Red Dog Racing has been a quiet presence for over fifteen years in Alaska. Scott has the helm and has done really well with his line of dogs. This year, obviously, I’m joining the works. After a long several weeks of work on it, we’re excited to announce both our new RDR website, and the dog sponsorship program that is the way to support this kennel that has been a successful and relatively under-the-radar part of mushing for many years.
The extent of spectatorship in mushing did not used to reach much beyond newspapers and the big chalkboards at pubs and taverns where times in and out of checkpoints would be reported hours after the fact. Even in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the first place people would check for Iditarod updates was the newspaper formerly known as the Anchorage Daily News. When the internet came along and began to get momentum, a couple things happened to mushing. Suddenly, fans could have really up to the minute updates about mushers they cheered for: and, soon enough, they could track them in real time as they ran down the trail, through GPS tracking devices.
For mushers, this is pretty weird. Most people who get into running dogs have a desire to escape the crushing throngs of humanity. They want to get into that open country and feel the overwhelming sense of alone and together that is nature (and a group of canines) at its best. To see this little red light pulsing on the front of your sled and know someone is checking on you from the sky, right now, is passing strange.
After that, the uprise of social media effected another big change in the mushing world. Now, not only could fans watch the races from above, but they could be updated (and wanted to be!) about the kennel, and dogs, and life of a musher on a near-daily basis.
If you are very good at marketing yourself, suddenly this is an asset in the mushing world. You gain exposure, a fandom, and maybe sponsors. You interact with the audience in a way that hasn’t been possible until about ten years ago. Fans from around the world get a glimpse of a lifestyle that is beyond the pale of their world, and in showing how to scoop poop, mushers get– a following.
Most people probably haven’t heard of Red Dog Racing. That’s because Scott is not a guy to toot his own horn, or belabor his own problems to the outside world. He’s quiet and capable and just does the next thing. I think in this, Scott epitomizes what most mushers want to be, and even are at heart. A lot of mushers I know have to teach themselves to be the gregarious over-sharers that this platform requires. Scott’s not that. He doesn’t have Facebook, he uses his email sparingly, and he definitely doesn’t like to advertise himself.
He won’t, so I will. Here’s the thing: whether or not its your thing, social media has become the threshold for people to learn about teams, the sport, all of it. Without the fans, without the social media that buoys them to the front door of this lifestyle, there is no lifestyle. There is no mushing. I am sure there is data to crunch that would prove or disprove this, but I firmly believe that the internet saved mushing as a sport. (Mushing Tech, what do you think?) When social media became the fulcrum that it is, the era of big-corporate sponsorship in mushing ended. Companies that threatened to pull out of sponsoring Iditarod, the Quest, individual mushers have taken a back seat to the phenomenon of crowdsourcing. So social media is a part of this game, now. It is how I show you what this is, and how you have a reason to care. It’s here to stay… and while it might not always make sense in the bones of people whose whole goal is to escape to– as the Lance Mackey documentary is called– “The Great Alone”, the great alone is not possible without the great group of social media users behind it.
Scott has created the backbone of Red Dog Racing– his incredible dog line, the infrastructure that is a working sled dog kennel– and I am grateful and privileged to be part of it. My contribution is to bring RDR to the door of social media, so that people can meet the 23 dogs and 1 quiet musher (and unquiet 2nd musher) that make up this team. So, here you are. A website, a Facebook page, and a gallery that shows off our best (all of them).
I’m proud to be part of this kennel. And I want you to know about it.
Some people have been asking for more information about how to support my own journey to Iditarod. This is a huge part of how. We’ve put together a dog sponsorship program featuring each of our 23 athletes. Dog sponsorship programs have been really successful with other kennels. I think a big part of it is allowing people to invest in the work of what we’re doing, and to have a truly close look at what that is. Dog sponsors are almost “adopting” a dog from our program, getting to hear all about what’s going on with that athlete throughout the season, receiving paraphernalia from the kennel, and supporting that athlete’s “extreme dog walk” to Nome. Each dog will only have one sponsor– as a sponsor, that athlete is more or less yours for the season.
If all of our dogs get sponsored– or if that’s not the route you want to or are able to go to help support ATAO and RDR– there will be some other things you can do. We’re in the process of creating wearable merchandise you can purchase soon, as well as some pretty cool memorabilia that let’s just say goes well with beer… In January, I will also start a fundraising push for ATAO itself, directly for my journey to Nome in 2017. Most of all, liking, sharing, and resharing our Facebook pages (Facebook.com/rdrkennel and Facebook.com/ataokennel) is huge. Strange or not to us wilderness-loners, mushing has become a community sport, and we want you to be right there with us.
So, welcome to Red Dog Racing. Find a seat at the table– we’ve got a pretty cool story to share.