Updated: Feb 24
We got a tremendous response to the Performance Package offer and I wanted to give some feedback explaining a little of the thought process involved in the decision-making as it was apparent that some people put a lot of time and effort into their applications.
It's interesting seeing things from the other side and I'd like to share some insight. I hope it will help you understand why you did or didn't get selected and to prepare for future applications or when approaching potential sponsors.
It's never easy to turn people down, especially those I know well. Hopefully this will give you an insight to how much thought went into the decision and you'll see that it was not personal.
Who was making the decision?
Ultimately I made the decisions and I want that to be very clear. I absolutely stand by the decisions I've made and I think I have the right people on board. That said, it is important to realise that I did consult other people. I talked to other riders I know and connections in the industry and it's more widespread than you think. Your reputation is really important. There's a good chance that one of us knows someone, who knows someone from one of your riding spots. You will have a reputation and we've tried to find out what it is like. So, bear that in mind when you're out and about.
What were we looking for?
This package was incredibly niche. The main market for Dialled and any other mountain biking business, is the 'average guy'. Often riders that fit those criteria make better ambassadors because they are more relatable. This is why race results don't always translate to sponsorship. In fact, race results under normal circumstances, have little bearing on the decision. For this particular project though, I was very much after racers.
In this project, we have what is almost an experimental group. I wanted racers at National Series level that have shown that they have a pace that is close enough to the top of their category that it is a realistic gap to close but far enough away that we have someone to develop. Most of those I have chosen are around 10 seconds off the pace for podiums or wins. We can't do miracles but I think that is a realistic gap to close. The suspension set-up is worth a few seconds, strength and fitness is worth seconds, coaching can gain seconds and so you see that it becomes realistic that these guys could make a leap through this project from being mid-pack to podium contenders.
For the reasons above people just starting out on their first season of racing were probably not right for this particular project.
In addition to all of that, I did look at what races you had actually entered. A lot of people said that they planned to do National races but hadn't booked them. Well, a few rounds are already sold out so if you didn't have very concrete plans in place then it went against you for sure.
Because it was a niche project I needed to keep my mind as open as possible. I tried to reach out to males, females, ethnic diversity groups etc. As a sponsor, you want to show that you are committed to diversity. On the other hand, Dialled is not big enough or influential enough to choose riders just because they promote a particular minority group. I have selected riders based on their merits and I'm comfortable with the mix I have. If you belong to a minority group you can use that to sell yourself to sponsors. You see lots of girls doing this very well at the moment and it makes sense. If as many women rode as men do, the customer base of the industry would nearly double. It makes sense for brands to back women that promote riding for other women.
In the end, we are a very 'white' group. I can put my hand on my heart and say that 100% of applicants were white and mostly male. I'm quite sure there is a wider problem to fix here but I can't solve that through this small project.
I didn't want to put too many 'conditions' on this project because, with it already being quite intense, I wanted as many applicants to choose from as possible. So there was no upper limit on age. There were some 'older' riders but the issue was more about where they sat in terms of results (see point 1) than age.
In the first few days, I got a lot of quite young riders/parents of young riders apply. I have a lot of experience working with teenagers and unfortunately too much experience with teenagers with eating disorders. I love seeing kids out smashing laps, building trails, racing etc but should they be following a diet and fitness plan at 12? It just doesn't sit well with me and I decided to make 15 the absolute lowest. So, if you were less than 15 that was possibly the reason you didn't get selected. This is a very personal decision and one that I stand by. For other projects, it would not have been a problem.
I had some really good enduro riders apply and I did consider splitting it into 3 DH and 3 enduro riders. I wanted it to stay DH focused as originally planned though and I got the riders I needed. Maybe in future, I'll offer something similar for Enduro. This could be why you didn't get chosen.
I also had some XC racers show an interest and I'm pretty keen to have a look into that world so I hope they stay in touch. In this case though, I stuck with DH racers.
5. Brand Compatibility
Finally, and perhaps the most complex, I had to look at how compatible you seemed to be with my brand and the brand/brands sponsoring the project. I also considered conflicts of interest and whether I thought you would embrace the services included - obviously difficult to judge.
There was not a prerequisite that you needed to be on Fox, in fact, one of the big advantages of 'buying in' to this package would be the ability to upgrade to Fox at a discount so there's a strong logic that says pick people on Rock Shox that plan to change because they'll immediately get a lot out of the discount package. However, because it's a Silverfish UK backed project, I couldn't risk the whole group spending the season winning races on Rock Shox and Ohlins for example. So this was. a bit of a tightrope.
I asked what I thought was quite a leading question about your bike and the upgrades you wanted to make. Jenna for example runs a Boxxer and a Fox DHX2 rear shock. I know she wants to upgrade to a 40 when she can, the discount will really benefit her. One of the guys is on a full Rock Shocks set-up but again, stated his intention to switch to Fox using the discount. Some riders obviously are already on Fox.
A surprising number of applicants stated that they were on Rockshox or Ohlins and were really happy with them and stated things like 'the only upgrade I think I need is some Hope brakes' - for example. Well, it just makes no sense. My advice would be to look carefully at your potential sponsor before writing to them and think about the components they are offering.
The other thing to take into account is that I want to help promote you. If you are not using the brands that are backing the project then that becomes a little more difficult. You didn't need to commit to using all of the SIlverfish brands but you are way less likely to produce contact they can share if you don't use any or you are using brands that are in direct competition.
There is a big lesson here because look how low down the list this is. Honestly, unless you are Kade Edwards and Jackson Riddle or something, everyone's Instagram looks much the same! I follow literally hundreds of riders and it's really hard to stand out.
Some things that helped and may help you in future:
-Some of our riders are friends with, work with, pay for, photographers, videographers, drone pilots etc. This helps. It means you'll be producing some high-quality footage.
-Mix your social up a bit. It's good to see a mixture of reels but stills can say a lot too. A picture of yourself says a lot about you.
So, with all of that in mind, I settled on 5 riders and I'm super happy with my decision. I originally thought I'd have got more 'older' riders (early 20's say) but in the end, it's worked out well. I think I have 5 riders that are all amazing but with heaps of room to improve further.
I'm excited to get started with them and I hope you'll follow their journey and maybe it'll be you next year? Who knows.