Levi's cuts BMX program for 2011

Jamie Bestwick, seen here with son Sam at X16, was part of the Levi's BMX program since the beginning. Pete Demos/Shazam

Following four years of direct involvement in BMX, Levi's has cut their BMX program for 2011. The dissolution of the BMX program leaves the core team of Levi's BMX riders, including Jamie Bestwick, Corey Martinez, Anthony Napolitan, Morgan Wade, Dakota Roche, Zack Warden, Nathan Williams, Ronnie Napolitan, Jeremiah Smith, Brett Walker, Brian Hunt and Seth Klinger, without a clothing sponsor. "The team could not have been a better group of guys. It's sad it had to end, but life goes on," said United's Corey Martinez, who rode for Levi's since the program's inception.

The Levi's BMX program was a BMX-specific venture from the jeans manufacturer that began in 2007. In the beginning of the program, which was developed by Bird Marketing's Kathy McGrath, Levi's sponsored Martinez, Bestwick, Napolitan and Wade, and allowed the team to organically grow alongside the brand's identity within BMX, slowly bringing on new team riders, nailing a hectic production schedule that included a full-length DVD and weekly Web videos, and covering each team rider's health insurance expenses.

"Levi's gave 100% to this program. They allowed me to dictate almost every decision, trusting that we'd build a program that supported BMX in a way that felt like it came from the inside. The amount of freedom that we had to direct this program is really unprecedented. If you ask any of the Levi's athletes, I am confident that they will tell you that the one and only bad part about the program was that it had to end. It's rare that a sponsorship lives longer than 2-3 years. And if you can get four plus years out of a brand, it shows that they were really committed to more than just the advertising, they felt an affinity for the lifestyle around that sponsorship. To put it in more basic language: Levi's really loved BMX," said McGrath.

While the Levi's BMX program was in full operation, the program supported the greater BMX scene at large, advertising in major BMX magazines, printing t-shirts from businesses owned by BMXers, employing BMX photographers and videographers to create media, and sponsoring Props Video Magazine for two years. "We spent almost every dime of your multi-7 figure budget inside of BMX," added McGrath.

Although original team members Jamie Bestwick and Anthony Napolitan were unavailable for comment, both Martinez and Morgan Wade were grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Levi's BMX program.

"Levi's was the best sponsor I've ever had. I'm pretty bummed that the program is ending, but that's just the way it goes. We had four really awesome years and being a part of it really opened up a lot of opportunities for me," said Wade, who praised Levi's and McGrath for program's direction over the past four year. "Big thanks to everyone at Levi's and an extra big thanks to Kathy McGrath," Wade added.

Currently, none of the Levi's team riders have future clothing sponsors lined up. "I'm not sure what lies ahead but it will work itself out," said Wade. And Martinez seems to agree. "New beginnings are good," he added.