McGrath Motorsports: Cedar Rapids' event machine

Publish Date: 
Jul 25, 2012
By Joe Delmont

MIKE MCGRATH SAYS he’s a car guy who’s selling powersports stuff, but he’s really an events promoter pushing motorcycles.

Trust me. He’s got more events and promotions going on at his McGrath Powersports dealership in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, than a radio station has giveaways.

McGrath and his uncle are third-generation car guys, and own and operate four new car dealerships and three used car stores in the Cedar Rapids area. The automotive operations employ more than 400 people and generate annual revenues north of $200 million.

But McGrath really, really loves to promote his powersports dealership. “Our whole marketing focus is on promoting events to get people in the store,” he says.

“It’s not about money and prices, the way it is in the car business,” he continues. “It’s about passion and enthusiasm.” Powersports customers, he says, “aren’t as interested in price. We have to show them how great this place is, how cool the people are, and how much fun it is to do business here.”

McGrath opened the dealership in 2007. It carries Honda, Kawasaki, Polaris, Victory and Yamaha brands of motorcycles, ATVs, SxS units and snowmobiles. In 2010, McGrath dumped PWCs because he’s not close to any water, and instead started selling snowmobiles. The dealership does about $10 million annually — and sells more than 1,000 new and used units — in 40,000 sq. ft. of space in two buildings located just off Interstate 380.

An annual offroad riding clinic at Hawkeye Downs (see box on last page of this article) is one of the dealership’s most important events. But you won’t find the McGrath team resting easy between clinics; indeed, they’re pounding on a bunch of other events and promotions. Here’s a small sample:

•    Night at the Downs. For this event in April 2011, McGrath rented the entire Hawkeye Downs Speedway. More than $4,000 was raised for the Relay for Life Cancer Campaign, which was kicked off at this event. Survivors walked the track in recognition of their battles with cancer.

•    Bike nights. These roll around monthly during the summer. “The success of this event was unbelievable,” McGrath says. “It’s nuts. It was more than any of us expected.” The evening event, held four times throughout the summer, offers food and beer, and features giveaways and burnout contests. It even includes a Victory Demo truck with rides held the next day; 67 riders so far have tested vehicles this year. Bike Night promotions tie in with two local radio stations, a local restaurant, Victory, and Coors beer. The partners also chip in cash for a Victory motorcycle given away in a drawing on the last bike night of the summer.

•    Media rides. In one case, a local radio DJ rode a different bike each week, discussed them on his show, and wrote them up in his blog. He even wrote and performed a song, “All the Bikes I’ve Loved Before.”

•    Pub crawls. The dealership teamed up with four local pubs to give away an ATV and a motorcycle, handing out T-shirts along the way.

•    Bike-A-Palooza. This so far has been one of the most successful events of 2012, with more than 1,000 people participating in the Saturday, May 19, event at the dealership. Bike-A-Palooza included free food, music and a free Dyno Shoot-Out with prizes. A Vendor Showcase included representatives from Parts Unlimited, Bell, Castle, MTA, Fox, Alpinestars and Z1R.