Between the Motos: Scott Sepkovic

May 24, 2006 2:01pm

Crown Management’s Scott Sepkovic is the man most responsible for bringing Monster Energy into the sport of motocross, brokering sponsorship deals with Ricky Carmichael and the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team. He also works directly with Jason Lawrence of the Rockstar Suzuki team. With the Toyota AMA Motocross Series coming back to his old stomping grounds of Southwestern Pennsylvania, we thought it would be a good time to catch up with the man they call “Hollywood.”

Racer X: Scott, it’s a big weekend coming up back here – High Point is kind of a homecoming for you, isn’t it?
Scott Sepkovic: Yeah, the first motocross race that I ever went to see was in 1978 at High Point. I saw people like Marty Smith, Tony DiStefano, and Denny Swartz, who is from Ohio, and it was cool.

I just saw where Denny Swartz is racing the Racer X Vet Series up in Wisconsin. He was the last man to win a national on a Maico, and now he’s in the plus-50 class and he still has it. You had a Maico to start with, didn’t you?
[Laughs] Yes, unfortunately, that was the first bike that I bought, which I mowed everyone’s lawn in the neighborhood to save up enough money to buy, and unfortunately, I had to do the same thing to save up enough money to fix it every week. My nickname was “Maico Breako,” so that was probably a bad decision, based on it was either a used Maico 250 or a RM125, and I chose the Maico.

But I remember distinctly that within a couple years you had the immaculate JT gear, the shiny CR125 Honda, #137. You had it all going on, kind of like the Dogger of back East!
Well, the Dogger was actually one of the guys I looked up to, although he was younger than me. Ronnie and David Bailey were the guys I tried to emulate my style after. And along with that riding style also came the look, so I tried to perfect that to a T, which I think I nailed it pretty good.

Well, we were calling you “Hollywood” long before you went out there to California. And for our readers who may not be familiar, like a lot of us in the industry now, you made a go at it being a pro racer first, didn’t you?
Yeah, definitely, but unfortunately never had the success to earn a living racing. However, I did find an industry that I knew I wanted to try and make a living in, and I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to do so. And also, I tell people all the time that living in Carlsbad, California, and I remember watching the Carlsbad U.S. Grand Prix in the middle of the winter out in the garage working on my bike – can’t wait to go ride in the zero degree temperature. Watching that Carlsbad event on TV, seeing the sunshine and the beaches and thinking, Wow, that would be amazing to live there…. Now I live five miles from where the track used to be – now a business center – but it’s amazing that I was successful at working in the industry, so I feel very fortunate.

Does it break your heart to drive by that place now?
It sure does!

You started out in the very beginning with your own company, which was Rip Rock. And you worked your way up through doing all kinds of different things, from No Fear to Spy, and now you have your own company with Crown Management.
Yes, and all of those steps were very vital to learning more about the industry and the business, like by sitting on the other side of athletes wanting you to sponsor them, and now going out and getting sponsors. I really understand what a company wants out of a sponsorship, and really try and get that 14-24-year-old influential male, who really controls a lot of the trends and brands, and getting them out in the forefront of that image-leading customer. That’s what really helped me understand, especially in this energy-drink category, which is pretty much an extension of the action sport industry. Like I say about Monster, it’s lifestyle in a can, and it really is different than a normal beverage like Pepsi or Coke, any of those other brands. I see kids wearing Monster hats and T-shirts and sweatshirts, where I’d never see someone wearing a Coke or Pepsi hat or T-shirt.

Yeah, and if you did, those would be people who actually work for Coke or Pepsi!
Exactly. And being with the Simo brothers over at No Fear, I learned a lot from those guys, and then I was at Spy for seven years. I learned a lot about just marketing and building brands. Now I’ve been really successful with some of the clients—Monster being our biggest—really understanding on how to help them grow that brand. For instance, if you’re into the stock market at all, if you look at the growth of their stock, it’s unbelievable – it’s unprecedented, actually.

