Can Monster Trucks help JCB make headway in North America?

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Monster Jam World Finals at SoFi Stadium (Image: Mitchell Keller) JCB machines work the Monster Jam World Finals track prior to the culminating event held at SoFi Stadium outside Los Angeles, US, on 18 May. (Image: Mitchell Keller)

There were incredible jumps and falls, stunning machine wrecks, and it was all met with thunderous applause. This was not a construction site, but a sporting event – the Monster Jam World Finals, held at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, US, on 18 May – with UK-based equipment manufacturer JCB playing a big role in sponsorship and competition as it seeks to position itself in the North American machine market.

The partnership between UK-based JCB and US-based monster truck tour competition, Monster Jam, kicked off in January of 2024. It’s been a full-throttle investment by JCB, the official heavy equipment partner of Monster Jam, which seeks to capitalise on what’s becoming a popular entertainment choice for North American families.

As part of the enterprise, JCB’s engineering team designed a new truck, named JCB DIGatron, which competes in the circuit. The truck is adorned in JCB’s black-and-yellow construction colour scheme and has stylised excavator arms and scoops on the front and back.

It’s a strategic play for JCB, which views the alliance with Monster Jam as a way to connect with their dealerships and customers in more than 100 markets across the globe and especially North America, where the bulk of Monster Jam’s 30 million annual viewers reside.

JCB has traditionally been strong in the UK, India and other parts of Europe and Asia and has 22 factories around the world, including 11 in the UK, seven in India, and others in Brazil and China. However, North America – currently the world’s largest construction equipment market – isn’t a traditional strength for them. Could Monster Jam play a part in changing that?

The ‘Jam’ is a marketing mission for JCB in North America
JCB Dancing Diggers at Monster Jam World Finals at SoFi Stadium (Image: Mitchell Keller) JCB’s Dancing Digger stunt team performs at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, US, during the Monster Jam World Finals. (Image: Mitchell Keller)

The connection between one of the world’s biggest OEMs and Monster Jam –  owned and operated by US-based Feld Entertainment – started with JCB Chairman Anthony Bamford’s grandson, Otis, who was described as the family’s first Monster Jam fan.

“He was about five when he first saw it on TV being advertised,” explained Otis’ mother Alice Bamford, granddaughter of the company’s founder Joseph Cyril Bamford.

Speaking from JCB’s suite at SoFi Stadium on the night of the finals, Bamford said, “I went half-expecting to take the children for a good day out, be a very good parent, and then [the adults] were having more fun than the kids. It’s such a visceral, fun experience.”

The good times at her first Monster Jam event inspired Alice Bamford to wonder if there was a deeper fit between her family’s budding interest in the sport and her family company’s ambitions in North America.

“As a company, we wanted to get a little bit more involved in sports and really become a household name, which we are in England and Europe,” she says, noting that the markets in the US, Canada, Mexico, and Central America are growth regions for JCB.

The privately owned manufacturer is the largest family-owned company of its type in the world. It ranked ninth on International Construction’s most recent Yellow Table, with estimated sales for the year above US$8 billion.

A breakdown of the company’s sales to regions isn’t made public, but by Bamford and JCB executive’s admission, the American consumer base is a top priority for the company that calls Staffordshire, England home.

Among JCB’s most popular units sold are loaders, excavators, skid steers, telescopic handlers, and road building machines.

This suite of vehicles have a practical purpose for Monster Jam, as well. JCB machines prep and dismantle the field surface during select events.

“With the other sports we were looking at doing, whether it was [American] football or basketball, it’s more of a ‘slap your logo sponsorship on it,’” Bamford adds, comparing name-only recognition to the field-time given by Monster Jam. “To actually have a competitive vehicle, you feel that you are part of the competition; you’re fully involved.”

Goals to increase direct sales and labour marketing with Monster Jam
JCB Dancing Diggers (Image: Mitchell Keller) The JCB Dancing Diggers take their choreographed positions. (Image: Mitchell Keller)

Bamford notes other positive effects outside the direct exposure JCB gets to the 60,000-plus fans in attendance at any given Monster Jam event (and millions more each year on television and the internet).

“We sold [a machine] from the Pit Party today,” says Bamford from the 18 May World Finals, referring to a Monster Jam pre-event festival that’s held outside the hosting stadium for each competition. “But we’ve also hired a lot of service techs, because they’ll see DIGatron and think it’s the coolest thing, and they’ll say, ‘Can we come and work with you?’”

JCB North America’s president and CEO, Richard Fox-Marrs, confirms their exposure through Monster Jam should help bolster direct-sales to customers. He said the company has done well in North America through its rental segment, but he said JCB is now figuring out how to sell more directly to end users.

“We’ve done really well in terms of the rental side of our business,” he acknowledges during the World Finals event. “But our opportunity to grow further is the grassroots, construction-equipment user; the guy who buys one to five machines.”

In particular, Fox-Marrs notes strength with the company’s North American sales of telescopic handlers and materials-handling products. As has been the global trend, he notes compact equipment demand is expected to remain high and potentially grow in the region.

“So, our skid steers, our telescopic skid steers, they’re going really well for us, as well as mini excavators,” explains Fox-Marrs. “Really, 70% of the market by volume are those compact machines, and it’s exactly those kind of customers that are buying those machines who are coming to Monster Jam.”

Bamford hopes JCB & Monster Jam have long partnership
The DIGatron monster truck (Image: Mitchell Keller) The DIGatron monster truck from JCB. (Image: Mitchell Keller)

All this behind-the-scenes and on-field time, Bamford views, as being one of the most valuable aspects of the JCB/Feld Entertainment alignment.

Added to it, JCB’s “Dancing Diggers” (a more than 60-year-old JCB showcasing tradition), a fleet of excavators and skid steers and their operators, are regular performers at Monster Jam events. It’s essentially a construction stunt show, with the machines running through a choreographed routine or “dance”.

It’s all a package that JCB hopes will turn into familiarity; especially for young ones who might be eager to bring home a JCB-branded miniature for their plastic construction fleet in the toy bin.

“JCB really becomes a memory of happiness,” remarks Bamford. “We’re in someone’s household. You’ll be sleeping in the JCB sheets, wearing the gear.

The JCB DIGatron monster truck (Image: Mitchell Keller) The JCB DIGatron monster truck, in lead, does an introductory lap at the Monster Jam World Finals on 18 May. (Image: Mitchell Keller)

“But it’s from the inside out; it’s a really natural thing.”

She adds JCB and Monster Jam agreed to an initial five-year partnership, but she said she’s already eager to consider extending it.

“We are obviously a British company, but we manufacture here in America in Savannah, Georgia, and soon going into San Antonio, Texas. It’s hugely important for us to show our American roots, now, and our American heart,” she says.

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