Is “Win On Sunday, Sell On Monday” A Real Thing?

The battle for hearts and dollars between the storyteller and the accountant

Ty Tremaine on the Alta Redshift EX
Ty Tremaine on the Alta Redshift EX during the 2018 Erzbergrodeo, arguably the most grueling single-day motorcycle off-road race in the world.Jason Hansen

"Win on Sunday, sell on Monday" is one of motorcycling's oldest adages. The notion that if a red bike crosses the finish line .05 second ahead of a blue bike, you'll be more likely to buy the red bike (or some pedestrian version of it, anyway) seems a bit forced these days.

Is “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” a real thing?

The question is whether or not racing is an effective form of marketing. Beyond developing trickle-down tech for the street, from a manufacturer's perspective, some quantifiable result has to justify the massive expense of fielding a race team. "We exist to sell bikes," the accountants remind us.

If Soichiro Honda was alive today, he’d tell the bean counters to shove their budgets up their tail pipes.

If number of units sold is the sole justification for getting out the safety wire and spooling on a pair of slicks, wouldn’t it be more logical to fold a racing budget into the marketing budget? Heaven forbid.

It's unlikely anyone is buying ZX-10s just because Kawasaki and Jonathan Rea are dominating in WorldSBK; it's unlikely anyone is not buying CBR1000RRs just because Honda is stinking up the place (the last time a Honda superbike crossed the line first was at Sepang in 2016 with Nicky Hayden). Again, Soichiro would be lambasting the accountants for not having a works team in the premier production class, but that's another story.

Lyndon Poskitt aboard the Alta in the 2018 Erzbergrodeo
Lyndon Poskitt aboard the Alta in the 2018 Erzbergrodeo.Jason Hansen

However, for an upstart outfit with something to prove, racing will always be a great way to promote the quality and seriousness of its product. That's why Alta Motors ran the Erzbergrodeo right alongside the combustion gang.

Derek Dorresteyn, Alta's chief technology officer, explains, "Alta entered the 2018 Erzbergrodeo to show the world that our bikes could run with the best at the hardest race in the world. Without the context of competition we are left with hyperbole; racing is the ultimate test and supremely relevant to anyone who cares about performance."

Maybe the relationship between racing and sales is a bit more abstract than the old adage suggests, but perhaps there's still something to it. I mean, here I am criticizing Honda for not having a factory team in WorldSBK and praising Alta for racing the Erzberg.

Ultimately, as race fans we like to see racing for racing’s sake. As consumers, our brand loyalty begins with identifying with a brand’s story. Racing tells a story.

As an audience, do you care about that story? Do you think “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” is a real thing in 2018? Was it ever a real thing? Comment below.