TWMX All Access: MSR’s Dave Casella

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When looking back to the early days of American off-road motorcycling, there’s one man whose name is certainly indicative of the word legend. Malcolm Smith is a true icon in the sport on a number of levels, and his accomplishments no doubt back that up. Malcolm was dominant at the Baja in the early years, winning the 1000 six times, including three in a buggy, as well as four Baja 500 victories. That in itself would constitute an outstanding motorcycle career for most, but the desert was only one component of Smith’s dominance on two-wheels. He also brought home a total of eight gold medals from the gnarly International Six Days Trials, which still remains one of the most demanding motorcycle events in the world.

Malcolm was immortalized as a champion desert racer and all around great guy in the movie “On Any Sunday.” As both a racer and a businessman, Smith holds a place in history as an off-road motorcycling pioneer. For his accomplishments he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America back in 1996.

In 1971 Malcolm started his business, Malcolm Smith Products (now MSR, which stands for Malcolm Smith Racing), and began contributing to the sport with groundbreaking technology and outstanding product. Over the years, Smith has directed and designed much of what his company has become known for. MSR, now distributed by the giant Tucker Rocky, offers an entire catalog of off-road and motocross hard goods and racing gear. Known greatly for their presence in off-road sports such as desert racing and enduro, the folks at MSR now have their sights set to join the spotlight and make their presence felt in Supercross and motocross.

To help do this, MSR has brought in a new Marketing Manager to push the infrastructure envelope and step-up their brand image and racing efforts. In only his second week on the job, Dave Casella has already hired the services of new Factory Suzuki pilot Nick Wey, and has directed the creation of some killer looking new logos to help freshen up the MSR image.

Meet the man who’s behind the wheel of delivering one of our sport’s most legendary brands to the forefront of motocross and Supercross racing. Dave Casella, yet another classic example of the solid, friendly people that make our sport great…

TransWorld Motocross: So tell us a little bit about your career path and how you found your way into the motocross and off-road motorcycle industry.

Dave Casella: I basically started out back in the day with Big E doing all the BMX and mountain bike stuff. I founded a small company called Deviate that pretty much catered to BMX and mountain bike. We were known for pioneering what is now the baggy short for mountain biking. That was our big claim to fame over there. We built that up in my garage in Huntington Beach, and then about two years into it we moved to a small warehouse and three years later into an even bigger warehouse. We just kept growing it and growing it to the point that it had grown into an actual bonified action sports apparel company. And then in 2000, Nerve Sports approached us. They came to us and wanted to buy the brand out but keep Alex and I on board, so we went for it. It just seemed like the thing to do in order to push it to the next level. We kept putting so much mey back into the brand that it couldn’t get any bigger without additional funding. We sold to Nerve and I went over and ran the brand for them for two years until my non-compete was up. After watching the brand and not being in full charge of it, it became tough so I decided it was time to move on.

After that I was sought out by Alloy to come on as their brand manager to start imaging and introducing their line into the US. They were just setting up the office over here when Ben, who was heading up the U.S. office, came to me to see if I was interested in coming on board. It was an exciting new brand that was right up my alley, so I went for it and accomplished some great stuff there in only six months. I really enjoyed it, but with the White Brothers thing coming up it closed some of the doors that I wanted to open in the company. When I heard that the opportunity with MSR was coming up it was just something that I couldn’t pass up.

TWMX: When did you officially come aboard here at MSR?

DC: My official first day was September 8th. It was funny the way it all came about actually. I was at Elsinore riding with Simon Cudby and he knew that I was looking for something new, and it just so happened that he had spoken with Big E that day. He mentioned to me that he thought he had found the perfect thing for me and went on to tell me about the Marketing Manager position opening at MSR. I told him that it sounded interesting and within 20 minutes of driving home from the track I got a call from Big E. He was like, “dude you’ve got to check this out! Why don’t you come over and we’ll see if there’s something here for you. So it all started with that. I then had some phone interviews with the guys from Tucker Rocky in Texas. Bill Carter, who’s now my immediate boss, called me and we got along really well and everything he had to say sounded great. They approached me with the idea that they needed someone who was ready to come in, sort of like what Big E has done with Answer, and really eat and sleep this brand in order to put it back on the map. And that’s all it took for me. As soon as I heard that I knew that this was the right fit. Imaging and marketing a brand is right up my alley, so he got me really excited. I then met with the COO of Tucker Rocky, Steve Johnson, and he was super cool as well. Now here I am in this seat. The whole process took about a month total.

TWMX: With only about two weeks under your belt, have you been able to step right in and get things rolling, and visualize the direction you’d like to see the brand head in the future?

