My dad always told me, “you can sell anyone a turd if you polish it enough”.
That’s branding. No matter the product, brand, or person, if you market it just right – you’ll sell it.
In the business of racing, a great brand and image is almost as important as the racing itself. If you’re the best racer on the line, but no one remembers your name, and you show up looking like three other people on the line – how are they going to remember who you are?
When I started racing in 2012, I made the brand Jet Girls Racing – which has grown to be one of the most recognized brands in the personal watercraft industry. I had sponsors lined up before I ever won a big race, all because of my image.
Your image should encompass your entire program, from your watercraft, to your race gear, your pit, and even your social media. Even if you aren’t a pro, you can still look pro.
So, let me break it down for you in 5 tips:
1. Get a Lit Kit
Let’s start with the gear. It’s important not only to look good, but to stand out. If everyone in the sport is doing blue this season, change things up with some green. Try to coordinate a look with your gear – my go to has been orange from day one. No matter what part of my kit you look at, you’ll spot a pop of orange.
Having your nickname and race number printed on your vest or wetsuit is another way to set yourself a part from the rest of the competition. Unlike motocross, this is not required in personal watercraft racing, and gives you a chance to stand out.
Quakysense sells vests with custom screen printing on them (check mine out!), and print shops like LG1 Designs can do it to a vest of your choice.
While you may rarely get the chance to wear one – having some team pit shirts is always a plus. Even matching team t-shirts can help you stand out on the podium or at the rider’s meeting. You can take it an extra step like Riva Racing rider Brian Baldwin and go for a full theme – Captain America style, and match up the graphics too.
2. Go full custom
Once your kit is lit, get your ski matched up. Coordinating with a graphics company like LG1 Designs, Exotic Graphics or IPD Graphics for a custom kit can help you stand out. Companies like LG1 and Exotic will do a full-blown custom kit for a little extra cash, while LG1 will get you some colorful kits much like a lot of the ones you’ll see on the starting line.
It’s always good to snoop around the Internet a bit and see what other racers are doing. Not to copy them, but to make sure you stand out. The last thing you want is someone confusing you with the guy on the track who sucks, just because your graphics look similar.
When customizing your ski, it’s easiest to start with the primary color in your gear, and design a graphics package around it.
3. Bring full-pro to the pit
Take a look at your trailer and pits. If you’ve got some extra budget, step it up with some custom tents or banners. Let everyone in the pits know where the party is at.
If you have sponsors, talk with them about having promotional banners or flags made to have at the races. These simple touches will bring your brand to the next level.
If you don’t have the budget to go all out with big tents and flags, consider the little things. Something as simple as keeping your pits clean, and displaying your skis nicely can make a big difference. Nothing about a trashed and messy pit space says professional.
4. Put yourself out there
Now that you look full pro, you need fans. Branding is a key to sponsorship and growth, but in today’s industry, sponsors won’t look twice if you aren’t active on social media.
Get active on social media by sharing photos and videos of your adventures in personal watercraft racing and give your brand the opportunity to be seen.
The most crucial step of building your brand on social media is being creative. Make sure that you put serious thought into what you will call your brand, team or social media account before you go for it.
5. Walk the walk
If you are going to have the set-up of a pro, you have to act like one. The biggest mistake I see athletes – both amateurs and pros alike – is attitude and poise. Being a pro doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to hold your nose above everyone. The most popular, and best branded athletes of all time have one thing in common – positivity.
If you want to be full pro, check your attitude at the pit. Regardless of your results, or the circumstances of your race, leave it on the track. Above all else, keep it off social media. No one that follows you on social media wants to read a five- thousand-word post about how you made a mistake on the last lap or how someone passed you.
Even if you finish last, and your ride blows up – carry yourself like a professional.
And that’s it. It’s really that simple. Even if you are the worst racer around, if you can successfully pull off these tips – someone out there will think you’re a fully professional, big shot racer.
If you’re worried about results, if you continue to work hard on both your brand and your race skills, I can assure you that the results will come. After all, I had more sponsors than race wins before I finally started getting good – and now I’m a world champion.
By Anna Glennon | 2018