Meet The Industry: DC Shoe Co.’s Brian Cassaro

Brian Cassaro

This week’s biggest buzz has been the release of the limited edition DC Shoes/Troy Lee Designs race gear. And for good reason. While many brands attempt to cover very diverse markets, few are able to do so successfully. It takes a large company with experience, funding, and popularity to make sure things will go smoothly as possible. As one of the biggest brands in action sports, DC has those bases covered. We spoke with Brian Cassaro while at Pala to learn more about the launch and what the future holds for their moto efforts.

Brain, what is your title at DC and how long have you been there?

I am the Action Sports Marketing Director and I have been there for five years.

With DC being as big of a brand as it is, what has spurred its growth over the last few years?

We made a conscious effort to push motocross about three years ago. Motocross gear and boots have always been a discussion for the last five or six years that I have been there, so now, it is finally coming to fruition. It is a long process getting it developed. There is a lot involved with a boot. For us, it has to be durable, protective, and really high quality, or else you are just going to come out with something that is going to be bad. We didn’t feel like we were at a place to do a boot just yet, because if we did it, we would use our in-house design team. We have talked to companies about doing licensing, but it wasn’t really where we wanted to go with it. The gear has always been talked about, and with our push in apparel and teamworks apparel, which we call “Rider Inspired,” Robbie, Nate, Jeremy, and Travis will all have a line. With two seasons a year, they will have a line of clothing they will be able to sell to retailers, so motocross gear and tying it to the apparel made a lot of sense. It started off as a conversation with Jeremy when his contract with a gear sponsor was up for renewal, and we decided to design some stuff and get it out there. We didn’t want to sell it or promote, we just wanted the branding on our key athletes. Maddo’s contract came up around the same time, so they were the first two we decided to go do it. That is why we have Maddo and Jeremy starting out the line. The designed and developed a couple of sets. We started the process using some board short prints and other prints we had in our line, but we really felt like in motocross it was really unique to do signature product, like they do eyewear or snowboard boots. We really felt like a signature line of motocross gear had not been done well, so with the athletes that we had, we felt it made a lot of sense. We went to the drawing board, but the process has been delayed a bit. Maddo wore that design at New Year, No Limits last year and we were hoping that the gear launch would have happened before that. But we wanted to get the gear out and let people see a few designs. Jeremy started wearing his stuff a few months ago, and right now it’s almost November and we have already designed Nate and Travis’ gear. They are already in production, so once we get samples of it, those guys will be out riding in it. The way the cadence of the process works is in November of every year, we will launch Robbie and Jeremy’s lines and in March of every year, we will launch Travis and Nate’s lines. We will have four unique sets a year.

Will the gear designs be limited to just those four people, or will there be more?

For now, yes. We will be doing sponsorships with teams, so potentially there will be more signature product, but at the end of the day, these are our marquee athletes who have been with us a really long time and supported us and vice-versa. Who ever we end up putting the gear on, it will be their signature.

Will there be a DC line of gear that is not tied to a certain rider?

We have talked about doing a specific DC set, but that is probably another year or two out. Definitely not for the next line, but potentially in year two or three.

It is Troy Lee Designs gear rebranded with DC logos, correct? 

Yeah.

Thanks to his friendship with Troy Lee, Jeremy McGrath was vital to the new DC gear in every stage of production.

How difficult was it to find a brand that was willing to put your branding on their gear?

It was very easy. I won’t name them, but there were a lot of brands that courted us for gear. Troy was a strategic choice for a few reasons. First because he started his business on design and being unique, and that is the cornerstone of DC and how we started as well. So, for company, philosophy wise, it made a lot of sense. Jeremy’s relationship with Troy goes back years and years, and that made a lot of sense, too. Jeremy and Troy think a like in a lot of ways and they know what each other are thinking when we are sitting down and doing this type of stuff. Jeremy’s thinking has been a part of this, because in every meeting we have had with Troy, Jeremy is there. He is a big part of everything we have done. If it weren’t for Jeremy, we wouldn’t have progressed with this as fast as we did and it wouldn’t have gotten off the ground yet. Troy made a lot of sense for those reasons, but also for sales and distribution. We didn’t want to have our product sold through a distributor, because we wanted it to be true limited edition. Troy is giving it to his top retailers as a gift to get it out there. They have a unique and fun product that is about DC, but about Troy as well.

Is it a worldwide release or just in the US?

It is a global release, and 50 percent of the units will be in the US. The other 50 percent will go out to the rest of the regions, meaning Australia, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, and more. Through Troy’s network of distributors, we are using them to sell globally.

Did you change anything about the gear, construction wise?

No, but Troy’s benefit, the input from our riders has helped him as well. Eventually down the line, I see Troy’s gear being altered to what some of the riders want. We didn’t change anything; it is all design to point of patterns, color, and look. We made patches for the legs and embossed the knees on the production pants.

How big of a market is moto to DC?

On the ladder of sports that we look over, you have Ken Block as a franchise, skate, which is our cornerstone, and moto is pretty high up there. It is one of the top-three categories we look over. It is a broader category than skate, because skate is very defined and core. Moto can be very broad, but it does not affect its core. We have that problem with skate a lot. We don’t have to be as careful, but can be ourselves and our brand and do something for motorsports. That is why it was exciting for us to get into it.

For now the gear will come in two styles: MC’s SE line and Robbie Maddison’s GP line. The gear will be available in early November.

There is always a risk that if a brand gets too big, they are deemed “sell outs.” It’s not something you will have to worry about in moto, since you came in as an already established brand.

In moto, we are not concerned with that. We will continue to sponsor athletes and do events like Supercross and we will continue to push motocross because it is an important part of the DNA to DC. It isn’t whether or not being a big brand in moto will ruin us, because I don’t think that is a huge issue in motocross. It is in other sports, like skate. Skate is big because accessibility wise, anyone can do it. There are barriers of entry getting into this sport, buying a bike and all of that. Motocross guys aren’t as picky, but they always want something cool and different. It is different in that sense.

How big of an impact does Supercross have on DC? How did you decide to support it?

It has been great for us. We had just signed Trey Canard, and Trey and Jeremy for our brand in Supercross are everything we want. We have some teams that we sponsor that have been more important to us as we spread our arms, but being part of the property of Supercross has been amazing. It has given us the ability to be hands on with our consumers by being at the event and letting them feel DC. They are the people that ride every weekend and love watching the sport, and we didn’t have a way to touch those people. Supercross gave us the ability to do that. They can understand our riders better, understand our brand better, and understand the point of view on motocross better. Those things are tough to communicate when you are a skate brand trying to be motocross. It gave us an avenue to do that.

What does the future hold for DC?

Continued development of gear, continued projects and doing things that haven’t been done in motocross. I’m not saying trick wise, but how content is treated and created, how it is put out there. We will continue to use our fan base to not only grow us, but the sport of motocross. We are so widespread globally, so at the end of the day if we can help them understand motocross is an action sport, which X Games has helped do a lot, we can make it more important to more people. For us, that is important. When we came in and started pushing motocross, we tried to get our internal team stoked on motocross. We started a bike partnership with KTM and that has been unbelievable to work with their youth team, and now we get bikes out there with people. So when we have events like this, we can get people on bikes. That has given us the opportunity to get our employees on bikes and now at the office the buzz is motocross. People love it. It is a hard to access sport, but once you are in it, it’s great.