I saw the article in Newsweek about how they have taken a huge chunk out of what used to be a category dominated by Red Bull, and how the stock had done and everything. But backing up, you said how this is an extension of the lifestyle, but for you personally, it seems like it would also be an extension to one of the first big deals that you worked on or were a part of, and that was the Jeremy McGrath-Bud Light deal.
Fortunately, that one was a real learning experience on how to really put together a package that helps us procure that sponsorship from Anheuser-Busch. Jeremy and I are friends, and he came in with Larry Brooks and talked with me. They said, “Hey Scott, we need a title sponsor and we felt this was something you could put together and be successful with….” I put together 100 proposals that were custom built for every brand from Cheerios to Dominos to FedEx, etc. It was a lot of work, but fortunately, it was successful in procuring that Anheuser-Busch deal for Jeremy. And yeah, that was a huge deal for me. Fortunately, it taught me a lot in regards to going out and getting outside-the-industry people involved with these more non-traditional sports.
    I think you see now that there has been a lot of success in companies focusing on the non-traditional. A lot of the marketing directors and managers with brands don’t want to really go out on a limb and do something that’s not the norm. If it fails, they can say, “Oh well, it failed.” But if they step out on a limb and try something and it fails, then there neck is going to be on the line. Fortunately with Monster, you have someone internally, Mark Hall, who is wiling to take that risk, and fortunately that risk has paid off very, very well. And as you said, the Newsweek article has written how well it has paid off for them.

How long can this trend go on? Because it seems that energy drinks have become ubiquitous with supercross. Everyone has a sponsor!
The struggle is going to be everyone getting what they want out of being involved. I think it is a very good sport to be involved in to get your message out there. The events are filled with that 14-24-year-old influential consumer. It’s a great place to get your message out, but we have seven different energy drinks involved, so it’s going to be difficult for everyone to get what they expect out of it, because you only have three podium spots. So there is going to be some people who don’t get what they expect out of it, but I hope they all do. I think it’s great for the sport. Ultimately, being a fan of the sport, I want to see it be the NASCAR of the youth demographic. So, I hope everybody gets what they expect out of it, but it would be nice to see some other types of sponsors, whether it be cereal or convenience stores, gets involved, also.

You wear a lot of hats, and another one is that you look out for the careers of a lot of young riders, including Jason Lawrence.
Actually, I talked to Jason twice today, and he rode last Thursday for the first time after the Prequel, and unfortunately, he couldn’t put any pressure on his foot. But he did ride yesterday, and although it’s painful, he can get through it. So he’s going to race at High Point, being that it’s one of the tracks he grew up racing at.

You had to have been even more bummed out when it started raining at Hangtown, because J-Law can ride in the wet stuff!
I actually talked to Jeff, the team manager, and he said that he had talked to Jason the day before and told him there was 80 percent chance of rain, and Jason was looking into getting a plane ticket to get there, thinking that he could maybe get through it with the bad heel in the mud. But after looking at his performance at Glen Helen, where he came from 27th to first, two of the people he had to pass were Brett Metcalfe and Andrew McFarlane, and they made the Hangtown podium! I know that Jason was pretty bummed when he heard that both of those guys were second and third.

Well, if it was any consolation, that was an extremely rough track at Hangtown, and he may have done more damage. It may have been wet, but it wasn’t muddy.
That is absolutely true. It’s surprising to me that it rained all day and I didn’t see or experience what we would at High Point if it would’ve rained all day.

So are you coming back this weekend in time to come to our Racer X Monster Party Friday night, as well as the first round of the Kawasaki/Monster Energy Triple Crown of Motocross?
Absolutely. I have not missed this race since 1978, and I never will. There’s a lot of prizes available this year with the Triple Crown. The top privateer in each class will get a check for $1,000, then you have $1,500 being given out to the overall winner of each class. Also, Kawasaki is offering up another pit bike to the overall winner of each class. And then you have $30,000 available to the sweep in the Motocross class, and a $10,000 check for a sweep of the Motocross Lites class. We stepped it up across the board and just want to make sure everyone gets a little bit of money for the Kawasaki/Monster Energy Triple Crown.

Well, I have to commend both Kawasaki and Monster Energy for giving back to the sport and trying to pump a little more into it and create some hype in this great sport.
Yes, both Kawasaki and Monster Energy has stepped it up with High Point, Red Bud and Steel City. It’s a cool deal and we’re looking forward to it. I hear the weather is looking great.

Man, I hope so. Well Scott, I’ve known you since that first race in ‘78, and I know that you put in a lot of hard work, especially when you were selling steaks out of the back of the Schwan’s truck. Congratulations on coming a long, long way from that!
Thanks. Every step I have taken has been a learning process, and a lot of them have taught me that I don’t want to do that ever again. Because one thing I know is that I never want to sell frozen steaks door-to-door again!