Opinion: History Repeating - With Energy Drinks, Motorcycle Racing Faces Another Tobacco Disaster

At the Barcelona round of MotoGP – or to give it its full title, the 'Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya' – title sponsors Monster Energy are to unveil a new flavor of their product, called 'The Doctor', marketed around Valentino Rossi. This is not a particularly unusual event at a MotoGP weekend. Almost every race there is a presentation for one product or another, linking in with a team, or a race, or a factory. If anything, the presentation of the Monster Energy drink is even more typical than most, featuring motorcycle racing's marketing dynamite Valentino Rossi promoting an energy drink, the financial backbone of the sport.

It is also a sign of the deep trouble in which motorcycle racing finds itself. Energy drinks are slowly taking over the role which tobacco once played, funding teams, riders and races, and acting as the foundation on which much of the sport is built. Red Bull funds three MotoGP rounds, a Moto3 team and backs a handful of riders in MotoGP and World Superbikes. Monster Energy sponsors two MotoGP rounds, is the title sponsor of the Tech 3 MotoGP squad, a major backer of the factory Yamaha squad and has a squadron of other riders which it supports in both MotoGP and World Superbike paddocks. Then there's the armada of other brands: Gresini's Go & Fun (a peculiar name if ever there was one), Drive M7 backing Aspar, Rockstar backing Spanish riders, Relentless, Burn, and far too many more to mention.

Why is the massive interest in backing motorcycle racing a bad thing? Because energy drinks, like the tobacco sponsors they replace, are facing a relentless onslaught to reduce the sale and marketing of the products. A long-standing ban of the sale of Red Bull – though strangely, only Red Bull – was struck down in France in 2008. Sale of energy drinks to under-18s has been banned in Lithuania. Some states and cities in the US are considering age bans on energy drink consumption. And perhaps more significantly, the American Medical Association has been pushing for a ban on marketing energy drinks to minors, a call which resulted in leaders in the industry being called to testify in front of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee of the US Senate.

Whether we like it or not – and whether it's justified or not – at some point in the near future, marketing of energy drinks is going to be limited in some of the major motorcycling markets. Though an outright ban seems extremely unlikely at the moment, the initial steps are being taken towards a ban on marketing energy drinks at under 18s. That will affect all forms of motorsport, and force the companies to reconsider their strategy. Straightforward sports sponsorship is likely to be the first casualty, with a shift towards one-off events where the link is much more subtle. The record-breaking parachute jump by Felix Baumgartner is an obvious paradigm for energy drink marketing to follow, massive events like that providing both much more control and an awful lot of marketing bang for the buck.

Does this mean the end of energy drink sponsorship for MotoGP and World Superbikes? It's hard to say. What seems likely is that if the pressure from government regulators and legislators grows too great, energy drink companies will reduce their presence in traditional sports while they explore alternative avenues. Energy drink companies are full of young and smart people, always looking for the next big thing. Like the tobacco companies that came before them, they have no particular loyalty to motorcycle racing, other than the fact that part of the audience they wish to capture (young, fashion-conscious and with money to spend on trend-sensitive goods, which energy drinks – basically massively overpriced caffeinated sugar water – surely are) follow the sport.

So what is motorcycle racing in general and Dorna in particular doing to address this problem? Nothing. At the moment, the sport is in denial, hoping that legislators will not move too fast. If anything, they are making themselves even more dependent on energy drink sponsorship, with Monster and Red Bull sponsoring five MotoGP rounds between them, up from three rounds just three years ago. The focus is far too much on short-term income and not enough on building a broad, healthy, multi-industry base of sponsorship for the sport. It is, after all, easier to persuade an existing sponsor to expand their presence than it is to find new sponsors and attract new industries into backing motorcycle racing.

A repeat of the disaster which followed on the banning of tobacco sponsorship looms. Then, as now, neither teams nor organizers were prepared for the loss of tobacco sponsors, despite having ample time to go out and search for replacements. In previous years, teams had barely had to work to attract sponsors. Especially in the premier class, teams would accept proposals from various tobacco companies and accept the one which best suited their requirements. When the tobacco companies left, teams were left without the faintest idea of what it takes to attract sponsors and keep them. With no marketing expertise, the teams were left to go cap in hand to Dorna to support them. Dorna only managed to cover the loss of tobacco sponsorship thanks to the massive rise in income from TV contracts, which exploded in the early part of this millennium.

Though the energy drinks are not quite as much of a pushover as the tobacco companies once were, they are not representative of outside industry sponsors. If – or perhaps, when – the energy drinks pull back from motorcycle racing, teams and Dorna will once again flounder to find sponsors to replace them. There is little evidence of a grand marketing plan to sell the sport to industries outside of motorcycling, and no clear core concept which can be used to market the sport.

