Saturday — October 16, 2021

Nitro Circus Delivers in Australia: Interview with Brett Clarke

Nitro Circus
Brett Clarke — Chief Commercial Officer

The growing interest in extreme sports is no more evident than in the Nitro Circus brand. Developed by Travis Pastrana, a talented athlete in this field, Nitro has been thrilling audiences all around the world. This unique choreographed sporting platform has developed a strong following from kids and families from all backgrounds. Framed by their daring stunts and amazing diversity of FMX, Skate, BMX and scooter antics they have lit up stadiums and outdoor venues around the globe. Interestingly enough, many of the athletes in the Nitro family hail from Australia. As an outdoor loving country all of the above disciplines are readily accessible to kids of all ages. It is therefore not surprising that many of them have been able to perfect their craft and be drafted onto the Nitro Circus roster. Touring extensively, Australia has been a regular destination over many years now. The Bugg Report has been able to track down Brett Clarke who is the Chief Commercial Officer for the brand. Brett is an Australian and currently resides in California. We were able to speak with him recently to get an update for our readers on the current and forthcoming plans for the Australian market.

We have all faced significant uncertainty during the current global health challenges. How have you re-organised your business to remain relevant?

It’s certainly been an interesting time, which is the understatement of the century. The first half of the year has thrown many curve balls in our direction that’s for sure. That said, after what has been a decade of exponential growth and expansion across all assets of our business, the pandemic and the subsequent shutdowns have provided us, as an organization, the opportunity to take a breath and review our business and reset our strategy going forward. We’ve been foot to the floor for many years now producing major events, tours, media content, new talent etc. and this ‘break’ has allowed us to sit up and identify where our focus should lie for the next five to ten years. That process has been quite enlightening and has really tapped into the creative and entrepreneurial spirit within the organization.

From top to bottom, I’ve been thrilled with the way in which our team has adapted to the changing environment to create new opportunities and identify the core focus areas of our existing business.

Brett Clarke

From top to bottom, I’ve been thrilled with the way in which our team has adapted to the changing environment to create new opportunities and identify the core focus areas of our existing business. The Nitro Circus business also started as a media company in its infancy. Given the slowdown in live events, we’ve seen significant interest in our media division and have created a number of new media projects that have been picked up by the likes of ESPN, Quibi — Jeffery Katzenburg’s new media platform, Facebook and a number of international broadcasters. We’ve also doubled down on our short form and user generated content (UGC), with the latter providing a platform for our fans to showcase their skills (or sometimes lack of) to our social audience of over 25million fans. The success of this content has seen us launch our new Fan Club and UGC initiative, Daredevil Nation. The initial success and metrics have been phenomenal with over 10 million content views and 25 million impressions in just three weeks since its launch. After a successful pilot event, we are also working with Walmart and partners such as Red Bull, General Mills, Bell Helmets etc. to create around 30-40 ‘retailtainment’ demonstration events at Walmart stores around the United States. This will see us take leading athletes to carparks and concourses in front of the stores to create demonstration events, autograph sessions, product displays/sampling and clinics for shoppers in these markets and a way to keep people entertained during the pandemic. We will offer both socially distanced audience spaces and drive-in options. We plan to expand this next year into 2021 to more doors and also with other global retailers, including Australia.

Nitro Circus
Nitro Circus

We understand the recent Big W mid year catalogue saw some solid results for Nitro. Sales of the bike, helmet and scooter were all great. What does this tell you about the brand in Australia?

Australia has always been a huge market for the Nitro Circus brand. We launched our very first tour in this market, many of our leading athletes are Australian, likewise many of the management team of the company are Australian. We feel we have a great understanding of the market and have seen continued success for a long time down under. Pound for pound, it’s probably our top global market. The recent success on the retail side is testament to our longevity and commitment to the Australian market.

Our Australian audience on Facebook alone is larger than any of the Australian sporting franchises to give a sense of the scale and engaged audience in Australia for Nitro Circus. I also need to pay thanks to John Redenbach and the team at Big W. They have put great faith in our brand, in our licensees and I am delighted for all parties to see the success we are currently having.

