TWMX All Access: MSR ’06

Dave Casella has been busy over the last couple years at MSR, revamping everything from the image, to adding athletes to their sponsorship roster, and helping develop new products. This week we checked in with him to see what’s new…

How long have you been steering the brand image for MSR?

It will be two years in September. Man, the time has flown by. It seems like just yesterday I was meeting up with Nick Wey to discuss getting him onboard with MSR and the whole new look we were going for. Looking back, I can’t believe the strides the brand has made in a relatively short period of time. It’s really been great being part of this, and to be surrounded by a great team and great riders makes this one of the greatest jobs, challenging, but great.

How has the image changed during that time?

I think it has changed substantially. When I first got here MSR was perceived as an off-road brand only for the most part, with no real youth following. With the help of Nick and the rest of our pro riders we have really shown that MSR has a place in motocross. We also developed a whole new approach to our ad campaign and our product designs. We now work hand-in-hand with our influential riders to make sure we bring products to market that are fresh and edgy. Everybody here has embraced our new direction, and this in turn has breathed new life into the brand. I can’t tell you the amount of positive feedback we get on the image of the brand now. Everything from kids telling me that they love the ads to riders (that two years ago would have never considered riding for MSR) now calling to see how they can get on board. Just the combination of our design staff embracing the whole movement to Nick and the boys providing input has really resurrected the brands image for sure.

Have sales increased during that time?

Hell yeah they have! Last year was a great year, we had a huge increase in sales, and ’05 has been even better! Getting back into MX and really being involved in the MX culture has really helped for sure.  We are very fortunate to have a great distributor (Tucker Rocky) behind us. Those guys are seeing and feeling the energy here, and they are really getting behind the brand. We have almost 150 sales reps across the country just out there killing it for us. We also have track days all over where we invite all the local dealers to come out and ride with Nick and the guys. This creates great relationships, and makes us realize why we all got into this sport…for the fun. As a whole, MSR is the real deal. How many other brands can offer MX apparel, XC apparel, and hard parts. MSR has a lot of depth, and we pride ourselves on making sure each sector stays focused and gets plenty of attention.

Can you define the MSR brand and who it’s aimed at?

The brand is not aimed at any one specific category. We here at MSR like to think of the brand as an all-encompassing brand. If you like to get in the dirt (whether it be on a MX bike, Enduro, Baja, ATV, etc.) than we are here for you. We are very active in all aspects of riding. You know it’s really a great brand because we have some of the greatest history behind the brand with Malcolm, and then we have the new era being pushed forward by Nick, Barry, and Jason. So many kids and young adults are like, “My dad used to wear MSR, I have all these cool pics of him from back in the day.” Now their sons and daughters are involved with the brand. I was back in Michigan last year and Nick’s dad (T-Wey) took me out to the farm and rolled out his tractor that was 30+ years old. He pointed to the old school MSR sticker he had on it (he put it on there like 15 years ago), it just gave me the chills.  To think that the brand is still appealing 30 years later & pushing towards the front again is amazing. So I guess the brand offers something for everybody…isn’t that what it’s all about?

How much is designed for the MX crowd, vers off-road?

 The majority of our product crosses over between both sectors, so I would say we are pretty close to 50/50. There is no question that we have focused more on MX over the past two years, but that was to bring it back to life. Like I said earlier we use all of our top riders to help develop the product now, so instead of just having feedback from the worlds top off-road guys we also have some of the best MX riders to help with product development. If you look at the core apparel line this year (which both our MX racers and XC racers wear) you will see it is far different than it was just a few years ago. It’s a lot lighter for ’06, more progressive lines, better fit & function. It’s really great because we have Barry Hawk, Jason Raines, Randy Hawkins, and of course, Malcolm Smith, helping out with the XC gear. Those guys tell us what they need, we build it, they test it, give feedback and on we go. Same with MX. Nick is renown for being very picky about his gear and style, so anything less than perfect and I am going to hear about it! We make it really fun around here during design time. We will print out the gear in just line art & give it to NYK and others and let them color it and add things they want on it. Luckily I have a great design team here that likes working with myself and the riders, and they take everything we throw at them and make it come to life.

How much involvement does Malcolm have these days?

Malcolm rules. I was lucky enough to attend the On Any Sunday reunion with him down in Newport Beach a few months ago. It was so surreal. Here I was sitting next to the legend in the movie we all grew up watching, I was so stoked. Malcolm comes in every few weeks to discuss projects, dealer rides, give feedback on product, etc. Everyone here lights up when he walks in. He is the definition of the word legend in my mind…he’s done it all, and done it with a smile. Oh yeah, and he still kicks my butt in Baja every year.

What’s new for ’06?

