Story by Sicily Romano
SALT LAKE CITY — In motorsports, winnings, and sponsorships don’t generate enough income for athletes to sustain their lives. Subsequently, these athletes compete and accomplish things in sports that some can’t even fathom, all while conquering the business world.
Andy Bell, formerly a freestyle motocross rider, knew from a young age that he wanted to own his own company. “I started racing FMX (freestyle motocross) in 1999 till about 2004,” he says. While riding FMX, Bell saw his first business opportunity. “A lot of athletes, when they are at the top, act too cool for school,” he says. “I saw the opportunity to not only befriend all the athletes but the promoters as well.”
When promoters wanted athletes at their event, Bell realized that he could broker the deal. He leveraged the friendships and connections made as an athlete to start his own production company. “Even while competing, I was never interested in just being an athlete, I knew I wanted to do more,” says Bell.
After several years on Nitro Circus, Bell tried to work as a stuntman, but stunts weren’t bringing enough income. He decided he needed to make something else work. “I knew nothing about production, other than being in front of the camera,” says Bell. Still, he started his own company with a plan to create 3-D content around action sports “because, at the time when you went into stores and looked at 3-D TVs, all they had for content was, like flowers opening.” Though Bell’s original idea for 3-D videos got sidetracked, his production dream came true when Travis Pastrana asked him to star in a webisode for Red Bull called “On Pace with Pastrana.”
Bell asked Pastrana if they had a production company yet. One thing led to another and Bell was a producer. After two seasons producing “On Pace with Pastrana,” with Red Bull, Bell expanded his business, using his connections from “Nitro Circus” and as an FMX rider. He contacted Toyota, told them about Sweat Pants Media (his production company) and immediately started producing content for them.
Recently Bell traveled to Canada to produce Toyotas TRD pro commercial, which will showcase Toyotas’ new vehicles expected to hit the market later this year. The commercial will be shown in February at the Chicago auto show.
Bell is one of the many athletes who has taken their love of motorsports and created businesses. Travis Pastrana has done amazing things through the connections and knowledge gained from competing in motorsports. Pastrana started in motocross which because of his success MX, opened additional opportunities.
Pastrana has always been a daredevil. “(Producer) Gregg Godfrey sent me a Sony 2000 camera and Final Cut Pro 3 to edit on,” he says, “Everyone was coming over to learn backflips that summer. I documented everything and helped build jumps to make their dreams and nightmares come true.”
That was how “Nitro Circus” began. Pastrana has been able to help other athletes make their dreams, or in his word’s “nightmares,” come true. Not only did he created “Nitro Circus,” but he has started a two-event series around it — “Nitro Circus World Games” and “Nitro Circus Live.” Pastrana hosts 70 plus live shows a year, and although his primary business is producing spectator events, he still gets to ride motocross and race cars.
Todd Romano has also created a business by leveraging his knowledge and connections. Romano started out racing mountain bikes in college and soon realized that the guys beating him on bikes were also racing motocross. His sponsors, Specialized and Fox, supported his switch to MX (motocross) where he found his competition racing something even bigger and faster: off-road cars.
Romano discovered a market for aftermarket products for off-road vehicles, specifically side by sides. His first company was Dragon Fire Racing, which sold aftermarket products for (RHINOS). Later, he sold Dragon Fire and opened Finish Line Marketing, a business to help other motorsports companies with everything from basic business strategy to marketing.
Romano has many lucrative connections with sponsors and companies he’s met. He’s been successful pitching himself and his company, leading to partnerships with industry leaders like Hawk Performance. Romano was contracted by Hawk to help grow their company through improved marketing and smoother business operations. Currently, Romano is working with Textron where he has partnered with Robby Gordon to design and produce the Wild Cat XX. He also owns a company that sells aftermarket products for new Textron vehicles called Speed Side by Side.
These are not the only athletes to create business out of the knowledge they have gained from competition, and their success goes to show, you don’t have to give up on your dream to make an income.