Straight Rhythm a Challenge to Supercross?

November 15, 2013
Byron Wilson
Byron Wilson
Associate Editor|Articles|Articles RSS

Byron's sure to be hunched over a laptop after the checkers are flown, caught in his own little version of heaven. Whether on dirt, street or a combination of both, MotoUSA's newest addition knows the only thing better than actually riding is telling the story of how things went down.

Red Bull is constantly coming up with ways to push the limits of extreme sports and its latest innovation comes by-way of a reimagined version of Supercross called “Straight Rhythm.” It’s a half-mile stretch of stick-straight track littered with whoops, tabletops, doubles and triples designed to test riders’ skill and speed without all those pesky corners. According to Red Bull the intention was to unwind a typical Supercross track and put some of the best riders in the world in head-to-head races to “see what happens.”

In essence “Straight Rhythm” is an extended Supercross drag race; a novel format that offers quick, exciting races and that could presumably be staged in front of thousands of paying fans. Is this merely a Red Bull experiment or could it be something bigger? The thrill offered by Supercross has drawn millions of fans to watch since it was developed in the late ‘70s and has become one of the most economically successful draws within the realm of “alternative” sports. Red Bull makes its presence felt through individual sponsorships in Supercross, but the series is hosted by Red Bull rival Monster Energy, and has been since 2008. Could Red Bull have bigger plans than just staging a cool one-off event?

Currently, Supercross is one of the most popular two-wheeled motor sports in the United States and grows in stature by day throughout the rest of the world. With events staged in populous locations, typically in stadiums with capacities well into the tens-of-thousands, part of the popularity can be attributed to its accessibility for large numbers of fans. Tickets for rounds in the 2014 season start at around $20 bucks so cost prohibitions are minimal, opening the door for fans of various income levels. Plus it’s a relatively compact event, compared to the multi-mile long tracks used in motorcycle road racing for example, and the entire event can be viewed from a single vantage in the stands.

Supercross is also an exciting spectacle. Riders are vaunted to the status of rock stars during introductions and elaborate fireworks displays whip crowds into a frenzy before the action even begins. Once the gate drops it’s the heated close-quarter racing, huge jumps, technical riding skill and machines that, even to the untrained observer, demand respect and expertise to command that drive pulse rates through the roof. In 2012, 800,000-plus fans attended Supercross races over 17 rounds in the US, according to a May 2012 report by Sports Business Daily. Plus, hundreds of thousands of at-home viewers can often watch live broadcasts of Supercross on specialty sports or network channels. Once the races hit the Internet, there’s no limit to the amount of times an event can be seen. A quick scroll through “Supercross” search results on YouTube reveals a number of related videos with millions of views. For an “alternative” sport, Supercross garners a sizable audience and for companies like Monster Energy, who has been title sponsor of AMA Supercross since 2008, the marketing value provided by such a series is invaluable.

IEG, a company that provides consulting, measurement, valuation and strategy solutions regarding sponsorship, conducted a 2012 study on energy drink companies’ sponsorship activities. The report found that sports sponsorship comprises 62% of energy drink companies’ sponsorship deals. The top three brands at that time (in order of market share) were Red Bull, Monster and Rockstar with Red Bull and Monster holding a commanding lead in the top two spots in the US. At the time of the study Red Bull held 40.3% market share while Monster came in at 35.6%. Monster’s growth gains, however, were 27% to Red Bull’s 19.8% over a 52 week period ending August 12, 2012.

So can “Straight Rhythm” be seen an assault on Monster’s years of preeminence in one of the most visible and viable “alternative” sport series or is it really just an experiment to “see what happens”? It’s easy to imagine rows of bleacher seats running down either side of the straight SX track, television cameras skillfully positioned at points along the course and the attendant circus atmosphere that would undoubtedly surround such an event. Head-to-head competition and the likely knockout round format of a race, should it ever come to pass, would be different and exciting as well. Red Bull offers a teasing end to its November 4, 2013 article describing “Straight Rhythm”- “A real Straight Rhythm race? Interesting. Interesting, indeed…” Seems like the possibility of seeing actual competition in this format isn’t all that far-fetched. A “Straight Rhythm” series is probably a pipe-dream, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new event in next summer’s X-Games…

Check out the videos below for a taste of “Straight Rhythm.” Is this a new chapter in motosports or simply a one-off concept with the shelf life of an organic banana?

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