Motorcycle racing fans like to spend their time complaining about everything which Dorna does, and blaming them for almost everything that is wrong with the sport. Much of it is not their fault – most of the technical regulations were drawn up by the manufacturers, which Dorna have had to reluctantly agree to. And Dorna do not receive the credit they are due for creating a remarkable product: the TV coverage and footage of MotoGP is truly exceptional, and a wonder to behold.

If much of the criticism leveled at Dorna is unjust, there is one area where the Spanish company has truly failed motorcycle racing. Dorna, part-owned by a private equity fund and a pension fund, and saddled with vast debts, spends too much of its time living hand to mouth, ensuring that there will at least be a small profit this year to keep the owners happy. What they don't do is spend enough time and effort trying to expand the sponsorship base of the sport and increase revenues in the long term. Pay-per-view TV deals are lucrative in the short term, but the extra income gained from PPV broadcasters just goes to fill holes caused by sponsors departing because of a lack of audience. Dorna appear to lack both the will and the personnel needed to build a broader, stronger sponsorship base on which the sport can grow.

This is the real crisis facing motorcycle racing in all its forms: a lack of income. The sport relies far too heavily on just a few sponsors from a very restricted industrial and regional base. Take away energy drinks and companies trying to market to the Spanish and Italian markets, and there is a massive hole in the global budget of motorcycle racing. Despite a string of small deals, Dorna has failed to market both MotoGP and World Superbikes to new sponsors. This failing is doubly inexcusable, as motorcycle racing's two biggest demographics – men between 18 and 45 with disposable incomes, and fans from South East Asia – are extremely valuable to marketers and advertisers. Sponsors should be lining up to back MotoGP and World Superbike teams, but they are not.

Selling motorcycle racing to advertisers and sponsors is not easy: I should know, for if it were, I would be making a comfortable living, rather than just scraping along. However, Dorna has the means and the backing to secure the best marketing talent to help them sell the sport to sponsors. It is imperative that they start doing so now. If they wait until energy drink companies are forced to withdraw from motorcycle racing, it will be too late. And this time, there won't be the lucrative TV deals to paper over the cracks.

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Bernie Ecclestone has made obscene amounts of money from racing.

What's funny is that Formula 1 on its best day is incredibly boring
compared to MotoGP on an average day.

There is money to be made, and if Dorna cannot manage to grasp
how to make this happen, Dorna will have to move over for another
management company which knows how to make things happen.

The core issue here is not about dependence on energy drinks or tobacco
or alcohol or any other "evil" substance which intelligent people will use
in moderation if at all. The core issue is sponsorship opportunities are
extant but are being ignored by the idiots at Dorna.

I could be wrong, but I have made millions in advertising working on
both coasts of the U.S., so chances are I know what I am talking about.


Let's ban soft drinks then we can ban coffee, then red meat.

Does anyone else find this stupid?

Society can't raise your kids. That is a parents job. If little Timmy and Susie buy energy drinks that fault starts at home.

I enjoy an energy drink on rides occasionally, no big deal. If legislators want to start with something then how about the pharmaceutical industry first ;)

If tobacco companies had been straight with us about the effects of their products, your anti-nanny-state position would make more sense. When companies not only conceal, but lie to the public about potential harm their products might cause, those companies pretty much force governments into nanny roles.

The best way for energy drink companies to avoid going down the road of tobacco is to man up and be straight with us about what their products do to us. This means they should do some real research. And maybe even take some steps to remedy problems they might find along the way.

You want to talk about responsibility? Great. But why are you giving companies a free pass?

And seriously. Were you never a kid? Or were you one of those kids who never did anything, because you were scared mommy or daddy would find out? Even children of good parents tend to push boundaries. So much the more so if those good parents instill any level of intellectual curiosity.

Knowledge is key. Absent knowledge, civilized societies are forced to fall back on legislation.

and saved me from writing a less articulate response. I know nothing about energy drinks, the closest I've come is lucozade when I was still in short trousers, but if their manufacturers are from the same sewer as big tobacco our kids will be better off without them.

The problem isn't that energy drinks are unhealthy. That's nowhere near what the core of DE's argument is. He'd be writing this same post if all of the sponsorship funds were coming from the big Lettuce and Tofu companies.

The problem is a lack of *diversity* in the sponsorship source. MotoGP has all of their sponsorship funds in one basket (previously tobacco, now energy drinks). If all of the energy drink companies were to pull their sponsorship in pursuit of other advertising ventures, MotoGP would be properly boned from a funding standpoint.

Sponsorship funds should be coming from a large, diverse group of companies representing a large, diverse sum of interests, products, and industries. That is all he's arguing.

I understand that and agree with you. I am just happy we got new sponsors into the sport.

My post was a more of a dig at ludicrous legislation than our sport.

