Dayton Daft on the Business of 365MX & Ronnie Mac

"...should your kid even be on Instagram?"

Arguably the hottest topic in motocross over the last few months circled around a tiny island in the Caribbean and one Ronnie Mac, who was set to represent the U.S. territory at the “Olympics of our sport,” the Motocross of Nations. Or so, that was the topic. The idea from the slightly twisted minds of Dayton Daft, Wes Williams, and the Nitro Circus crew drew ire from fans and industry personnel alike. It lit up message boards and sparked debate over the sanctity of two wheeled competition, both of which boosted the stunt’s cause to the tune of $15,000 in four days of activity. To say the plan for funding and raising awareness about Puerto Rico’s restoration efforts is an understatement, albeit astray from the original blueprint.

I was a bit curious about this situation myself, and after running into him at Baja Acres a few months back, I figured now was as good of a time as any to reach out to an old friend. Dayton Daft was one of the first people I met who was “in the industry.” (I quote this because I’m not really “in” it, Dayton certainly is.) He invited me out to RedBud for a private shoot with Bryson Steele and Nick Wey, a commercial for online retailer I was hot off winning the Racer X Film Festival and figured companies would be knocking down my door to come make videos for them, especially after I had been on a professional video set and knew a pro rider! Hilarious, right?

While the fame and fortune didn’t come, Dayton (and Bryson… and Nick) have always been super nice to me. In fact, when Dayton launched the “RIDE365” YouTube channel, I offered up my first full-length video to bring some eyeballs to the new cause. It was an odd offering, one he certainly didn’t need to take, but he did. After all of that, I wondered why anyone would be so upset about an idea hatched from one of the nicest guys I know? So, I called him up to find out what the whole deal was with this Ronnie Mac character, among other chatter. Hope you enjoy it.

Discussion includes: Leaving Motosport and starting & 365MX, the well-intentioned plans for Ronnie Mac to race the MXoN, building a company around personality by embracing internet culture, and more…

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World of Echo: I was just talking with Jimmy Bowron earlier last week. I didn’t know how embedded he was with Motosport and Vurbmoto until we got to chat. He was going on about how his buddy got hired at Motosport instead of him and I said, “Wait, you mean Dayton Daft?”

Dayton Daft: Yeah, it worked out! When I got hired in-house at Motosport they hired Jimmy as our out-of-house contract guy. It was fun getting to work with him and he obviously did a great job, especially with that [Josh] Hansen series he did. He added to our content, and we were really cranking it out there.

That was one of our main talking points, was how much of a juggernaut the Motosport video department was at the time. You, Jimmy, and the addition of Bryson [Steele] later on.

That was a fun frickin’ year. The amount of content we were cranking out – and it was good content, too. It was a fun time and a bummer that it came to an end, but it kind of just went that way. I wouldn’t even say it was Motosport’s fault, it was more the parent company that bought them out (Backcountry). I don’t think they had an understanding of the sport or the industry, so naturally they just wanted to cut all spending, and unfortunately marketing and sponsorship was a direct hit from that.

I know we’ve talked about this before back in the day, but it came back up when I spoke with Jimmy. After the buyout you guys kind of all collectively said you were done. With Jarrod [Rogers], you, and Brett leaving, followed by Jimmy right behind, this whole piece of the company shifted away in one swoop.

Exactly. I saw the direction it was going and it wasn’t where I wanted to be. We were able to do this quality stuff for years, and seeing where we were heading, it wasn’t going to be possible to continue to make videos of that quality under the new guidelines. It wouldn’t have been very fulfilling, so I stepped away before I could’ve been cut. We just bailed.

Everybody but Bryson! [laughs] Bryson held on!

Yes. [laughs] He did it very strategically, actually. He still even does contract work for them. I was definitely bummed to leave him there alone and basically say, “Good luck!” But he’s got his head on straight and he knows what his long terms goals are, so it worked out great for him.

He’s got some great stuff going with Steve Mortinson and Pursuit Films.

Dude, when I hired Bryson he worked in a fabrication shop or something, and he was just one of those dudes like us who was super passionate [about filmmaking] and doing anything he could to get his foot in the door. In the few years he was with Motosport, he learned so fast that by the time I was ending my stint there he was teaching me. That was so fulfilling to watch him progress to the point where he surpassed everything I taught him. On the technical side of things it was unreal to watch his growth, and I learned a lot from him.

Bryson’s been busy with that, Jimmy’s got PLAECO, and you’ve been hard at work with RIDE365. It’s great to see that you all branched off and started your own platforms. What’s it been like to dive into the world of retail with 365? You guys are a brand but also an outlet store?

