GAINING TRACTION: Under Feld Entertainment ownership, Monster Jam has grown into a real athletic competition and expanded into 11 countries. (Courtesy Feld Entertainment)
Many industry observers thought Kenneth Feld went off the road when he bought the Monster Jam and Supercross from Live Nation 11 years ago in 2008. The motorsports franchises were nothing like a typical Feld property. They didn’t have storylines and didn’t fall into the Feld wheelhouse of properties where the shows could be changed up every year.
But Feld had a vision. He saw real athletes competing in real sporting events. Feld had a hunch that he could turn the properties into so much more than a display of tricked-out trucks and motorcycle stunts. He saw tours and seasons and big spectacular events.
Feld knew exactly what he was doing. Live Nation put on 20-plus stadium shows in 2008-09. In 2019, Feld put on 119 Monster Jam shows and 26 Supercross events, and the annual Monster Jam World Finals became so popular that Feld shrewdly sent the property out to bid last year, with Orlando’s Camping World Stadium winning the first two-year contract after a fierce bidding war.
Internationally, the growth has been just as remarkable. Live Nation did two international shows a year when it owned the properties. Under Feld Entertainment, there were 30 Monster Jam events in 15 markets covering 11 countries this year internationally. Plans call for Supercross to go international in the coming years.
“It’s been good for our company,” said Feld, CEO of Feld Entertainment, underplaying the enormous achievement. “We’ve taken the sports to a whole new level. It’s grown to become even bigger than we anticipated. It’s extraordinary and it’s become a lifestyle brand.”
Per the Feld playbook, merchandise plays a big part of both franchises.
“There’s Monster Jam retail products everywhere,” he said. “There’s Monster Jam Skechers shoes, eyeglass frames, remote-control vehicles and top-selling toys. It’s satisfying and has grown the brand.”
Grown indeed. Last year, Monster Jam’s Gravedigger vehicle was the No. 1-selling ride-on 24-volt truck sold at Walmart.
“It didn’t just happen. There was a lot of investment,” Feld said. “There’s Monster Jam University and we have a whole new crop of young talented athletes, of all genders, and a lot of diversity in the whole Monster Jam driver lineup.”
Tim Leiweke, CEO and co-founder of Oak View Group, couldn’t be more impressed with Feld’s move into motorsports.
“No one saw it coming,” Leiweke said. “Many people thought it was a reach. Kenneth said it was not a reach at all, and that it’s all about entertaining customers and that’s what he does. Kenneth was very shrewd about growing outside of the existing business he started with. What he did with motorsports was not only genius but totally unexpected.”
When Feld turned the IP into real competitions, he acquired sponsors. He also made deals to put the Monster Jam experience into four theme parks.
Monster Jam is everywhere, Feld said.
Feld Motor Sports’ televised events are seeing healthy yearly ratings increases, which exposes the sports to new fans. An example of Monster Jam’s foothold in the TV landscape: The Discovery Channel’s Diesel Brothers jumped a Monster Jam truck so high in the air that an airplane flew under it, and so many fans watched that it wound up being the show’s highest-rated segment of the summer.
Not content to bring the sports to North America, Feld has made it a mission to introduce the sports to an international audience.
“Monster Jam is taking the world by storm,” Feld said. “We’re in China and Japan and 11 countries and that didn’t exist before. It’s become a global brand versus a domestic property.”
Leiweke is in awe of how Feld transformed his motorsports division.
“Today if you look back at that decision to diversify his company, it’s one of the smartest things I’ve ever seen anyone do in our space,” Leiweke said. “To this day I am amazed at how he figured out how to pull it off so quietly and quickly. He sure knows how to keep a secret.”