Well, in that case, allow me to echo the sentiment. As a bartender, I happen to love energy drinks since young drunk people order cocktails with them, which makes the drink way more expensive, which in turn makes me more money. HANDS OFF MY TIPS, GOVERNMENT.

And what happens when one of those kids dies of a heart attack?

I know folks who drink 5-6 energy drinks a day. What happens when their tickers go, and society is faced with the bill to clean up the mess from their stupid decisions?

I wouldn't really say that MotoGP lacks diversity in terms sponsorship as it does enjoy great corporate sponsorship from entities like Tissot and Alpinestars. What it does need though is much bigger corporate entities like say Nike, Samsung , Sony, Pepsi, etc...sadly though I hardly doubt you'll see entities like those supporting MotoGP given the fact they have little to gain in a niche sport like motorcycle racing.

Two points:

- The manufacturers may be responsible for some of the technical specs, yet the two biggest technical issues - the relentless assault on electronics and the mismanaged spec tire contract - can be laid solely at the feet of Dorna's misguided efforts to make a better show for TV and to create a return for its investors.

- Dorna has, indeed, made the TV productions gorgeous. It is a brilliant answer to a question no one asked. No matter how brilliantly produced "Dancing With The Stars" is, I won't watch. Know why? It's not motorcycle racing. Jesus could do a tango with the Buddha in HD on that show, and I'll watch Canadian Superbike instead, even though the production (free on YouTube) looks like it cost about $50 to make. (http://www.youtube.com/user/cdnsuperbike.) Know why? Because it's motorcycle racing.

No one was complaining pre-Dorna about the quality of the broadcast (although the announcing left something to be desired). And Spielberg-level production values don't attract people who aren't interested in motorcycles. But Dorna is a promotion company that sells TV rights. And there's an old cliche: when all you have in the toolbox is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

>>No one was complaining pre-Dorna about the quality of the broadcast

That would have been back in the 1980s. Dorna was given the TV rights precisely because everyone was complaining about the TV broadcasts. There were none. The rights for each race was sold separately by the promoter. The FIM tried to take it over, made a mess, then sold it to Dorna, who have had it since 1992.

As for World Superbike, people have been complaining about the quality of the TV coverage for as long as I can remember. This is one area Dorna needs to fix.

The bottom line, though, is this: Once there is a broadcast, is the quality of the broadcast the driving factor in whether someone watches or not? And if it is, how big is that group of people for whom the quality of the broadcast makes a difference as to whether they watch, and is that group of people - in terms of a potential audience for manufacturers and sponsors - worth the monetary investment in higher production values?

All I really need from a race broadcast is to see the race. The super slow-mo stuff was pretty the first time. But when they cut to it during a battle for the lead, I want to scream.

I gave Dorna a hundred Euros so I could watch MotoGP without paying for cable or satellite TV service this year. It was an experiment, and I sort of thought getting to watch practice and qualifying was enough of a bonus to pony up the cash.

But the production is so brilliant, I'll be watching all my MotoGP racing this way from now on. I'm probably going to get WSBK next year, too. All because of the production value. It's true that I wouldn't bother if I weren't a fan. And I, too, really wish that they'd save those super-slo-mo shots of Marquez sliding both tires around a corner for between-race filler (although, watching the Ducati's front fender madly flexing was cool enough, and relevant enough, to watch during the race).

I've always watched racing. But, I've discovered there's a direct relationship between enjoyment level and production level. It was cool in black and white. It's magnitudes better in 1080p HD with on-board cameras and such complementing the on-course cameras.

Like you, I doubt production quality has much to do with viewing figures. All I want is basic coverage and a (non-screaming) commentator who knows what he's talking about. The riders do the rest.
The super slo-mo could be saved for post or pre-race commentary. Personally I suspect a large number of US school shootings are caused by cutting from leadership battles. I certainly think about buying a Bushmaster whenever it happens.

"No matter how brilliantly produced Dancing With The Stars is, I won't watch."

MGP doesn't aim to drag eyeballs away from "DWTS", but the Nascar and F1 watcher is certainly in the desired demographic. Good production values do make the product more attractive - especially to entry-level viewers ... the families of the race fans!

... will never pay extra to view something they do not realy know. there is other stuff they can watch for free and they'll do just that. And when you don't open the door for entry-level viewers, you won't have a constant new inflow of potential die-hard fans.
Dorna is shooting itself in the foot with it's pay-channels, and that is a much bigger problem for the sport than relying on advertising for one typical product only. When viewers numbers continue to drop as more countries are left with pay-per-view only (viewer-numbers in UK , Italy and Spain already dropped dramaticaly because of this) and become so bad even the energy-drink sponsors leave the sport, there will be absolutly nothing on offer to convince other sponsors to spend millions on the sport. Enough TV-broadcasting is essential and it is exactly this that Dorna is killing. And because of long-term contracts, they won't e able to adapt quickly.

