Hookit has been checking in with some of the best, most respected riders in the world to share their advice and experiences on various topics. In the thick of the silly season for riders to line up their 2014 support, we checked in with none other than Ricky Carmichael to think back to what he went through as an amateur long before becoming the G.O.A.T. Read on for more and keep an eye out for more upcoming features on this topic.
Who was your first sponsor as an amateur and how did it all come about?
My mom and I did the whole thing of putting together resumes and mailing it out to sponsors. Unfortunately Hookit wasn’t around back then! My very first sponsor was Scott goggles. I remember even now how cool it was to be working with Bevo who was just the man back then and how cool and important I felt. I think I only got one or two sets of goggles and deals on product after that, but getting taken care of at the track with tear offs and support was just so cool. I was with them for four or five years and as everyone probably knows I’ve been with Oakley forever. I think I signed with Oakley in 1991 and have been with them ever since. They have just been awesome to work with throughout my entire career.
What things did / do you do to take care of your sponsors?
I’d say the biggest thing was trying to be loyal and a good ambassador of their products. I worked really hard at making sure I was professional and maintained a good image while trying to focus on winning races. I always did the best I could to speak highly of their products and worked with brands that I believed in my core were the best brands that helped me win. Beyond that, it’s just important you have a good attitude both on and off the track.
What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
To be honest I have to say I don’t have many regrets. My family was so behind me and they helped guide me, but also let me make my own decisions. I really tried to be appreciative and take care of my sponsors and was loyal so I had a lot of people who stuck with me throughout my entire career. If I were to change one thing though…it would have been working more early on to be more personable. Early on I was always being approached for interviews and autographs signings that I would turn down or walk away from because I always thought winning was more important than being cool with the fans. I did a lot but I feel like I could have done more to be involved from the beginning. I’ve since been on the other side of that when I started racing cars and now know what it feels like to want to get interviewed or have people ask you to sign an autograph and not get recognized. Having that admiration is special and it should never be taken for granted.
What advice do you have for the next generation of riders?
It’s really important that you take care of the people that support you. The big opportunities don’t come around every day and you have to work hard and earn them. Make the most of everything you get and work hard on your riding, training and have a professional image. Even if you’re not into the promo and networking, do the part and find time to be yourself off the track out of the spotlight. For riders right there about to turn pro the best advice I have is to have RESPECT. I was there so I know how it feels to be winning every single race as an amateur then getting thrown in with the best riders in the world and running in 6th, 8th and 10th place your first season. You have to remember that those pros have done everything you’ve already done and probably then some. You don’t have to like them, but you do have to respect them. Don’t get discouraged though. It’s so easy to get in that rut in your first season and some never get out. If it happens, go back to your roots, regroup and remember what made you happy and love this sport in the first place.
Photo credits: Vintage photos via Hi Flyers & Fox | RCU images courtesy of Josh Rud from ShiftOne Photography