Brett Clarke

When you look at our social audiences of 25million globally, Australia sits in our Top 5 markets for fans. Our Australian audience on Facebook alone is larger than any of the Australian sporting franchises to give a sense of the scale and engaged audience in Australia for Nitro Circus. I also need to pay thanks to John Redenbach and the team at Big W. They have put great faith in our brand, in our licensees and I am delighted for all parties to see the success we are currently having. We were always confident of success at retail and we waited almost a decade to launch consumer products in the market – in just a couple of years, we have seen extraordinary growth and look forward to expanding SKU’s and product assortment in Australia.

We recently learnt the Nitro Circus became a part of a new organisation called Thrill One Sports & Entertainment. What does this mean commercially for the brand?

A number of years ago, we took on an investment from leading New York private equity firm, The Raine Group. Raine have had tremendous success with their investments over the years and we are fortunate to be one of the portfolio companies in their first fund. As part of our strategy, we wanted to combine the leading ‘thrill-based’ sports and entertainment properties together under one roof, this is where Thrill One Sports and Entertainment was born. The portfolio now includes Nitro Circus, Street League Skateboarding (the world’s leading skate league) and Superjacket Productions (Rob Dyrdek’s media production company). We plan to add more properties over time; however, we are ‘thrilled’ with the foundation brands we have under the Thrill One umbrella to start with. Obviously, Nitro Circus is a huge brand, however when you think that Street League Skateboarding is the official qualification pathway for skateboarding in the Olympic Games and Superjacket produces shows like Ridiculousness (which is responsible for 49% of MTV’s gross rating points and produces 160+ episodes annually) and the Dude Perfect Show; we have an enviable line up of properties and unequalled audience metrics in the industry. The future is definitely exciting.

Nitro Circus
Thrill One

We believe you are focused on developing the consumer products portfolio here in Australia. Can you tell us about some of the target categories?

We have seen fantastic success in Australia with our initial product lines, primarily in the sporting goods categories – bicycles, scooters, skateboards, helmets, even pogo sticks. Some people laughed when we said we were launching with pogo sticks with our great partners at ToyMonster – they ended up being the best seller in our initial drop. We see many additional opportunities – toys, ride-on, remote control, back-to-school, soft goods and apparel, video games, collectibles…the list goes on. The key message is, “Nitro Circus is open for business” – we want to collaborate and partner with licensees that can bring to life the excitement and energy of our brand.

Looking toward 2021, can you update us on your tour plans for this market?

I wish I had a crystal ball — not only to see what live entertainment looks like, but also to see what the world looks like in 2021. We are building countless contingency plans for live events; however, I am confident we will be back performing in front of big crowds again next year. Australia is always going to be a market where we have a live event presence each year. For over a decade now we have achieved outstanding results in the market and hold attendance records at a number of stadiums and arenas in the market. I can’t say too much just yet, however we are working on a major event in Australia for Q4 2021. This will be the biggest event on the global action sports calendar and bring all of the biggest names in the sport to the market. This event will see a year-round marketing and activation campaign culminating in a major live event. This event will provide a huge opportunity to our partners to leverage across retail, live event, media, athletes, grassroots events and experiential in connection with the event. We’ve also partnered with Mattel’s Hot Wheels brand to lead their action sports strategy globally. This is a great partnership as it combines the world’s number one boys toy brand with our leading action sports platform to create the world’s largest youth action sports program. The partnership is focused on encouraging the challenger spirit in kids worldwide and creating pathways from grassroots to professional. We will be running a Hot Wheels Superchargers event in Australia at the end of 2020 and again in 2021, which presents opportunities for our partners to engage with youth athletes and their families on a fun and accessible platform.

We believe Ryan Williams (who is an Australian) is becoming a more important ambassador for the brand. Can you tell us how his role will evolve into the future?

Ryan Williams is a SUPERSTAR! There’s no other way to describe him. As Travis Pastrana said last year, “Ryan Williams is the best action sports athlete on the planet today” — high praise from arguably the greatest action sports athlete of all-time. Ryan is a genuine success story, he started out as a young kid on our tour, riding a scooter, which at the time was not regarded at the top of the action sports disciplines. He didn’t let that hold him back. His athletic ability, trick progression, charisma and humility put him on a fast track to his current status. He now has millions of social media and YouTube followers and is incredibly engaged with his audience, which is demonstrated through his content performance metrics.

Ryan Williams is a SUPERSTAR! There’s no other way to describe him. As Travis Pastrana said last year, “Ryan Williams is the best action sports athlete on the planet today” – high praise from arguably the greatest action sports athletes of all-time.