That was an interesting process to go from focusing solely on content for an outlet versus visiting the sale side of the business and seeing what kept the lights on. It was definitely a lot to see the business being built from the ground up with Jarrod. It was eye-opening. I thought to myself that there might never be another opportunity to be this hands-on in the building of a business. That’s why I initially took the risk of starting this company, because it intrigued me so much. So we have, which is the online retailer, but we also have 365MX, which we have been developing on the side since our time at Motosport. We were just building the product, sampling, and trying all sorts of different stuff. The opportunity to leave Motosport also allowed Brett and I to fully flesh everything out and bring the gear company to life. and 365MX are actually two separate entities, and for the first year and a half I was heavily involved in the day to day with Jarrod and the operations of RIDE365, whereas as today my focus lies more on the gear company. Outside of that I just do some outside contract work with RedBull, Wes Williams, or whomever. Most of my time is spent on the gear company right now.

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It seems like it’s going pretty well right now! I even see some kids up here in Michigan wearing it on occasion.

Yeah! Yeah, getting into it, it’s definitely a tough market and industry. I think it’s pretty cool that we’re structured a little different than some of the other gear companies. We offer quarterly releases, so every three months we come out with a new line and new color. It’s something I think people are starting to appreciate, because you can’t win everyone over and when they talk smack about a new release, I can just tell them to wait three months. On the financial side, it allows us to not bury ourselves in a quarter of a million dollars of inventory on a new company that might not even work, so there’s more wiggle room on initial start up costs. It’s been great not having to bury ourselves in debt on inventory that might not move.

We’re actually thinking about launching a youth line here pretty soon as well, which I’m excited about. I know Brett is excited about it too because he’s always doing camps with kids and stuff so he’s always bugging me about doing a youth line. Even further down the line I’ve started sampling some product for mountain biking. It’s easy to do too much at once, so we’re trying to pace ourselves and move when we can. Right now it’s just me, Brett, and we’ve got a guy in the warehouse. Occasionally I will contract out work… I actually hired Jimmy [Bowron] to design one of our 365 logos.

I think it’s kind of funny the way 365 presents itself in relation to other companies, where FOX might have an ad with Ken Roczen and Chad Reed, Brett Cue is the poster child for 365. Brett doesn’t have the race wins or legacy with Ken and Chad, he’s just famous for being a nice guy! [laughs]. I think being able to build an entity around that really speaks to the effort that you guys put in.

I think it resonates with the everyday person, and it’s easy for them to support that. It’s been cool to see the growth of the brand within the area we’re based in around Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas. I think having such a strong community in this region goes to show that there are people who want to be a part of this. SoCal gets love all the time so it’s nice to have a following somewhere else. We just got our gear in two shops in Oklahoma actually, so we’re slowly starting to trickle into dealerships and moving out of online exclusivity. It’s all so new to me so it’s just a constant state of learning that I’m in. I’m bummed we aren’t doing more video content, but I do put stuff out when I can. It’s usually longer format as well, so I’m trying to keep my foot in the door with that skillset. I do hope that the company can grow big enough so I can focus more of my energy on the marketing and content side of things.

Speaking of projects, you and Wes spearheaded the Puerto Rican Team effort this year at the MXoN?

I’m one of the owners of the “Ronnie Mac” entity, or whatever you want to call it, so I brought Wes in as a partner on that project. A lot of people don’t know, but that project was in development as early as ten months ago, it wasn’t something that just came out of the woodwork before Unadilla to ruin everyone’s life. There was a bigger play involved in that and we were actually working on a documentary, with the Motocross of Nations being one of the scenes in it. That was a stressful project and I’m bummed it turned out the way it did, but we knew the risk going into it. We’re still working on other stuff and we haven’t let that project go completely, so yeah. We actually got to work with some cool and talented actors that were cast in the movie, who were going to be working with Ronnie. Everybody felt this chemistry and wanted to shoot some shorts and pilot type stuff. In a couple weeks Wes, Ronnie, and myself will be out in California working on some content.

So the Team Puerto Rico movement was originally supposed to be a full-length documentary?

Yeah, it was.

Are you just trying to salvage what you can out of it? There hasn’t been much content to come out of that yet.

The way we were going to shoot it, there were a lot of time constraints. There were some specific lives events that needed to happen that we couldn’t change. When those got axed it ruined the whole script that we had, and it just kind of crumbled from there.

What was the tone of the movie? Were you guys going for some Frezno Smooth thing?

