out for a couple years, only to drop it for the same reasons as the X-games. Then we're back to 2003.
In my opinion, everything hinges on whether or not Dew Tour can successfully create 1show that delivers two different forms of entertainment.
Perhaps Flatland could be broadcast on a different day...I'm not sure... You also get into the promo aspect of making a TV show. You would have to say Dew Tour is about guys flying through the air doing maneuvers and the occasion wreck, but we also have one discipline that is about guys performing balance maneuvers on the ground battling with style and flow. It's a complicated message that doesn't have the same marketing impact as a focused, single themed message.
It's like saying this is a fictional horror movie, but there is the one part that's a family documentary...
As a rider, I feel that flatland is part of BMX and that flatland should always be considered part of BMX, but as for marketing, It's just different. Even within the BMX community.
Just look at the print mags...



I don't think a great deal structurally has changed since the x games, sure the battle format creates a different feel and one arguably that may draw the viewer in. I just watched the Dew Tour finals last weekend live, lot of crashes, I guess the question is... Would having Dew tour involve flatland really help flatland, or would it just help a few riders bank balances?
The current battle format is confrontational, I'm sure TV could make a show out of that..

Circle of Balance, Voodoo Jam, etc. is proof that the battle mode does increase the excitement for the viewer. TV will definitely use that to make the story for a show. If flatland does make it into the Dew Tour, it would help a bit. Any kind of TV coverage is good for exposure.
A few riders might get paid for a couple years while they try it out, but unless the issue of airs/wrecks vs. style is resolved, flatland will be dropped and we're back to the drawing board.
When a big series drops you, it's hard to convince another entity to pick you up. I can only imagine trying to get a major sponsor for an event or TV show after the Dew tour dropped flatland. "You guys didn't work out at Dew Tour, didn't work out in X-games-obviously they don't see you as profitable, why should we?"
Look what happened even within BMX after we left the X-games. Other BMX specific (no TV involved) events started dropping flatland from the program. That's our own BMX family kicking us out of the house!
Basically, we need to find a place where flatland can grow for the long term. A place where people can appreciate style and flow.Flatland does awesome in clubs around the world! A lot of flatland events have break dancing as a half time show. There's a relationship there that seems to be positive. A lot of the plywood hoods were breakers. I've seen some riding in art galleries. From my observations, flatland has been way more successful on it's own or in these types of venues.
Music, art, street culture, beach culture (check out Venice beach), club scene, etc. seems like its way more suited for flatland, than trying to sell it with high flying wrecks.
I would say the BMX Worlds is the exception, because that's a BMX extravaganza. It's a BMX freestyle festival. So flatland has a place there. It's for the global bmx community! Flatland still has a room in their house. HA! HA!

Go check out: http://www.diversiontv.com/

Part 3 tommorow...

5 comments:

flatmatters said...

Interesting what Bobby says about the circle of balance being more show oriented, thus effecting which type of riders are invited... I think the riders out there in general don't see it as a show, they see it as a celebration of flatland and the best riders should be there. Balancing the two is very difficult.

chris bolton said...

Unrelated to the main story, I know. But have you checked out the new KGB alloy frame on KGBflat- Its a GT Show replica!!
What is the current news with Martti?

flatmatters said...

In reply to chris; I haven't checked the frame...so can't comment. Talked to martti yesterday though, he's riding brakeless at the moment, have you seen his kickflip contest on global flat, he's doing great things right now for the development of flatland.

lee said...

plenty to think about right there, good chat with the diversion man

Shane Badman said...

One thing i've always liked about Bobby is that he sees things from a business perspective yet still is clear of where his roots lie.
Looking forward to part 3...