Much like the R&D/marketing debate on the manufacturers involvement it probably comes down to the fun factor, which is why energy drinks have found a good niche in most sports (if advertising was banned it would have to be widespread and it won't only be motorbike racing that will scream loudly).
The point is diversity though, and it's very easy to enjoy a dominant client or two, or sector, when they are making business 'easy'.
The problem for any 'serious' business is that most sport, and all forms of motorsport especially, are 'fun' and with the trend to discourage high-budget 'entertaining' and sustainability issues related to CSR etc., getting involved in such ventures takes some enthusiasm and ignoring of some negatives.
Dorna's broadcast quality is exactly what might help though - those slow-mo's can be set up to put a manufacturers logo in-frame and held for a specific amount of time.
It is a valid point made by David and, coming out of a recession, this is exactly what Dorna should be doing - out there selling MGP and WSB packages. If nothing else they might pick up a few new fans and subscriptions.

In regards to sponsorship, are there any riders/teams that have sponsors from the fitness industry? e.g. gyms, equipment, supplements, etc.?

All of the top guys and a good majority of lower level riders all would have dedicated trainers, supplement programs, specialist equipment, private gyms, etc. It'd be interesting to know if any have sponsors relating to this industry and if not, why?

I'd be curious to see how much money there is in the energy drink industry. Probably quite a bit more than the fitness industry.

I'm basing that opinion on the fact that kids in, say, East Timor are buying Red Bull. Kids in East Timor aren't buying elliptical machines or even vitamins, nor are they going to the gym. Energy drink demand seems magnitudes more universal (and more inelastic) than demand for fitness products.

Fair call, most equipment/gym companies wouldn't be earning enough. But in terms of the supplements market, that is one of the largest growing markets in the world, along with the energy drink market.

A team bucked this trend then it would have to be LCR.

Their portfolio of sponsors are truly remarkable, given the economic climate they find themselves in. They even introduced a Magazine, Inspire, A PREMIUM read IMHO to even further showcase their sponsors. The synergy between magazine, sponsors and race team work brilliantly. I had no Clue what GIVI was ! (Never ever owned a bike with Panniers) but this magazine puts everything in perspective. The Sponsorship association with LCR makes perfect sense. Each and every one in fact.

Yes they too have an Energy Drink on board which I would imagine covers quite a bit but if ever there was a team who was ready for the post Energy drink era, it would be LCR racing. Their Bike is the prettiest too...IMHO.

Much like the Tobacco, the energy drink companies have stupid amounts of money to throw around for advertising and sponsorship. What I am curious about is if the price tag the energy drink companies are placing on sponsoring the riders/teams/events is what is preventing other companies from doing the same? In other words, are they driving the costs too high for other companies to "invest" in a team?

Racing at the pinnacle of the sport is going to be expensive, regardless if it is motorcycles, cars, trucks, shopping carts or whatever. Sponsors are only going to be able to cover so much of the cost. The factories are picking up the slack in order to provide a competitive bike on the grid. I just don't see this changing anytime soon.

Where is Dorna's role actually defined? Who has defined the responsibilities of the team owners? Everyone seems to be labouring a under a series of assumptions regarding who does what and what their responsibilities are.

To my mind it is not Dorna's role to chase up cash cows for the teams. Instead they produce a nice platform with great exposure for the teams to showcase their wares. It is then up to the teams to sell that platform and their place in it to prospective sponsors. As an average club racer I don't expect my local race organisers to chase up sponsors for me, that's my job, my responsibility, to create mutually beneficial financial and personal relationships. Learning and nurturing this skill is every bit as important as perfecting my throttle control or machine prep.

Frankly I'm quite suprised this sense of entitlement, the notion that by rocking up teams will be handed a wad of cash by Dorna, still exists. User pays. Teams pay (for bikes, riders, etc) to participate in "the show", sponsors then pay for exposure within the "the show", TV/internet pay to broadcast "the show (and recoup costs via their own advertisements or subscriptions), viewers pay to watch "the show", etc etc.

And guess what? If some users are deciding to spend their money elsewhere by tuning out of MotoGP etc then that's their prerogative. Time to take off the blinkers folks: if people liked what they saw they would keep watching, it's as simple as that. Same goes for sponsors and their involvement, why would anyone wish to "invest" with a MotoGP team when 99% of the coverage is about 2 teams and 4 bikes? Where's the return in that?

When I club raced, the sanctioning body did quite a lot to get cash to us racers, mainly by setting up contingency deals with tire companies, filter companies, helmet companies, etc. Finish first, second, third, even sometimes as low as tenth, and you got some bucks.

I think professional and amateur sanctioning bodies have slightly different raisons d'etre. A club as sanctioning body is to provide a platform for the racers. Without the racers, the club would not exist.

