Saturday, March 1, 2008
A chat with Michael Ball owner of Rock & Republic and Rock Racing Team... "Let me be straight up here, I am a business man first and a team owner second. "
By: Brian C Grenier
Michael Ball, a creative and innovative businessman, Ball has eschewed the sport’s traditional sponsorship-driven business model to create a viable, profitable alternative. Using the same business principles that drove Rock & Republic to become a global lifestyle brand, he hopes his example will compel other corporations to invest in cycling as well.
Known for his integrity and sense of fair play, he is also leading the charge for the creation of fair anti-doping rules, focused on the rights of the individual and the American principle that one is innocent until proven guilty. With a clear conviction that the true power rests in the peloton and with team owners, he is at the forefront of a movement to establish an international riders’ union to protect the rights of cyclists. He hopes his legacy and contributions to the sport will open new doors for younger athletes, create diversity and bring excitement to a new breed of cyclists and fans.
A native Californian, Michael grew up in Southern California. The child of divorced parents, he was always on the move, always in trouble and always hustling to make a buck. With no real focus, he spent his time and money on fast cars, fast girls and rock ‘n’ roll.
Recognizing that Michael needed structure, his mother involved him in sports. It proved to be the perfect place for him to channel his rebellious nature. Cycling became his sport of choice, and the key to adding structure, focus and direction to his life. Cycling taught Michael team skills and the rewards of competition. But it was the bright colors and bold graphics of the team’s uniforms that inspired his sense of design. He taught himself the technique of sublimation, a highly technical process that digitally screen-prints fabric, and he began making all of the team’s race-day wear.
By the late ‘80s, Michael was considered one of the fastest, smartest and most aggressive cyclists on the circuit. The avid athlete had discovered he had the stamina to succeed at any task he took on. Michael won the LA Tri-Sprint Series and then went on to the national track rankings where he conquered the Velodrome. However, an unfortunate racing crash forced him to put his racing aspirations on hold.
Michael Ball currently resides in Los Angeles, where both Rock & Republic and Rock Racing are headquartered. A CEO who believes strongly in corporate social responsibility, he established Rock the Cure, the company’s philanthropic arm that far surpasses the fashion and entertainment industry’s standard approach to charitable giving. Each year, the foundation donates 100% of profits from Rock the Cure specialty items in each season’s Rock & Republic collection to a designated cause. In 2008, all proceeds will benefit City of Hope.
During the Tour of California I had a short chance to talk with him during stage 4 - here is what we had time to cover as the riders fought through the rain and wind on an epic day of racing down the California coast.
To read the interview click on the title link.