It all started with a boot—the Motorfist Stomper boot to be exact.
In a deal announced today, Arctic Cat has acquired Idaho Falls, ID-based snowmobile clothing designer and manufacturer Motorfist.
About a year ago, Motorfist founder Brad Ball said, Arctic Cat became interested in co-branding a boot with Motorfist. Ball explained in an exclusive interview with SnoWest Magazine. “They (Arctic Cat) were interested in doing the boot and I went out and talked to them and they had just heard a lot about the Stomper Boot and how great it was and they wanted to have a part of it.
“The more we talked about the boot, the more we realized that a co-brand just doesn't work for what they wanted to do so we started talking more about what if we collaborate together in some other way and it just gradually sped up to where we are today, to where they said they were interested in being partners and acquiring us and I was interested and away we went.”
Team Arctic hillclimb racer and Motorfist athlete David McClure
So what exactly does that acquisition mean for Motorfist? “They'll leave us here in Idaho Falls and they'll let our reps be our reps and all that so we'll be under their umbrella but Arctic Cat reps won't sell (Motorfist clothing),” Ball said. “Motorfist clothing will be Motorfist clothing on a Arctic Cat tag and vice-versa so they just want to be best in the West and they want to be part of that.”
We asked Ball more specifically about the specific branding that will take place with the new acquisition and he said Motorfist products won’t be branded Arctic Cat and none of the Motorfist’s pieces will have Arctic Cat logos on it.
And, Ball, pointed out, Arctic Cat will still continue to produce Arctic Wear. He said, “They'll have their own brand of stuff and we'll have our own stuff. Their people will sell their stuff and our people will sell our stuff.”
So what does this acquisition mean for MotoFist as far as being able to grow and expand the company. “I think we're a young company; we're only five years old,” Ball said. “A lot of people east of the Rockies don't know who we are, both internationally and in the US, they have no idea. They may have heard of us. Some people know a little bit about us but there's a lot of dealers that just don't know and a lot of Arctic Cat dealers that didn't know what we could provide will now know. Then a lot of the other OEMs, the Polaris and Ski-Doo dealers will know that we've got good backing and we're not a young, fledgling company anymore, that we can be trusted and we're here to stay.”
In our interview with Ball, we asked, “Will this help you guys expand your dealer base initially? Where do you see the biggest jump in your first year? He said, “Yeah, I think our dealer base. Specifically, everything that's east of the Rocky Mountains both in the states and Canada internationally it will be a huge boon to us just straight out of the gate. I think if we were more established or we'd been around here longer it would be a lot different because we'd have a lot of dealers set up so we'd have to pick and choose who we could choose to sign on but we're still pretty new. It's virgin territory for us in a lot of ways.”
Motorfist Marketing Director, Justin Stevens
Professional hillclimbers Rob Kincaid and Dave McClure—both are sponsored by Motorfist—most likely had a role in helping the company develop the Arctic Cat relationship. Motorfist’s Marketing Director Justin Stevens pointed out, “I know that they (Kincaid and McClure) have given a lot of really positive feedback to Arctic Cat on the gear and have pushed Arctic Cat to say, "You need the types of things that Motorfist is producing in the West," because you need a good western solution and so I'm sure between the exposure that we gave them as being Arctic Cat riders and then just the things that they've said and the way they've promoted us, I'm sure that's had some kind of effect. It's hard to gauge how much.”
Almost since its beginning, Motorfist has used eVent in its riding gear. Before teaming up with Motorfist, Ball said, eVent didn’t have a foot, so to speak, in the snowmobile market. Ball explained, “We brought them to snowmobiling. They didn't dabble in our market. We had to engineer all of our own fabrics. They made all their stuff with the Frisky people so the fabrics were thinner and they had a totally different use. They've made fabrics for us since then that are specific to us so as our size and as we've grown they've listened to us more and they've had a great partner. We've been great partners. They make the best membrane in the world. Nothing breathes like it out there and they fight a good fight for as small a team as they are; they're a lot like us.”
Stevens added, “I do think the eVent membrane plays an integral part in our history. I wonder sometimes if we hadn't had eVent, I don't know what else you would have. There is only so many people out there that build a viable, waterproof, breathable product as far as the actual membranes and their willingness to work with Motorfist in developing specific gear. Because the way that we use gear is different than anybody else and most people don't understand that unless you're a snowmobiler. Everybody wants it to be lightweight but they also want to be able to drive through trees or destroy it on a set of running boards but they also want it to be comfortable and breathable. None of those actually work together. They don't. Not naturally so you've got to find ways around that. I think eVent's done just a phenomenal job of working with us and Brad (Ball) said they have the best membrane on the market as far as breathability goes and the comfort level that you achieve with it.”
To that Ball, added, “That's a good point. If eVent wasn't here, Motorfist wouldn't be here. It really wouldn't be. Because I wanted it as soon as I started. The first year we didn't have eVent, it took me a year just to get the contracts and the relationship built so that they trust us to run with it because Polaris had the technology before we did but they didn't expand with it. Right from day one I was trying to get my hands on it because I knew what it would do. It had to be a PTFE membrane, an EPTFE membrane to work and there's not a lot of options when that comes to get what you're looking for so it was a huge deal to us.”
And what does Ball say to the guy, like a Ski-Doo or Polaris or Yamaha rider who now thinks that Motorfist is too closely aligned to Arctic Cat? Ball said, “I'm sure they can think it. I mean, I would if I were them but it's the company and the products that you make. Is it going to be like your Ski-Doo and Polaris gear that you bought in the past? Probably not, so it's not even going to be like your Arctic Cat gear you bought in the past. It's just not. The quality of the gear and what we are, we're still going to be what we've been. We just, we can't change our stripes. We've already set the mold and now we're five years into what we are and it's hard to change that.”
Stevens added, “This is a passionate industry. There'll be the haters, there'll be people who are excited about the idea but when it comes right down to it I think Motorfist is committed to this passion or obsession to snowmobiling that we have as snowmobilers. Our goal is to build the best gear out there for snowmobilers no matter what you ride but we'll continue to push that. It doesn't really matter too much but there will always be people with an opinion whenever you're aligned with a company as we've seen.”
Then Ball continued, “I get it. There'll be the sides. People will pick another opinion of it but I think Arctic Cat as a company is just different than the other OEMs too. In a lot of ways they're not stuffy. They're not. They're snowmobilers. They're just different. I mean, everybody from the top to the bottom and the way they treat their employees and the incentive program they give, or the program they give to their employees to buy sleds and to have them ride, Arctic Cat people ride. They're different that way. They just have a different culture and that mattered a lot to me, because there is a lot of cultures out there that I just don't dig. They're just not happening so that's a difference for me.”
Ball concluded, “I mean, to go from five years ago with two guys and hauling everything in the back of my truck to where Arctic Cat's saying, "Hey, we think you guys have got something we can't get." That's a pretty big. It's not real. I can't even imagine that it's happened or what's going on but it's happened and it's cool.”