A professional racing sanctioning body's main duty is to provide a platform for the spectators. It's true that there would be no platform without the racers, but there would be no reason for the racers without the spectators. Without spectators, professional racing just becomes club racing that takes itself way too seriously.

So, the way I see it, a professional racing sanctioning body has an intrinsic interest in attracting, and spreading around, sponsorship money.

A repeat of the disaster which followed on the banning of tobacco sponsorship looms. Then, as now, neither teams nor organizers were prepared for the loss of tobacco sponsors, despite having ample time to go out and search for replacements. In previous years, teams had barely had to work to attrack sponsors. Especially in the premier class, teams would accept proposals from various tobacco companies and accept the one which best suited their requirements. When the tobacco companies left, teams were left without the faintest idea of what it takes to attract sponsors and keep them. With no marketing expertise, the teams were left to go cap in hand to Dorna to support them. Dorna only managed to cover the loss of tobacco sponsorship thanks to the massive rise in income from TV contracts, which explosed in the early part of this millenium.

A few quick fixes needed in this paragraph.

My maths works like this:

If you want companies to pay to advertise their product in your sport/tv show (or anything else for that matter) then you need to show them that a good number potential customers are going to at least see their product/advert/logo.
-obviously your bargaining position is greatly improved if there are a decent number of viewers.

The move to a pay-tv model has, at least at the superficial level, had a dramatic effect on viewing numbers -yes there may be a fair number using an web-app (like BT sport app) to watch the racing, but you're in a negotiation position with an external company and coming up with excuses as to why viewing figures have dropped by ~90% from the free-tv viewing model and throwing in app viewing figures isn't going to bail you out of a losing position.

F1 whilst having rights with Sky, also has rights with the BBC. The F1 enthusiast probably goes to sky with 24hr event coverage, whilst casual F1 fans without a sky TV package will drop-in for the race (live or close to it) on BBC. There used to be that option with BBC & Eurosport for MotoGP.

Qatar peak UK viewing figures
2013 BBC =2,000,000
2014 BT Sport =230,000

Qatar probably isn't a fair comparison as it was broadcast by the beeb on a sunday evening, and as it was on a premium (i.e. BBC) HD channel it probably drew in a good few people who couldn't stomach yet another mentally unstable policeman with a sidekick or victorian costume drama. On top of which it was the first race ever covered by BT, and I expect their figures will grow over time.

I'm an old fart. I remember the days when there was not a single sponsor patch on a GP rider's leathers. Other than the bike manufacturer's logo, there may have been that of a tire, oil or fuel supplier somewhere on the bodywork, and it was so small that you could easily miss it if you didn't pay attention. Was the racing any less interesting than it is today? Go ask the 500,000 people who attended some of the European rounds in the 60s.

Then, in the early 70s, outside industry sponsorship appeared. Just watch the movies Continental Circus (1969) and then Cheval de Fer (1974) and you will realize how quickly things happened. At the time that injection of huge amounts of money was seen as the savior of ailing GP racing, but was it really?

Of course nowadays, without the huge sums thrown in by sponsors, and with the current state of technology, most factories could not afford to go racing. Ironically, one of the biggest current concerns is the control of said technology to limit cost, attract manufacturers and bring back the spectacular aspect that has all but disappeared from Moto GP races. Give engineers a blank check and they will go crazy and create a technological orgy. Inevitably the money well will dry up, and then there is nowhere to go. It is unthinkable to de-escalate, isn't it? People (racers in particular) start talking about "castrated" machines (still capable of over 300 kph, mind you) and how racing has lost it's soul and has become boring. As if absolute machine performance was the ultimate goal, not the actual act of racing.

A technological standstill is definitely not an option if manufacturers are to remain interested in competing against each other, but maybe we should learn from the past. GP racing has become as glamorous as F1 and, let's be realistic, a very high proportion of motorcycle fans are not the glamorous type. The pit bunnies may be pleasant to look at, but they illustrate one of the biggest problems with this sport (or any other professional sport for that matter): it has become more about the image than anything else. What if the only sponsors allowed were industry related? The amounts invested would then be linked to the state of the motorcycle market, not some temporary bubble like energy drinks. Yes there would be hard times, but that is usually when people and manufacturers get creative, go back to basics and find ways to re-invent themselves.

I sorely miss the days when a few resourceful individuals could take an outdated design and keep it competitive thanks to a series of minute refinements. Don't get me wrong, I find current Moto GP machines absolutely amazing, but something has been lost. With the industry's war effort like push to develop technology, haven't we forgotten to watch the scenery? As with most things in our modern world, aren't we stuck in an adolescent energy drink induced groove that recklessly forces us forward?

