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Michael Marckx Brand Leader | Keynote Speaker | Creative Strategist Published Jan 6, 2022 + Follow

IF YOU DON'T HAVE A VISION AND A MISSION TO SUPPORT IT, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? 11 years ago, I was hired to turn around an ailing publicly traded eyewear brand called SPY Optic, which was on the verge of bankruptcy and in dire need of resuscitation. Essentially, on my first real day as CEO, we had to let go of 32 people, which was quite terrible, but we filled those roles quickly and rebuilt a dedicated team who together created 14 quarters in a row of year over year growth; achieving something even the board of directors were astonished at. Within months of this growth trajectory, our team did two very remarkable things. 1) Invented the first ever and only patented “therapeutic lens technology,” the Happy Lens; and 2) Launched the Belgian Waffle Ride (BWR). Intentionally, both had a catalyzing effect on the brand offering and its approach to story telling, experiential marketing, product development, and, ultimately, its stature in the very crowded eyewear market dominated by one extremely large entity. While the Happy Lens is one of the most fun and productive inventions I’ve been privileged to champion, the BWR had such a personal importance that I am forever grateful to the crew who gave it the initial support it needed to become what it is today. I’m especially appreciative of Phil Tinstman, Jake Orness, Victor Sheldon, Alain Mazer, Jim Miller, Maddy Isbell, Casey Gee, Nicole Fortunato, Nicole Newfield, Chris Abad, Ian Riggs, Mike Angel, Chris Cleary, Devon Howard, Tony Larson, Lisa Spahn, Andrew Valentine, Dave Jaeger, Jim Sepanek, Joe Yule, Justin Dyresen, Neil Shirley, Travis Tomczak, Karl Bordine, Tomme Arthur and many more who helped those initial years. At the time, the BWR was created as a sub-brand… one that would emote the SPY brand personality of irreverence, a happy disrespect for the usual, and a punk rock swagger juxtaposed to the rather dry and square cycling scene that was bleeding participants at the hands of out of touch governing bodies. The BWR was born into the white space nexus between road racing, mountain biking and cyclocross. It was a 7-hour ‘cross race replete with dirt, mud, rocks, sand, gravel, water crossings, dismounts and some lumpy asphalt. The term ‘Gravel’ didn’t exist in any literal form at the time, and there was no such thing as a gravel bike. We rode road bikes with 23- or 25-mm tires and did things to our bikes we still cringe at today. It was our thing and all we did was nurture it, cultivate a community and continually evolve its complexion. The world evolved, as it is wont to do, and the BWR grew and grew, especially when Gravel became a thing. And I left SPY to teach, consult, and build the BWR through the advent of a new event production company, Monuments of Cycling, with Phil Tinstman and Randall Coxworth. Later, Jim Miller, the Voice of Gravel, joined us, too. We continued to nurture the BWR as a brand, not as an event or series of events. It has its own trademarked iconography, brand personality, voice, colors, tone, core values, mission and vision. And today, just as 11 years ago, we cling to our core values in advancing our mission to inspire riders of all stripes to reach, aspire and grow to new levels of fulfillment and joy, finding unusual ways to test their physical and mental fortitude. We’re committed to delivering the most unique cycling events in the world, offering experiences for the most elite athletes on the planet as well as those in awe of them, through the creation of world class races that engage riders in myriad and unexpected ways. Soon, we will be taking our irreverent, experiential brand of pedaling perversity abroad to myriad other countries hungry for a taste of the Waffle. One thing that was a part of our brand charter from day one was the vision of building the biggest and most unique cycling event in the country; one that would welcome riders from around the world and offer amateur riders the chance to race side by side with their heroes. And each year, this vision continues to manifest a start line with more and more of the best riders in the world and more of those aspiring to ride like them; rubbing shoulders, bumping fists, downing Belgian waffles and ales, and celebrating the shared disregard for the usual way of racing a bike. Which brings we to today and our big announcement that the BWR in California will offer the largest prize purse ever for a one-day ‘gravel’ race with $50,000 in cash and prizes going to not only the greatest cyclists in the world, but also the best up-and-coming junior riders who will also compete for cash. This guaranteed prize money structure means that our effort to host the very best professional gravel racers in the world to race on the trails and roads of San Diego has commenced. Plus, the payout for the top junior riders, is exciting because it will allow us to better reward the elites while broadening the pool of recipients and shine a spotlight on the burgeoning talent we have here in the United States. The BWR events’ prize structure is open to all racers, not a hand-picked group of exclusive racers. This is for everybody! These open purses for the Waffle races mean that spectators and participants alike will be able to watch, and perhaps participate side by side with, remarkably talented, world class cyclists.” New this year, MoC is investing heavily in rider support for the legion of riders who will comprise the largest gravel race field in the country. This means there will not only be new, safer routes that are perfectly marked, but more Police and Highway Patrol personnel on course, 11 Feed Zones, roving on-course mechanical support for all and hundreds of volunteers on hand to help riders navigate what could be the greatest physical achievement of their lives. The BWR CA is the kick-off to the Quadrupel Crown of Gravel Series, which is the largest series of its kind in the world. There will be an overall prize purse for the series, which will be published in February and include a series pay out for the most consistent top four (quad) male and female riders across all the events. If there is a takeaway from this, I think it is if you have a good idea — something you are passionate about — and you have the endurance to stay true to its core principles and nurture its existence with dedication and the support of other likeminded individuals, you can find your joy and fulfillment. In essence, if you have a vision, don’t get distracted from putting your energies in its direction. Ultimately, goodness can blossom through your attention to detail and perseverance. #brands #events #people #gravel #community

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