It was going to be like Trailer Park Boys meets Kenny Powers. Something like that. [laughs] We were basically working side by side with Nitro Circus and their production company, their crew, and Travis [Pastrana], obviously. There was a lot more thought that went into it than a lot of people were led to believe. I still understand why people had their concerns though, and people wanted to protect the integrity of the event. There’s no hard feelings there. It is what it is.

“…people are always there to mention that there’s kids around, or that kid’s might watch it. If that’s the case, should your kid even be on Instagram?”

I feel like the public perception of the Ronnie Mac character has shifted a bit over the years. When it first came out, it certainly was unseen in the moto world and people ate it up, but now I see a lot of people saying stuff like, “Jimmy’s cool, but this Ronnie Mac business is going a little too far.” You’re obviously in on it, what’s your take? Is it too far?

I don’t know that I have an answer for that, other than I know that what makes Ronnie Mac who he is, is when he gets pushed to that limit where people start to hold their breath and say, “What’s going on here?”

It’s constantly hearing, “You should be like this. Ronnie should do that!”

To that I say, why don’t you go make your own character? You know? At the end of the day it’s just a character, but that character also steps over into the boundaries of professional competition. There’s no book to go by at that point. There’s no way to judge how it should be handled. At the end of the day, it’s something fun that I think people should be able to laugh at. There’s no malicious intentions behind Ronnie Mac. Sometimes it is pushed too far, and people are always there to mention that there’s kids around, or that kid’s might watch it. If that’s the case, should your kid even be on Instagram?

I will say that through the documentary we were shooting, we were going to take the Motocross of Nations seriously. Ron was going to train and I think people would’ve been pleasantly surprised with what they saw. With Travis Pastrana being involved, he would never associate himself with anything negative or malicious, you know? It could’ve helped the public’s perception of Ronnie if he got to compete, but it’s alright. I feel like the bigger the character has gotten, the further the core of the industry pushes him away. There are people who don’t know anything about motocross or supercross, but they know who Ronnie Mac is. It’s the same thing with Larry Enticer. It’s amazing seeing the reach that these characters can have outside of our little sport.

You guys seem to be the first company to really begin embracing meme culture and social media to drive your brand, building yourselves in an unconventional way. It seems a little childish almost, and I sometimes share that sentiment when I see other companies approach product like that, but it really does seem to be the future. The attention is caught on Instagram, not TV commercials.

I’m a little old, but I can see how powerful even YouTube celebrities are, and through Ronnie we’ve gotten to work with some of these people like Larry and Danny Duncan. It’s insane to peer into that world, and I don’t even fully understand it, but you can not ignore it. The amount of people watching this stuff and the engagement it’s getting is undeniable. That’s where marketing dollars are going to be spent and content is going to be made. You can’t ignore it.

That might be where a lot of the backlash with Ronnie Mac and Larry comes from, a huge chunk of the motorcycle demographic is an older generation that doesn’t buy into internet culture.

I see a lot of people say, “Ronnie Mac is fine, but leave it on YouTube,” or something like that. I think that’s what makes him unique and also what pisses people off, is that he bleeds into the public and competes at real events. He doesn’t just exist on video.

What’s it been like working with Pastrana? He was involved with the Puerto Rico project and he’s been in a couple of Brett’s vlogs.

Travis has been super nice. He’s one of those guys that you hear so many great things about and that’s exactly how he is in real life. One thing that surprised me about him was how hands-on and involved he gets with video production. He understands so much of it. I know for a fact that he sat next to Cody [Stauder] through the entire editing process of Action Figures. He’s super involved with that and it’s really cool to see. Seeing an athlete of that caliber be so hands-on makes him easy to work with.

It’s great to see athletes embracing the creative side of their jobs, because that’s just another way they can learn to market themselves and elevate their work. I see that Brett Cue Crashes Pastranaland just passed one million views.

That was a fun trip and fun to see Brett squirm like that. [laughs] But I was very impressed with Brett’s ability to do whatever Travis told him to do that trip, because those were not small jumps. Brett almost screwed up really bad on a couple of them too. Travis brings the crazy out of people, for sure.

The fact you guys got to go there is crazy enough. Color me jealous.

I was just telling my buddy yesterday since we were talking about side by sides, Travis took me for a lap around his property in one at top speed. It’s something I’ll never forget, flying through the trees like that. Looking back on all of things I got to do, people I got to meet, places I got to go, it’s been unimaginable. All because of a camera and motorcycles. Endless miles… it’s been fun.

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