Totally agree. Saw your comment after I made my post below.
Talking about resourceful individuals, the best of them seemed to work in World Endurance, where you'd see and hear V twins, V-6s, 2 stroke I-4s, I-4s, I-6s, Boxer twins and triples etc. Strange shaped fairings, exotic frames, experimental suspension, frog-eye lights etc. Midnight at Le Mans/Paul Ricard/Montjuich was dreamland - exhausted riders, frenzied pit-work, varied sounds, mostly privateer entries - eventually ruined by Honda muscling in with their checkbook. Now every machine is an I-4 and looks and sounds the same.

You could not be more off the mark if you tried... wow.

Just because technological advancement these days happens more in computers than exhaust manifolds doesn't mean it's less of an achievement. And to blame all that on Honda somehow...

Check out the The Engel Archive Images # 1-8 on Soup 06-12-14


to see the diversity ( and the original Brno circuit........! ) that existed when racing appealed to real motorcyclists, not " fan boys " and poseurs.

Those cash sucking parasites at Dorna have created a series where their #1 cash cow is some petulant poof whose ego is his greatest talent, real racers who just want to race are vilified because they are their own entity, speaking their minds, unfettered by some PR wankers " instructions ".

Until Dorna are ousted, nothing will improve .

The 90s, when Doohan and Honda were winning everything? The 60s, when the FIM banned Moto Guzzi's V-6? The 50s, when racebikes had engines ranging from 50cc to 350cc?

Go back to whatever perfect time you think there was, and I guarandamntee there was a group of folk with well-exercised vocal chords grousing about how things used to be better in the old days.

Get off my lawn, ya damn kids!

"I sorely miss the days when a few resourceful individuals could take an outdated design and keep it competitive thanks to a series of minute refinements. "

But isn't that exactly what they are doing today, it just costs a lot more because all the easy, cheap things are understood by everyone, so they needed sponsorship to be able to go further and deeper. Bike racing has always had it's exciting and boring patches, that's the nature of sport.

The answer is more obvious than the solution. It's simple really - there's dearth of advertisers because insufficient numbers of people watch motorcycle racing.
In the UK I used to attend GPs, the Brit Championship and World Endurance events like the Bol D'Or & 24 Hours at Montjuich with a bunch of buddies, with whom I also watched the TV coverage. In Ireland I watched racing on closed roads. All of us owned quick bikes, liked to ride fast and had taken our machines onto racetracks.
In the US where I now live, the bike culture is very different - many bikers are content to trundle around on their Harleys making a lot of noise in order to have their chrome parts admired. It's pretty rare to see anybody going quick, and I don't know a single person who watches MotoGP or WSBK - or AMA which is dying.
Formula 1 and NASCAR get their support from the hundreds of millions who drive cars and fantasize about being racers while strapped safely in their steel boxes. DORNA needs to recognize bikes are far more a minority taste than cars - and many bikers are more commuter than racer in personality.
I don't know the solution - all I know is that I generally prefer Moto2, WSBK and WSS events to MotoGP. I like the diversity and the close racing - and not knowing who is going to win is important.

With the cigs, it is very clear that the vast majority of smokers were adicts. The branding was used as a tool to encourage new smokers and to retain the core market, or to encourage people to switch brand.

With the energy drinks, I really think the brand is everything. People buy bikes, helmets, t-shirts etc which have Monster branding. They watch tv like x-games because the Red Bull brand gives them a lead on what the show will look like.

I think it would have been really hard for the fag manufacturers to clean up their act. But I also think that it will be really easy for the likes of Red Bull to make a 'zero' version which goes down the hydration / refreshment path and steers away from the stimulants. As David noted, the brand management is being done by young, clued up and bright people. They are not going to see their hard won brands weakened by product legislation which limits their potential sales. So when Red Bull extend their range to cover hydration drinks and add the likes of Bolt and Mo to their crew, I can't see how funding events like MotoGP and F1 will be lost.

And the 'adrenaline' image (this is what cliff divers / free runners / 200mph+ bike racers drink) should keep them loyal to our sport.

I understand the value of diversifying the sponsor base, but really how many HP printers are going to get sold on the back of VR or #93 wearing their colours, compared to the number of bottles of drinks? Certainly I think the low price / high volume / strong brand products are the ones to chase when it comes to sponsorship. That and the 'visit Qatar' type money.

And let's not forget that ours isn't the only sport making mistakes. Looks like Coke and others are holding a virtual gun at FIFA's head following their dubious behaviour. At least Dorna seem to be giving the drinks giants just what they need. If as is expected the control ecu / French tyres / Jack Millers / Macerick V / younger Marquez make for closer racing, the money should continue to roll in.

David, one point about the Baumgartner event. Considering the cost of putting on that event, from building the rocket to sending out the press releases to every communications medium on the planet, it seems to me that the bang-to-buck ratio might not be that much better than that of Red Bull's MotoGP sponsorship.