DC: Yeah, so far it’s been awesome. In ten days we’ve signed Nick Wey onto the brand, thanks largely in part to Big E getting that stuff started for me. He had a lot of that set up so I just had to come in and close the deal. So we got Nick on board, and we’re already changing our advertising campaigns. In fact, there are a few ads I was planning to show you up there on the wall. We’re looking at something a little bit edgier. My entire goal revolves around getting people interested in MSR “the brand, and not just one specific item. You know… I want people to be excited about this brand again. There’re a lot of kids coming up that might not even know who Malcolm Smith is, and he’s this great figure in our sport and they need to know that. We really need to get that back out there. We want people to be stoked and realize that this is an awesome brand that has been around since 1971. All of the infrastructure is here for me to make this brand awesome. This is the first time that I’ve been with a great company that has a great background. The infrastructure’s ready to go, our design team is awesome, and everything’s in place to really make this thing go back to the forefront of motocross.

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TWMX: Speaking of design guys… Do you have your own design team here that you’ll be working with?

DC: Yeah, we’ve got three guys right here behind my office that are full-time designers just for MSR, which is awesome. It’s not like I have to send stuff off or through another country, etc… Everything’s done right here in Corona, so we can just sit down together and come up with great ideas and have stuff done right on the spot. That’s just one more great thing about this position. It’s giving me the leeway to oversee the direction of the ads and not just manage the riders. I get to oversee what the design team is doing as well.

TWMX: You’ve mentioned Big E a few times now. Has his influence the past six months on Tucker Rocky helped to make your transition a bit smoother?

DC: Yeah… definitely! Having Big E already here for six months before I got here has helped a ton. He came in and paved the way by making changes with Answer and has really stepped it up and really showed them what they can do with that brand. His influence has definitely made it easier for me to show Tucker Rocky where MSR can go. They seem very excited about what’s going on down here. Just the past couple of weeks it seems like there’s this great buzz going around this office and I think it’s outpouring everywhere else. So just having Big E around my office helps. We seem to push each other to do our best and share ideas with each other.

TWMX: Can you compete with E’s energy?

DC: Laughs… That guy’s double fisting Red Bulls everyday so it’s not easy, but he’s definitely getting me there. It makes it fun to come into the office everyday. I am always excited to get here every morning and then before I know it it’s seven o’clock. The working environment is great!

TWMX: We’ve been hearing the rumors about Nick Wey coming on with MSR for a while. It sounds like you finally got that all ironed out. Did that fall into place like you’d hoped?

DC: Yeah, the Nick thing went really well. He was somebody that we really really wanted, and like I mentioned, Big E had already started the chain of communication on that and had met with Nick and his manager a few times. On my first day on the job we had a meeting with Nick because that was the first thing I wanted to accomplish…

TWMX: That’s a pretty big first day.

DC: Yeah, yeah… huge! Laughs… I came in and we had a meeting with him and explained that we were building this brand and wanted to do it with him. We want him to be at the forefront of what we’re doing and it will work great for both of us. We’re going to do a big ad campaign with him, he’ll help us with R&D, and to really get this brand back where it belongs. It shows that we’re really serious about getting back into Supercross and motocross racing. We’ve put together a three-year deal with Nick and I couldn’t be happier. Already in the first week he’s stopped into the office a couple times. We’ve talked about the product and ad ideas, and have even come up with some color ideas. It’s awesome! We’ve already started a great relationship that I think will be very cool.

TWMX: I am sure you’re stoked to see the MSR brand on a factory bike as well.

DC: Tell me about it! Can’t wait! It’s put such a cool buzz into this office. Everybody’s really excited to have such a premier athlete, who’s a hell of a nice guy, leading us back into Supercross.

TWMX: What additional plans do you have to help get the MSR brand where you envision it?

DC: It’s important that we get ourselves noticed. We want to make a big presence at all of the major events like Vegas, Anaheim, etc… We’ll obviously have Nick there and everything, but in addition, Big E and I have talked about having the RV there, the box van and golf cart… you know all that cool stuff. Flippin’ burgers… everything! We want people to come by to say “Hey, what’s up, and just hang out. We want to create an overall good vibe so that people want to be associated with this brand. I really feel that I can excel in this and really get this brand to the nexbehind my office that are full-time designers just for MSR, which is awesome. It’s not like I have to send stuff off or through another country, etc… Everything’s done right here in Corona, so we can just sit down together and come up with great ideas and have stuff done right on the spot. That’s just one more great thing about this position. It’s giving me the leeway to oversee the direction of the ads and not just manage the riders. I get to oversee what the design team is doing as well.

