Today’s Seven Deadly Questions, we sit down with Brock Austin, one of the fastest up-and-comers in the Pro Ski circuit and began to delve into what it takes to become a sponsored racer and more importantly, what it takes to keep those sponsors. It’s a business after all.
The Watercraft Journal: Brock, can you tell us what first got you into jet ski racing?
Brock Austin: I’ve been riding jet skis since I was about 8 years old, but didn’t start practicing until I was almost 10 years old. I had watched a race in Washington and there was a junior that didn’t ever standup the whole race and I told my dad that I could stand up the whole race and that’s when he got me a ski and started practicing for racing! We took a 4 year break from ages 12-16 and when I got back on a ski, practiced a bit and figured out that I could be competitive in Novice class, that’s when we came back and got serious with my racing!
WCJ: What first made you think you might be able to “go pro?”
BA: I took fifth my first year back in Novice Stock on a Polaris Octane and that’s when we decided to get me a Hydrospace. Once we got it, I practiced a bunch and jumped in Pro-Am Ski Stock and won my first race. That’s when I knew that if I trained hard and practiced I could hopefully be in the Pro class one day!
WCJ: Did companies/sponsors approach you first about supporting you, or did you have to reach out?
BA: Well, my dad raced before I started, so he had some experience in getting sponsors and had sponsors that started helping me out just because him. Over the years, we have learned a lot about sponsors and now that I’m turning Pro and going international I’m getting companies asking me to ride for them!
WCJ: What do most companies realistically offer a newcomer racer? What kind of support can you expect?
BA: Most companies that decide to sponsor a new racer will help them out in a small way (i.e. 25-50 percent off or a small discount like that) and the more you support them and get good race results the more they will support you.
WCJ: Brock, we spoke with Hydro-Turf’s Mike Bonin who shined a little light on how they came to support your efforts.
Mike Bonin: Brock has been part of the Hydro-Turf team since 2011, as most riders, Brock started out with a product discount in the beginning. Aside from what I saw of Brock online, or in the media, I really didn’t know him on a personal level. We hadn’t even met face-to-face.
WCJ: Brock, what do sponsoring companies get in return for supporting a jet ski racer? How do you feel that you make good on their investment?
BA: They get exposure through your ski, your trailer, shirts and hats, social media, basically anyway that you can advertise for them and get more people to support their brand. Once you become a racer on the national level or even international level you become a prime candidate for sponsors because you get them more and more exposure!
MB: Brock was very good about sending us pictures, race results, letting know what he plans were for the year. This allowed me to follow him and keep up with how he was improving. There was one thing happening for sure, Brock was consistently improving his riding skills, as he continues to do today.
WCJ: As a sponsored racer, have you found that you need to comport yourself differently? What have you seen others do that costs them possible sponsorships?
BA: A lot of people forget that you have to be professional on and off the track. You have to have a good attitude and make good decisions on and off the track and companies will be happy to work with you! A lot of people will not get sponsored or lose sponsorships for making bad decisions on the track or being arrogant to people at the races. Nowadays a lot of people post things on social media that they shouldn’t and sponsors choose not to go with them because of it. So just be nice to everyone and have a good attitude and you won’t have any problems!
MB: After that first year, I was able to build a personal relationship with Brock, along with his parents Bill and Kary. I would show up to tour stops, and there were the Austins, there pit set up, boats looking good, logos in place, and ready to race. Win or lose, Brock has always composed himself in a professional manner, even when not happy with his performance, he never blamed anyone, threw equipment, or stormed off. Brock would learn from his mistakes, and just strive to not make that mistake again. I can’t say enough to express, how great this family is, and how much I respect, and value their friendship.
WCJ: Tell us about the companies who support your race effort. What do they offer you that helps your program?
BA: I have a lot of companies now that help me out a ton! I get huge support from all of them and i can’t just single out one of them! My mechanic hooks me up big time, I get my gear and clothing for free, and I’m now getting salary pay from some sponsors and that helps out big time this year for shipping my ski around the world! I definitely wouldn’t be where I’m at without all of their help!
MB: Being able to watch Brock grow, and progress, has allowed me to see his true potential, and offer a higher level of sponsorship. Although it is not a large amount, I am happy that I am able to offer him something additional besides just product support. Brock has a lot of great years ahead of him, and there is no doubt in my mind, that he will be one of the greatest in the industry. Although he already is in mine, and quite a few others eyes.