Red Bull had to create everything about the space-jump event. I mean, they created the event to begin with, then they created everything to pull it off. MotoGP is already well established, and captures Red Bull's target audience's attention for almost two thirds of the year. The space jump was a one off event--that Red Bull created out of whole cloth--that had a couple of months of increasingly intensive media placement previewing the actual event.

I'm now curious to find out how big the team that put on the space jump was (including everyone, from PR flaks to janitors at the facitlity that built the rocket), how much money they spent on it, and how many times eyeballs were exposed to Red Bull logos as a direct result. Then I'd like to compare logo views/dollar for the space jump versus logo views/dollar for MotoGP as a whole.

Two different tiers - charge us hard core fans the extra cabbage for the fabulous MotoGP.com coverage, then stick it out for ALL the world to see on BBC et al. This short term Dorna revenue via pay per view being in conflict w mid and longer term revenue for the whole shebang is an excellent point.

Yes, the racing itself is too expensive and I am glad we are in an era of some positive movement efforts there.

"The show" can be improved by moving away from 2 manufacturers and 4 bikes winning, decreasing the electronics that brought us wheels-in-line and bikes locked into parade-mode races. And costs down after a short term adjustment.

Increasing innovation and diversity in motorcycle design strategy seems good too, so rules could be fiddled with there perhaps.

More importantly though - DORNA can make choices to get as many viewers as possible seeing racing w/o losing out too much on serious fans paying for extra coverage via their website. Pay per view seems remarkably unwise. What industry outsider sponsors are doing is branding themselves in conjuction w The Show, you see their product logo and it is EPIC. This fits great with any product that dumps dopamine. Brain activity that fires together wires together, so they become confluent. We are never going to see sleeping pills or diapers being branded on racing motorcycles. Even Playboy magazine is image based AND releases dopamine (even for you old farts who watched Barry Sheene) ;)

""The show" can be improved by moving away from 2 manufacturers and 4 bikes winning, decreasing the electronics that brought us wheels-in-line and bikes locked into parade-mode races."

What a ridiculous statement to make. Have you been watching the races this year? Rossi vs Marquez in Qatar and Lorenzo vs Marquez at Mugello. Not to mention other battles a little further down the field.

These bikes are perfectly capable of duking it out.

Selling stimulants to the masses is a tried and true way to build fortunes. Even the poor can splurge for the product and the margin is very high.
Budgets for pinnacle motorsports now routinely exceed the capabilities of most companies to be title sponsors. Motorcycling has always appealed to a fringe group and has never truly made it to mainstream. To underline this consider that Rossi - the most financially successful rider ever - probably makes about half the annual income of a decent golf star. And he puts his health on the line in every race.
Dorna is on the one hand broadening the appeal by increasing the internationality (if that is a word) of the venues - Argentina noted - but on the other, restricting viewership with pay-per-view deals. In this respect I think they are trying to run before they walk. They have made MotoGP a comparatively expensive sport just to watch.
There is an interesting article on the changing face of sponsorship here http://www.jamesallenonf1.com/2013/08/the-changing-face-of-sponsorship-i...

If you back away a bit and think - "Hey, I've got a sport here. Instead of being safely strapped into a racing car, THESE people drive them while hanging on with their arms and legs and sit in a tiny seat so they don't slide off the back of the damn thing! And there's plenty of real racing action as the tracks are wide enough and the bikes narrow enough to allow plenty of racing room. Ya gotta see it to believe it!"
But instead we have the current mess. It seems that you almost have to WANT to f--k this up. Costs have gone crazy, bike makers have been allowed to make the rules (who is more short-sighted than these folks?) the machines are making treasured racing circuits obsolete, sponsors are hard to find and the viewing audience is increasingly boiled down to hard-core fans who pony up to watch rather than anyone who tunes in on Sunday afternoon's free broadcast, like I used to do in the summer in Italy...but no more..I won't pay a dime to watch something on a video screen. A ticket to watch a race in-person is another thing.
The entire thing may have to blow up and get rebuilt...but as many other old-farts here have pointed out, lessons don't seem to get learned. But is it so hard to ask "What were the conditions and situations when the sport was at its peak? How many of those can we control? What will it take to return to this? Are we stakeholders in the long-term here or just short-sighted, "take the money and run" vultures?"

"What were the conditions and situations when the sport was at its peak?"
Needless to say, some of these cannot be replicated - chief amongst them, that bikes were a more crucial part of the culture.
OTOH it can't be helpful for diversification that one KNOWS the race - unless it rains - will be won by either a Spaniard or an Italian before the first practice session gets underway.

One thing I'd love to see - but know I never will - is for these MotoGP guys to get handed the keys of a Moto2 machine for one race. It would probably be the most interesting one of the year - I wonder why.