Well, all of the apparel has been updated. We made a lot of significant changes on all three lines of MX gear this year (NXT, Revolver, Axxis). We have taken a half-pound out of our high-end pant (NXT), with out losing any of the trick look. It also has a whole new knee, and back yoke that allows a lot more flex in the back which allows the pant to stay on your hips while in the riding position.  We have really concentrated on making our entry-level and mid-level gear as good as it can be. We actually had two of our pros race Southwick in our new $99 AXXIS gear package (pant, jersey, glove), and when they came off the track people thought it was the high-end gear! The coolest thing was that it withstood the rigors of being raced in all weekend at the pro level. We have all new helmets that I am really proud of, especially the Velocity and Velocity X. We have our own mid level boot now (MXT), which is just awesome. It looks and feels like it should cost $200+, but retails for only $135. I don’t want to over look our life style product. We have come a LONG way here, we have some great T’s, caps, jackets, and more. Girls are going to love the new girls T’s for sure. I believe people will be taken back when they see the depth of the ’06 line. It really stands out from the others.

If you had to pick a favorite product, or thing that’s changed for ’06, what would it be?

It’s really hard for me to zero in on one thing. I guess I take a lot of pride in the NXT line, because we spend so much time developing that gear. The NXT line fuels the rest of the apparel, it kind of sets the standard, and we can draw from it to produce the other two lines. It’s really cool going to the track with Nick and the design team and just riding in the gear through the development stages. We will usually go out to Comp Edge when nobody’s there and just test it, take notes, go home and cut it up, draw all over it, and then make new samples with those improvements, and then back to the test track.

Do you have some wild color combos? Or are you guys a little more restrained in your color palette?

We stay pretty focused on our colorways. The craziest we get for ’06 is cyan blue. We actually have a really cool orange/red combo this year also. Right now we are trying to stay focused and offer colorways we know will really work. Don’t get me wrong, they are by no means boring, in fact we have gone with a lot of color on color this year giving the product a really bold look. We also offer the Renegade jersey (which Nick made popular) that can match up with the NXT pant, this gives you the opportunity to mix it up some. What we also will do is make NYK some custom colorways for SX, and if people love them we will develop them for ’07.

How big is the women’s market for you guys? What’s new there?

Very big. We have a lot going on there. As you know we have Sarah Whitmore and Sheena Patterson riding for us this year, so we are really making a push in this market. We sell a lot of women’s riding apparel; I am even surprised by the numbers sometimes. We have revamped the women’s line and renamed it “Starlet.” We have even added a women’s helmet to the Starlet line. The cool thing is we offer the entire Starlet line in youth sizing also. It’s really cool how much momentum this whole sector has. We are fortunate to have someone like Sarah representing the girl’s gear. A lot of people think that we just take the men’s gear & pop women’s colors on it. That couldn’t be further from the truth! All of the Starlet apparel is designed specifically for women. It’s fitted to women’s specs, and then tested by our pros just like the men’s line.

Do you have your riders/teams figured out for next season? Or is it too early to talk about?

It’s still a little early for me to reveal everything we are doing. I will say we have NYK back on board for another year, which is great. We are working closely with Randy Hawkins on the off-road side of things, so we will have tremendous talent there also.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about our new line up. The product has come such a long way in the past few years. If you are one of those people who think, “Oh, that’s just off road gear for older folk,” then I am here to tell you otherwise!  If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet…well here’s your chance!

To check out a selection of MSR’s ’06 gear, check out the photo galleries in the right column.

For more: www.msracing.com

ake new samples with those improvements, and then back to the test track.

Do you have some wild color combos? Or are you guys a little more restrained in your color palette?

We stay pretty focused on our colorways. The craziest we get for ’06 is cyan blue. We actually have a really cool orange/red combo this year also. Right now we are trying to stay focused and offer colorways we know will really work. Don’t get me wrong, they are by no means boring, in fact we have gone with a lot of color on color this year giving the product a really bold look. We also offer the Renegade jersey (which Nick made popular) that can match up with the NXT pant, this gives you the opportunity to mix it up some. What we also will do is make NYK some custom colorways for SX, and if people love them we will develop them for ’07.

How big is the women’s market for you guys? What’s new there?

Very big. We have a lot going on there. As you know we have Sarah Whitmore and Sheena Patterson riding for us this year, so we are really making a push in this market. We sell a lot of women’s riding apparel; I am even surprised by the numbers sometimes. We have revamped the women’s line and renamed it “Starlet.” We have even added a women’s helmet to the Starlet line. The cool thing is we offer the entire Starlet line in youth sizing also. It’s really cool how much momentum this whole sector has. We are fortunate to have someone like Sarah representing the girl’s gear. A lot of people think that we just take the men’s gear & pop women’s colors on it. That couldn’t be further from the truth! All of the Starlet apparel is designed specifically for women. It’s fitted to women’s specs, and then tested by our pros just like the men’s line.

Do you have your riders/teams figured out for next season? Or is it too early to talk about?

It’s still a little early for me to reveal everything we are doing. I will say we have NYK back on board for another year, which is great. We are working closely with Randy Hawkins on the off-road side of things, so we will have tremendous talent there also.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about our new line up. The product has come such a long way in the past few years. If you are one of those people who think, “Oh, that’s just off road gear for older folk,” then I am here to tell you otherwise!  If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet…well here’s your chance!

To check out a selection of MSR’s ’06 gear, check out the photo galleries in the right column.

For more: www.msracing.com