Brett Clarke

Back in the sports environment, Ryan took to BMX on top of being the world’s best scooter rider. His dedication and natural ability saw him win multiple Nitro World Games and X Games championships. A two-sport athlete in action sports is very rare — to be the best in the world at both sports is unthinkable — in Ryan we have that superstar personality. Over recent years, we have worked with Ryan to develop his ‘RWilly’ and ‘RW’ signature range of products. We partnered with Greenover Scooters to launch a range of pro and replica models that have sold extremely well across the globe. We have also developed a replica BMX bike with Hyper Bicycles and a range of merchandise, which has been very popular with his enthusiastic fanbase. We feel Ryan has the personality and profile to expand his range in the future with similar success.

Nitro Circus
Ryan Williams

How do you see the evolution of the extreme sport category over the next couple of years?

We see an exciting future, which is evidenced by the Thrill One initiative. If you consider of all the new sports included in the Tokyo Olympics, 65% of the new sports are action sports based — Skateboarding, Surfing, BMX Freestyle, and even Speed Climbing could be considered an action sport. Broader than this, when you look at the metrics, action sports is a huge vertical:

  • 3 in 5 teenagers are action sports fans
  • There are 503 million action sports fans worldwide
  • The fanbase has been growing at 6% YoY since 2016 off a very strong base
  • Action Sports is the fourth largest vertical on social media platforms Facebook and Instagram — larger than American Football, Baseball, Rugby, Tennis

Action sports is also core to most children’s lifestyles — BMX bikes, scooters and skateboards are present in almost every household across the country. This gives a sense of just how big the opportunity is to link the largest and most aspirational brand in this space with products that are so common within most family environments.

We know that Nitro has been famous for coming up with outrageous stunts; can you give us an insight into some of the latest additions?

We always like to say, “Be careful what you wish for, because Nitro Circus will give you the opportunity to do it” — creativity is at the core of what we do and often if you can think of it, we can create it — sometimes for better or worse. Whilst we do create highly entertaining contraptions, we have a mantra of ‘progression with safety.’ Everything we do takes months of research, testing and development before the crowds see the contraptions or stunts brought to life. I think there’s a unique opportunity to use these contraptions in consumer product executions. We’re an irreverent brand and I think this brings out the ‘big kid’ in all of our audiences. We actually just launched a new TV show on Quibi, called “Life Size Toys” — in this show we created all of the famous toys and supersized them. Travis Pastrana and a number of our other athletes were then engaged to ‘play’ with these toys with hilarious consequences. From Stomp Rockets to Lego cars, Radio Flyer wagons to Duncan YoYo’s and Barbie Cars to a catapult version of the Velcro ball catch and toss game — we did them all. It’s a great example of how we can bring consumer products to life beyond sporting goods used in our shows.

Nitro Circus
Nitro Circus

What is the current demographic of the audience for Nitro Circus?

It’s very unique in that our audiences vary depending on the platform we are talking about. I’m always mindful to say that we appeal to everyone, but we really do appeal to everyone. I recall my first ever show working at Nitro Circus at the arena in Sydney Olympic Park — I took my four year old daughter and my 80-odd year old grandmother and both of them had an equally good time. When we dig into our demographics we look at them by platform. Our social media fanbase of over 25million fans is very millennial focused. Around 70% of our audience on our social platforms is aged 13-34 with a male/female split of 80:20. When you look at our live event audience, this changes dramatically. In our research we actually have a 50:50 male/female split. Almost 80% of our fans have children in the household with an average of 2.34 children per household. Our live events are very family friendly. We have designed our shows to appeal to families, so it has been great to see these trends continue to increase and families continue to enjoy the shows together. Merchandise sales on-site at our events have continually achieved outstanding results, comparable with leading music acts in markets around the globe. The average household income for our audience skews much higher than the national average. Our fan research has shown that our attendees rate the show an average of 9 out of 10 on a scale of worst show (0) to best show (10) they’ve ever seen. Equally important is that 95% state their intent to return the next time the show is in their city.

Thanks for your time Brett. It looks like the Australian market will continue to grow with the Australian talent and strategic partnerships in this market to develop and launch cool products and promotions.

Nitro Circus

This article was originally featured in our July 2020 magazine

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