Moto2 already has excellent racing with some great riders who will eventually move up into MotoGP. For the record. I love Moto2 and 3. Great racing.

Yet nobody watches it. I wonder why? At the end of the racing year there's always the Race of the Champions with various drivers all driving the same cars. Besides the driver's families nobody watches that either.

Time and time again it has been proven that spec racing cannot beat racing at the highest technological level.

I've paid every single year since MotoGP.com started having video packages. Coverage in the states was always atrocious. No practice, no qualifying, no press conferences. Hell you'd be lucky to hear the podium interviews immediately after parc ferme. Then there is the cutting out of race action for commercials, my #1 pet peeve.

There are a number of factors at work. Americans will never truly embrace this sport as bikes just aren't important here. It will always remain a niche. They can spend billions to change this and it will be wasted money.

Europe, Asia, South America, those are the areas of target they should focus on, not the States. Honestly the US only needs one race to insure that we actually get a round and continue to do so.

Sponsors, getting viewers up, etc, is a very difficult and complex equation or they would have solved it already.

Multiple US races probably aren't about building the US market. They're probably about having a stage from which to build the developing markets.

The fact that we have superstructures, both physical and financial, capable of pulling off one or more races without undue behind-the-scenes drama kinda makes it a no-brainer. That you're pretty much guaranteed, from a country of 350 million, a couple hundred thousand paid tickets is a bonus.

Dorna is focussed on the markets you mention. It's just that the US is one of the planet's few countries with the wherewithal to put on more than one MotoGP race in a year year.

I may be wrong but there are ways to get more sponsors. I agree with David, for business diversification would be best for this sport. Putting most of your eggs in one basket may not be the best thing to put full trust in. Hand to mouth is not going to work too well, and it may end in Ruin. Because this sport is on the WORLD stage I do not think that will happen, but a shakeup can happen and will if things get too out of hand. Dorna is a company many complain about, but I think they need to hire some people from F1, or contract some money people in. I know plenty of people on here will yell BS to that statement. But the last time I checked, Formula1 (dull by most people's standards), can fine a team 100 MILLION. And that team PAID that fine and still ran like normal!?! If you ask me, that team has a business model that is working, in a series that brings in crowds and fill racetracks, along with the rich and famous trying to show their face at Monaco every single year. There are probably no other or very few sports in the world that have or can pay that much money out for a FINE. If they can get money for a sport most people call boring, then Dorna can help Motogp as a whole diversify in exposure to more monies from different companies in countries from around the world. I could be wrong but... still rolling with that one.

A car has a large area that can be used to advertise on. NASCAR, F1, BTCC all have large amounts of space to show off. A motorcycle is a different animal. Unless you are a full blown title sponsor, odds are your logo will not be seen on TV, and it surely will not be seen live at trackside.

I really do not believe there is a large ROI for sponsors in Moto GP. I have a feeling some of the lesser sponsors do it simply to say "I help sponsor a Moto GP team". Some of the larger ones I imagine do it simply because it is in their budget to do so, and I'm sure there is a write off value for it. Phillip Morris (last I checked) still sponsors Ducati. The only reason any of us know it is because we've been watching for more than few years.

Everything to do with how little the sponsors on the bikes or cars actually have to do with racing.

The longevity has everything to do with how diversified those sponsors are...

By diversified its not just in different products aimed at same demographic, but multiple demographics...

Any one up for a Viagra sponsored team? Or maybe a Lego racer or playmobil racer? Marvel comics? Hair Jell or shampoo?

Aside from that, the real trouble with energy drinks specifically, is that recently a rider named Ant West was banned for drinking one, and the world doping courts successfully argued that the energy drink alone, acting as a stimulant, was the performance enhancer in a sport requiring quick mental and physical reflexes...... and not the banned substance not listed on the label and found in deminimus amounts in the riders sample.

So MotoGP faces same problem as US moto/supercross will face next year. They are just one piss test away from a top or sponsored ridder being banned for drinking their product. And when that happens the energy drink companies will leave on their own...

Sponsorship to the teams is not, and cannot, be a priority in the business model in which Dorna owns the series. Why? Because Dorna seeks sponsorship, too, from the same sources that might want to sponsor teams - companies trying to reach race fans.

And Dorna can always deliver more exposure to those sponsors than any individual team, bike or rider. On-screen branding, trackside signage, logos on tickets, when you think about it, the possibilities are far greater than any team or rider can offer.

As long as Dorna owns the series, their hands will be the first into the till of any potential sponsorship revenue. They're not evil; they have to generate a return for their investors, which are into Dorna for, if I am reading the financial reports correctly, close to $1 billion. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/01/dorna-loans-idUSL5N0MT3SQ20140401).

Dorna's needs come first.