The Future of MTB Sponsorship

The Future of MTB Sponsorship

Fabio Wibmer knows the value of social media and the proof lies in his Hookit results. He reigns supreme in Hookit’s “Mountain Bike” category for both followers and engagement. Here Fabio styles it out in San Francisco for a YouTube video.

Fabio Wibmer-Photo by Hannes Berger

With the birth of social media came a false sense of celebrity and an attitude of entitlement, but not everything about social media is negative. Social media gives us a way to be noticed and admired for our passions. Technology is changing at the most rapid pace in human history, and you either get on board or get left in the dust.





Hookit is a company that has been able to take what we post on the web and generate statistical data that puts an actual value on our social media presence by ranking us. Hookit actually began as SponsorHouse in 2001, but the name was later changed because the word “sponsor” created the wrong impression, potentially causing a disconnect of manufacturers from retailers because of the direct-to-consumer discounts to the so-called “sponsored” athletes. In the beginning, SponsorHouse connected athletes to brands that would offer products and discounts based on an event-results platform. Social media was just beginning to take hold, and Hookit included the online presence as an added value. Athletes were able to sign up and commit to a brand, typically for the duration of a race season, in exchange for products or discounts on that brand’s products. The athlete would be responsible to represent the brand via race results and social media notoriety. This concept was totally ahead of its time, and the company experienced a strong and steady growth that morphed into the Hookit brand of today. Over the past decade, social media influence has grown exponentially, and the value that Hookit provides to the competitive athlete is unmatched. Hookit encompasses all sports, but we are specifically interested in its effect on the sport of mountain biking.

“Rocket” Rich Houseman has been the face of the Hookit brand in the cycling world since the beginning.

Rich Houseman, legendary BMX and mountain bike racer, came on board Hookit, which was SponsorHouse at the time, back in 2004. One of his first recruits was a young Aaron Gwin, who was beginning to pursue a mountain bike career coming from a motocross and BMX background. Aaron is a perfect example of an athlete who was able to use a combination of race results and digital analytics to show a sponsor his real value. Hookit has built and maintained since day one, in addition to the analytics they provide.


Anneke Beerten uses social media as a bonus value to her race results and tracks her engagement through Hookit.

Another world-class athlete who has had success with Hookit is Anneke Beerten. She is a veteran racer with an incredible resume of World Cup and World Championship titles. Anneke is more valuable than ever to sponsors, incorporating her race calendar and social media presence, which is trackable on Hookit. This year she will hit a select few events, such as Crankworx and Sea Otter while riding for Specialized. We asked her what benefits Hookit provides: “In the big picture, they keep track of results, engagement and interest. The big brands go to Hookit for stats. It has become a big factor in whether to sponsor a rider or not. Hookit is important to me; it allows me to see how I am doing.”

In the beginning, Hookit provided Ryno Power a way to get in touch with athletes all over the country before they had a dealer network to gain notoriety. Using Hookit to reach athletes allowed Ryno Power to provide product discounts in exchange for ambassadors to spread the word about its products. Amateurs are chosen based more on their events and results and the pros more on their social media, as they have typically already proven themselves.

“Hookit has been an instrumental marketing piece since day one. At Ryno Power, we are able to reach our target market in the three disciplines that we focus on, which are MX, MTB and BMX. Hookit has allowed Ryno Power to create a base of athletes across the country who are able to direct friends and competitors to dealers and get them familiar with the Ryno Power products,” said Ryno Power founder Ryan McCarthy.

Manufacturers are seeing the value of individuals as ambassadors as well. Robin Baloochi, sports marketing manager at WD-40, has recently made a grass-roots sponsorship package available to athletes through the Hookit site. This program allows riders to get a discount directly through WD40 and puts the athlete on the radar for possible future sponsorship upgrades based on racing results, social media activity, engagement and longevity. WD-40 has a long history with professional athletes, including Rebecca Rusch, Danny Hart, Leigh Donovan and Erin Huck, along with teams like the Santa Cruz Syndicate. Hookit provides the stats that justify the sponsors’ investment.


One of Hookit’s longest-standing partners is ODI. We asked brand manager Colby Young, “What is Hookit’s benefit to ODI?”

Colby’s response was, “Sponsorship is a key element of our overall marketing strategy. We rely on feedback from our riders to help guide new product development and to assist in seeding these new products into the market. We started working with Hookit over 15 years ago and have continued to evolve our program with them as they have added new capabilities. We started with an initial goal of streamlining the sponsorship process, and now rely on Hookit to provide us with a platform that allows us to work more closely with key riders and to better gauge the performance of our sponsorship programs.”

Brandon Greer, ODI’s sponsorship coordinator, had this to add: “ODI has worked with since 2001. We have used Hookit not only to offer discounts to athletes over the years, but to help establish relationships with new, up-and-coming athletes. Over the years we’ve developed these relationships with some of the top athletes in today’s action sports categories, including Aaron Gwin, Barry Nobles and Remy Morton, as well as many others.

We’ve begun analyzing the information that Hookit provides and taking it to the next level with individualized tactics for each of our top Hookit influencers/performers. The data that Hookit provides gives me the information that I need to evaluate the overall social media reach athletes have, as well as their performance within their category.”

Riders Hookit has contacted or grown with:

Kyle Cronin (MTB)—Contacted through Hookit.

Caroline Buchanan (BMX/MTB)—Worked with her but have grown their relationship based on social growth.

Aaron Gwin (MTB)—Utilized Hookit to keep track of social media growth and refine tactics to engage with followers.

In 2018, after years of pursuit, Hookit was able to partner with Shimano, incorporating its teams, athletes and events. The first order of business was to tweak Shimano’s entire social media and sponsorship program based on Hookit data. This measures the engagement and value of social media posts, giving Shimano a definitive number to capture ROI (return on investment).

“The partnership between Shimano and Hookit has been extremely valuable to us from a digital marketing and athlete activation standpoint. Our athletes are doing a great job representing themselves and our brand in their efforts at events and races, and also online with their efforts through social media. We know our athletes are investing their time in building their brands while promoting Shimano, and now using Hookit we can help optimize these efforts. With Hookit, we can accurately track the value and influence of our athletes online,” said Laura Veharanta, community and content specialist for Shimano North America Bicycle, Inc.


You don’t need to be a pro or even race to benefit from Hookit. These days, brand ambassadors are as important as pro athletes to companies looking for exposure. Using Hookit is easier than any other social media site out there. You simply include all of your existing social media networks and event results, and Hookit will crunch the numbers, which in turn provides you with a ranking. You are not responsible to post additional content in Hookit after your initial setup. The statistics will be collected from your posts and interactions on social media sites. You are as big of an asset to Hookit as they are to you. Think of it like the traffic on Google Maps. The more people get involved, the more accurate the information will be and the more prestigious that ranking becomes. There are Instagram celebrities out there who have surpassed 100 million followers. That is what has given them celebrity status, fortune and fame. You can join Hookit at no charge, and there are two additional, value-added memberships that you can upgrade to. So, see where you rank. You might be more valuable than you think.


Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun. Start a subscription by clicking here or calling (800) 767-0345.

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