For the price of free shit, I will plaster your name on myself and every possession with a smooth surface. I will endlessly plug your company through hashtags and other means of social media direct marketing. I have little to no ethics about what I am given or why, as long as it makes me appear to be more factory, 100% faster, and perhaps will garner the attention of the opposite gender as I “swag out” through the pits. Please, please…please help boost my self esteem and stroke my ego with copious boxes of product – I’ll be so thankful, my parents and friends will be really appreciative, and a teammate or two of similar physical size will also be wicked amped. You may never see me on the podium, but you will see one too many photos of me tagged on facebook doing a turn-bar, and so many insta-filtered gems blowing up your feed that you’ll wonder why you hadn’t thrown more free stuff to me earlier. I am a product whore, and you are my John. Please and thank you.
Integrity is not a word used often enough at this juncture in time. Riders are taking handouts from anyone and everyone it seems. I know it feels good to have people believe in you, and it feels even better to have those “feelings” manifest in the form of new clothes and gear. But at what cost? The value of our time and efforts are being reduced to leftover product runs and loose contracts drawn up with regional reps.
There once was a time when it was local shops and businesses who names you’d hear called out at awards, and now it is a slurry of companies that give out 20% off deals to riders with mid-pack results and an itchy iPhone finger. There are not many personal relationships with companies any longer, and it is all about subsitizing the industry to a trickle-down point where the market is saturated with groms and Cat1-ers soap-boxing products that earned them a facebook status of, “Really went for it this weekend, but was just off the pace – going to regroup for the next one by hammering out some semi-competitive Strava laps this week.”
The worst offenders in my eyes are the Pros who are only American Pros, not actually fast enough to make a difference other than at a handful of races with starting lists less than ten deep. National-level competitive riders can earn some recognition and support, and that’s excellent because those few are the future of racing. But when I show up to a race and see these Semi-Slow riders acting Hollywood, I just sigh and feel disheartened. Why? Because it’s so disingenuous, and it sets a bad example. Stop being billboards for dildos and hold yourself to a higher standard. If I can only identify one of your ten “sponsors” then you probably need to reconsider what it is you’re doing with your life and why you’re racing in the first place.
The line should be drawn here: if you have have a working relationship with a person within a company, that’s a sponsor, put ‘em down on your registration. If you get free stuff from a regional rep who knows your name and at least two personal things about you, put ‘em down on your registration. If you are sponsored by a shop, count it, but do not put the brands you buy on your registration. If your sponsor is a discount website like HookIt and you “rep” all of your “sponsors” to a point of near-aggression…then this article has been written entirely about you. Support those who recognize you as an actual person, not just another numbered consumer.
There is a strong difference between believing in a product you use, and mindlessly using a product because it cost free-fiddy. Should you feel the need to plug a brand for the sake of comic relief, that’s your M.O. – but for the sake of the industry, all of us who pay for our gear, and your own self-worth, stop giving away ad space to people who laugh about your willingness to talk up their brand during their weekly marketing meetings. Your candor will take you farther than your eagerness to represent someone or something just because they think you’re good enough to get some overstock for free. Quality of support is better than quantity, uphold a significant standard.