people power

Autograph signing, Not a favorite occupation for any star but a necessary part of being the sport's most popular rider.

Garry sees that not only did Kevin's riding ability mature to the point where he could beat Wayne Rainey and win the championship but that he changed in other ways as well. "I think in a lot of things, down to basics, in himself he is a much calmer person, his attitude to sponsors has changed drastically. When he first came over he found sponsors a pain in the backside. He's far more aware now of what sponsors need and how to work with them."

Kevin and Garry both experienced the frustrations of having to deal with Pepsi when they were the naming sponsor for the team. The match between Pepsi and Suzuki should have been superb for both companies and the sport. "I think Kevin was deeply disappointed with what happened with Pepsi, a product that he was very happy to endorse, a major international name and it was going to be extremely good for the sport."

"Once Mike de Noma, the guy who took them into the sport, moved onto another job, they rapidly lost interest in the project and they didn't really capitalise on it at all." It was almost as if once de Noma was promoted to a different area of responsibility those that took over wanted to have nothing to do with a project that had been so specifically his, irrespective of its worth. It is not an unusual situation in corporate politics.

"Both Kevin and I keep in contact with Mike and miss him, he was very inspirational to be around. Kevin, myself and many people in the sport are very disappointed that Pepsi pulled out. It came down to the point where Pepsi just couldn't get their act together in the time frame required for the financial continuity of the team."

De Noma had a great understanding of the possibilities that Grand Prix racing offered Pepsi, those who came after him proved that his understanding was quite exceptional and one particular incident during the Pepsi years but after De Noma had ceased to have responsibility for their racing involvement, illustrates just how easy it is for a sponsor not to understand the sport.

"After the French Grand Prix at Le Mans they wanted Kevin to ride through the Arc de Triumph on his bike. They wanted it done in the mid to late morning the Monday after the race. When I said to them that it wasn't extremely practical because we had a lot of equipment to pack up and unloading a race bike from our transporter in the middle of Paris in the middle of all that traffic would be a little tricky. The lady from the PR agency said, 'Well the speed that bike goes he could be there in less than an hour from Le Mans, surely he would just ride the bike.' She was the one who left the track before the race was over to get home. She also had wanted to know if Kevin wanted to go to church and pray with her on Sunday morning. Of course Kevin initially thought that it was a wind up on my part.

"Lucky Strike are an extremely good sponsor to deal with. Kevin now understands what they need out of the sport. Over the last few years they've had a change of sponsorship directors and the current director, Bert Kremer, is so supportive of Grand Prix racing, of Kevin and the team that he is an absolute delight to work with. He can be a very hard nosed business man which is what you'd expect but he is good to work with."

"There are times when you can ask Kevin to do something and there are times when it is best not to. One of Kevin's major qualities is not patience. One of the things you learn very quickly with Kevin is that if you say you'd like him to be somewhere at five o'clock, he'll be there at five o'clock, he probably won't be there at five minutes to five which starts a lot of sponsorship people panicking because they think he's not going to turn up, but he is always there at the agreed time. On the other hand if he turns up at five o'clock and you're not there he certainly won't be there at five past five either!"


"In some of the countries time keeping is not a national attribute. In Malaysia for example some journalists arrived half an hour late for a meeting with Kevin to find Out he was now on the golf course and intending to finish all eighteen holes before he does anything else."

"We had an example in Malaysia a couple of years ago where the local Lucky Strike people put on a Press conference. Kevin was on a wonderful stage nicely decorated with backdrop photos. They gave Kevin a microphone and this conference was in the middle of a shopping mall. There were about 20 journalists in a roped off area next to the stage. Unfortunately he was situated between McDonald's, Pizza Hut, K-Mart and Woolworth's. The public address was blaring out that Double fries were free at McDonald's for the next two hours and K-Mart had a special deal on toilet paper."

In the heat of the light.. Kevin spends so much of his time under the spotlight. While fully aware of his professional obligations he becomes quickly frustrated when dealing with those who may be less professional.


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