Meet The Industry : Fox Racing’s Warren Johnson

Since launching in 1974, Fox Racing has become one of the largest brands in motocross, if not all of action sports. From its humble gear beginnings, they are now known worldwide as “the” brand that defines motocross and are touching every aspect of the clothing world. Despite growth in every market, motocross has remained the focus and backbone of the brand. While at the Irvine, California, offices we talked with Warren Johnson about what has helped the company grow.

Fox Racing’s Warren Johnson

Warren, what is your job title at Fox, how long have you been with the company, and what is your background?

I am the Marketing Communications Director and I have been with Fox for 11 years. After graduating from college I started working for Toyota (Corporation) and was always a motorcycle enthusiast. I raced until I went to college, and when I graduated, I wanted to work for a motorcycle manufacturer. I went through Toyota’s management training program and learned the aspect of automotive distribution in the United States, but I always had that inkling of wanting to be in the  motorcycle industry. So while at Toyota I started making great connections, got back into riding, and went to work for Kawasaki in their accessories division. I moved up to be their accessories manager and was at Kawi for 4 years. I left, did a short stint with Yamaha in Product Planning, and have been at Fox ever since. I come from a large corporate background and it has been really exciting to see Fox grow from a small, family owned business to the larger, more corporate structure we experience today.

How do you put together a marketing campaign?

It’s a collective effort for sure. Our different divisions are run by different managers and I strictly focus on motocross. We are a product driven company and our DNA is motocross. There’s a performance focus in all of our products. Depending on what the product line is, the marketing campaign reflects the design goals & objectives for the brand and that specific product.

How involved are you in Fox’s placement in stores like PacSun, Tilly’s, and Zumiez?

Again, my focus is motocross. The distribution plan comes from our clothing sales team. However, if the clothing account is looking for MX action inspired POP or visuals, the request comes through print design. From a core motocross perspective, I will sign off on any imagery that is used to make sure it is authentic and what we want to convey.

The lobby of Fox’s Irvine, CA, office displays its rich history in the sport. Bikes from the company’s early days as a race team to those from their current riders all have a place.

Somewhat of a sore subject is how any brand in a niche sport is deemed a “sellout” once they get too big. Is that something Fox takes to heart or something you cannot worry about?

Every business wants to increase their sales base and grow accordingly. At Fox, we have never given up on our roots and who we are as a brand. We try to grow the sport of motocross more than anybody and are involved in these core sports, to reach those loyal customers. It’s a connection with the consumer that surfs and rides that recognizes Fox as a premium brand leader. There are action sport influences within the family have made Fox what it is today.

To do a product from start to finish, how long does it take?  The Instinct boot took three or four years, the helmet may take two, and gear is always changing.

Product is king! There is a development process we implement and adhere to. That takes time. We will never rush a product to market before it is ready. The goal is to produce the best products in their categories. They need to have amazing function and look insane as well.

With a market base that is so diverse, where you have to have a core line for some and then a more graphic line for others, how do you appeal to all markets?

Our goal is to have a product line that can connect with the consumer in one way or another. With our premium product line, the 360, we offer the same functionality with different styling & graphics inspirations. For example, our 360 Flight line offers traditional race inspired styling with solid color blocking and clean lines. Machina, which draws from last year’s extremely popular Covert line, has some bolder graphics & design cues. Even more aggressive would be something like Fallout, which has large Fox branding across the chest and down the leg, asymmetrical in design, and different colorways. The HC/180 line has a price point that’s below the premium race wear line, but the product attributes are not far off. You have leather knee panels, articulated leg design, and 600D material instead of 900D. It is intended for the guy that doesn’t want to spend as much money but still wants the quality, style, and design.

Making a campaign from start to finish is an extensive process. The cubicle walls of the actual office space are lined with photos and inspiration.

When the market changed to four-strokes, Fox was among the first to add leather knees to their lower priced pant…

For that consumer, we want to give that guy that value and function. There is no reason he should pay that price for a race pant that he isn’t going to use all of the time, but still expects the quality to be the same.