Warren Johnson is a cool character. Proclaiming that Fox team rider Bubba Stewart stole his ?Dubya Scrub’ and renamed it the ?Bubba Scrub,’ Warren is as witty as they come. We recently had a chance to hang out with him on the beach at Surfercross while amongst supercross television announcer Todd Harris and Fox Racing’s Misty ?Misky’ Goddard. Here’s what WJ had to say about Fox Racing and Shift.
What is your position at Fox Racing?
I’m the motocross Media Relations Manager, which basically means that I get to work with all you media guys. I’m responsible for publicity, product placement, making sure you media guys understand the product attributes. That way we can get the stories and content we want from magazines for exposure.
You’re holding up residence in the L.A. area. Why aren’t you based up in Morgan Hill, CA like everyone else?
It’s because I get to wear three other hats as well. I’m also the sales representative for the Orange County territory. I handle 12 accounts in Orange County, and I also used to handle all of the accounts in San Diego. Then we hired a separate rep to handle that area. I also handle all of Team Honda’s Fox needs, because we are a team sponsor for Honda. I coordinate all of the apparel needs for them. The crew outfits, pants, shirts, hats, and things like that I’m their contact person. That’s a real important relationship for us. I also work with the Red Riders amateur program. I coordinate photo shoots, commercials, and collateral photos for the new bikes. I make sure that they have Fox products for those instances.
You mentioned amateurs. Do you hand pick riders for sponsorship by Fox or Shift?
For Fox, Todd Hicks is the amateur support manager. For Shift, Rob Salcedo works with all of the kids. I’ve picked out some kids for Shift locally in the California area that are really good riders. Shift gives me the opportunity to keep my eyes open because I am in the hub of the motocross world being in southern California. I also have really good relationships with Cole Gress from Suzuki, Craig Martin from Kawasaki, and Bill Savino from Honda. They might have a kid that they want to look good with having the right gear on, and so we work to get that kid in our gear.
How long have you been working at Fox?
Almost for four years now, and it seems like I started just yesterday. It’s such an awesome company to work for. The Fox family is great. It’s a unique organization, because the father Geoff comes in every day to work. Greg, Pete, John, and Anna Fox are also there every day. Just the synergy that’s involved and everyone working together is awesome.
ÿI usually get up to Morgan Hill around six or eight times a year, but I’m on the phone with the key people weekly, and through email daily. With today’s technology you don’t have to be in an office to be involved with everything that takes place. I’m in the motocross mecca, in that I’m where the magazines, bike manufacturers, and the tracks are. Southern California is the motocross industry.
Where were you before Fox?
Yeah, I started with Toyota right out of college. I went to Loyola Marymount University and got my BA in Marketing, then I was thinking about going to Law School, but I really liked business. I always raced and rode motorcycles, so this is what I wanted to do. I took my first job with Toyota in Torrance, CA and went through their management training program. I got promoted to a district parts manager then moved to district sales manager. At that point I had to make a career decision to either stick with the company or follow my heart and pursue a career with motorcycles. Opportunity came with Kawasaki and I took the job in the accessories division, I was the marketing and public relations manager as well. Then I went to Yamaha and spent a year there working on product planning and development.
As a quiz, who were the first motocross riders that Fox sponsored?
Mark Barnett. Actually, the very first guy was Pat Richter, and Fox had a team with Mark Barnett, Pat Richter, and Steve Wise.
How exactly did you get the position at Fox?
Fox is the best company that I’ve ever worked for. Every day working there is like a dream come true, not to make it sound like a clichªÿbut I’m very fortunate to work there. A lot of it is being in the right place at the right time. I think a lot of it is having contacts, but it also comes down to your own experience. For me, it was as combination of experience, being in the right place at the right time, and having contacts. When I worked at Kawasaki I developed some relationships with people at Fox. We had that little red head kid by the name of Ricky Carmichael and we also had the up-and-comer Bubba riding for Kawasaki and Fox. Working in accessories, I worked a lot with the race team, so that enabled me to have a relationship with people at Fox.
Why is it that Fox only sponsors two riders – Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart?
In motocross, salaries keep escalating. When you have the two best guys, they sell a lot of products for you. We did sponsor all of Team Yamaha and Team Honda at one point, but the way rider salaries keep growing the manufacturers are giving riders the autonomy to select the gear they want. So to enable the rider the best contract that he can get for himself, he’s out seeking new opportunities. We had to rethink our strategy when rider salaries really increased. At the same time, we sponsor over 50 amateur riders and also have a host of pro BMX, mountain bike, wake board, surf, and a snowmobile team. In motocross, we have the two best riders that there are.
How long do you have Bubba and RC signed for?
For life. Those guys will be with us for life. They’re our boys and we’re not letting them go. They’ve been with Fox since they were kids. When you’re sponsored by Fox it’s not just about product, gear, and a ?thank you very much’ attitude. It’s about a relationship with the family and you really become part of the family. We expect to be with them until they retire.
Talk a little bit more about Shift.
Shift is an emerging brand. Brian Price, who’s the Brand Manager and drill sergeant as we like to call him, he’s doing a great job with Shift. Shift is its own entity in that it stands on its own feet, has its own advertising, design, and marketing team. They really are growing in business, and Shift just wants to make really great products that people think are cool. I help Shift with the PR stuff. They’re small enough to where they don’t have an independent PR guy, but important enough in that role in dealing with the media to maximize exposure. That’s where I step in and help out.
Thank you very much for the interview, Warren. See you at the races.
No problem. I’ll be seeing you. Thanks for the interview!