BY: Maddi Scordia
A customer’s perception is reality. Although not yet entirely set in stone, Suzuki’s departure from MotoGP seems more and more likely as the days drag on. The riders are visibly weary of their predicament, as is their team. As a consumer myself the very way in which Suzuki has handled this break up has left me feeling that as a brand, they are completely lost for direction. They seem untrustworthy from a consumers point of view. It’s a pretty horrendous time for everyone involved. (just between us though, Aleix Espargaro did say he’s excited to be the best bike on the grid in 2023 though. So that’s nice for him)
It begs the question though, where did the Suzuki MotoGP dream go wrong? They had everything - the experienced team manager, a crew chief who’s just about seen it all and two A class riders.
The answer lies simply in Suzuki’s inability to see the big picture - A lesson my mother taught me at a very young age… Never spend your own money, that’s what husbands are for. Or more relative to this conversation, sponsors.
You as a consumer already know how to fill in the blanks –
What does Yamaha mean to you? Monster.
What does Honda mean to you? Repsol.
What does KTM mean to you? A whole lot of Red Bull.
For Suzuki to come to MotoGP without a single title sponsor is a little more than embarrassing. If their goal as a brand and manufacturer was to sell more motorcycles in South East Asia, specifically Indonesia, they might have looked to an Indonesian brand partnership, not a Spanish beer company. It’s something that many other teams have executed with great success, so how did Suzuki miss the mark?
Now before you all come at me and say that this is irrelevant, I’m going to burst your bubble because you are wrong. Everything in life is a sale. And racing, although fun to watch and be a part of, is no different. Teams invest in racing as a means to increase their sales in different markets globally.
This can be by promoting their rider, their sponsors or anything else that connects them to you as a brand you can trust. The end of 2020 although a bit of a shit run from the outset, should have been the year to secure sponsorship. They had a world champion, and a global pandemic and an upcoming Amazon series, unlocking further potential for more people to see them on a global stage (and more bang for a sponsors buck). The sponsors they could have brought on board to feed the leaky bucket over the course of 3-4 years compared to a standard 24 month contract should have felt immense.
The graph below highlights something Yamaha and Honda have managed to do incredibly well, which is eat up the international market in bike sales. Something that can be attributed not only to their world class championship wins and riders, but there long term partnerships with brands they trust and therefore consumers trust. It is a domino effect.
Global motorcycle unit sales by brand, fiscal year 2021:
Kawasaki - 491,000
Suzuki - 624,000
Yamaha - 4,100,000
Honda - 15,100,100
You’ll also notice here, Suzuki’s obvious inability to translate race wins and championships into sales. It may be easy to throw blame at the Suzuki MotoGP Marketing team, because we love racing. But it really isn’t the job of a press officer to sell 1 million motorcycles. Moreover, the breakdown of communication between Suzuki headquarters and their racing team, has only left them to fend for themselves down the programmatic marketing hole and has given the factory someone to blame when it all went tits up.
As for Kawasaki, although unrelated, I don’t know why they can’t sell bikes. Maybe it’s just Jonathan Rea’s face.
When it comes to racing, not only has this sudden divorce left a sour taste in Dorna’s mouth and the entire racing community, it has unequivocally shown once again (RE: Suzuki’s rapid 2011 end of season departure) the brand has no direction. It doesn’t know who or what it stands for. When you stand for all, you stand for no one. There is absolutely nothing special about Suzuki in the eyes of the consumer, because every time they create a fairy-tale, they give it the shittiest ending. Which is not the story people want, love, trust or most importantly, buy.
But on the flip side there is hope. Suzuki do have a contract with Dorna until 2026 and honestly it’s not the branks job to pay your mortgage when you can’t… And knowing what we do know about the greatest event organisers of all time that are Dorna, if money is involved they’re not going to let it disappear without a fight.
Aside from creating chaos for the 2023 gird line up - this might be the best thing ever to happen to Aprilia. Will this mass exodus be the push they need for a satellite team? Needless to say the remaining sponsors any squad could pick up off the back of a dying Suzuki outfit.
Leverage: you don’t make deals without it.