TWMX: You’ve mentioned Big E a few times now. Has his influence the past six months on Tucker Rocky helped to make your transition a bit smoother?

DC: Yeah… definitely! Having Big E already here for six months before I got here has helped a ton. He came in and paved the way by making changes with Answer and has really stepped it up and really showed them what they can do with that brand. His influence has definitely made it easier for me to show Tucker Rocky where MSR can go. They seem very excited about what’s going on down here. Just the past couple of weeks it seems like there’s this great buzz going around this office and I think it’s outpouring everywhere else. So just having Big E around my office helps. We seem to push each other to do our best and share ideas with each other.

TWMX: Can you compete with E’s energy?

DC: Laughs… That guy’s double fisting Red Bulls everyday so it’s not easy, but he’s definitely getting me there. It makes it fun to come into the office everyday. I am always excited to get here every morning and then before I know it it’s seven o’clock. The working environment is great!

TWMX: We’ve been hearing the rumors about Nick Wey coming on with MSR for a while. It sounds like you finally got that all ironed out. Did that fall into place like you’d hoped?

DC: Yeah, the Nick thing went really well. He was somebody that we really really wanted, and like I mentioned, Big E had already started the chain of communication on that and had met with Nick and his manager a few times. On my first day on the job we had a meeting with Nick because that was the first thing I wanted to accomplish…

TWMX: That’s a pretty big first day.

DC: Yeah, yeah… huge! Laughs… I came in and we had a meeting with him and explained that we were building this brand and wanted to do it with him. We want him to be at the forefront of what we’re doing and it will work great for both of us. We’re going to do a big ad campaign with him, he’ll help us with R&D, and to really get this brand back where it belongs. It shows that we’re really serious about getting back into Supercross and motocross racing. We’ve put together a three-year deal with Nick and I couldn’t be happier. Already in the first week he’s stopped into the office a couple times. We’ve talked about the product and ad ideas, and have even come up with some color ideas. It’s awesome! We’ve already started a great relationship that I think will be very cool.

TWMX: I am sure you’re stoked to see the MSR brand on a factory bike as well.

DC: Tell me about it! Can’t wait! It’s put such a cool buzz into this office. Everybody’s really excited to have such a premier athlete, who’s a hell of a nice guy, leading us back into Supercross.

TWMX: What additional plans do you have to help get the MSR brand where you envision it?

DC: It’s important that we get ourselves noticed. We want to make a big presence at all of the major events like Vegas, Anaheim, etc… We’ll obviously have Nick there and everything, but in addition, Big E and I have talked about having the RV there, the box van and golf cart… you know all that cool stuff. Flippin’ burgers… everything! We want people to come by to say “Hey, what’s up, and just hang out. We want to create an overall good vibe so that people want to be associated with this brand. I really feel that I can excel in this and really get this brand to the next level. It seems right now that the brand is awesome. Everything is right there, we just need to get more people involved with it. The other thing that people don’t even know is that we have an entire hard parts line with MSR too. There’s so much going on and it’s great. People are going to be surprised when we get this thing marketed like crazy and show them what we’re made of. It’s gonna be good!

TWMX: As for the MX gear… And don’t get me wrong, the ’04 System X gear looks great, but now that you’re on board and looking to freshen up the MSR image, can we expect to see big changes to the MX gear line by the time the ’05 stuff rolls around?

DC: No doubt! If you look at the System X gear for ’04, it’s a great step up from the 2003 stuff. The design team has really stepped it up, and technically the stuff is awesome. Just like with the company, everything is there with the gear and we’re hoping to take it to the next level in ’05. We want to progress and build on the solid platform that’s already here. Skies the limit now!

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next level. It seems right now that the brand is awesome. Everything is right there, we just need to get more people involved with it. The other thing that people don’t even know is that we have an entire hard parts line with MSR too. There’s so much going on and it’s great. People are going to be surprised when we get this thing marketed like crazy and show them what we’re made of. It’s gonna be good!

TWMX: As for the MX gear… And don’t get me wrong, the ’04 System X gear looks great, but now that you’re on board and looking to freshen up the MSR image, can we expect to see big changes to the MX gear line by the time the ’05 stuff rolls around?

DC: No doubt! If you look at the System X gear for ’04, it’s a great step up from the 2003 stuff. The design team has really stepped it up, and technically the stuff is awesome. Just like with the company, everything is there with the gear and we’re hoping to take it to the next level in ’05. We want to progress and build on the solid platform that’s already here. Skies the limit now!

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