SixSpeed is an action-oriented advertising agency.
When Red Bull needed outdoor signs and logistical support for the Crashed Ice event in downtown St. Paul last winter, SixSpeed was up for the job.
When Polaris presented its newest line of side-by-side ATVs to its dealers in Las Vegas last month, SixSpeed orchestrated a tire-screeching grand finale.
Next winter, SixSpeed will coordinate a branded ultimate snowmobile event for Red Bull in northern Minnesota.
Within the warehouse-like walls of the St. Louis Park agency, the mission is a combination of extreme sports, marketing and creativity.
“One of our clients once told us we’re really good at liquor, guns and danger,” said co-founder Tom Cusciotta, a professional motocross racer in his previous life. “It grew from there.”
SixSpeed is 50 employees strong in a space that combines a traditional agency footprint with a workshop where builders can execute the ideas of the creative staff.
Revenue has increased at a 30 percent clip over the past three years and this year will exceed $14 million. There currently are 10 open staff positions, and more hires are expected.
“We’re growing up,” said Chief Operating Officer Joe Hurd. “We just got a controller, and now we’re getting an HR person. We’re already at 50 people. Next year we could be at 75 and after that, 100.”
SixSpeed was formed in 2009 by Cusciotta, Grant Johnson and Andi Dickson.
Hurd, another professional motocross racer, planned to go to medical school and become a doctor. He got an MBA instead and three years ago hooked up with the SixSpeed guys and their staff of 10.
“Today we have designers and an art director and a creative director. It’s always about the idea, the creative,” Hurd said. For example, SixSpeed designers and builders recently built life-size soap box racers for a Red Bull event in Ohio.
SixSpeed’s biggest clients are Polaris, Red Bull and Crestliner, the boat company. But the agency’s book of business is growing and now includes the bikemaker Trek and Skier’s Choice, a manufacturer that specializes in wakeboard and water ski boats. SixSpeed has also worked with Life Time Fitness, 2 Gingers Irish whiskey and Target.
“We look like an event agency, but we do much more than that,” Hurd said. “We’re good at photo and video production. We have field producers out in the field with their boots on.”
SixSpeed recently constructed a traveling storage container that also served as a trade booth for Trek bikes as the company made a California tour.
“We could set it up and take it down in three hours as we moved from city to city,” Cusciotta said. “It drove traffic to their brand.”
While Polaris is SixSpeed’s largest client, Red Bull may be its most visible. The Crushed Ice speed skating event had five outdoor stops last year and drew 153,000 spectators to downtown St. Paul in the dead of winter.
“We do the hospitality, transportation, food and athlete management,” said Cusciotta. “Twice a year, Red Bull hires us to come up with crazy ideas.”
Most ad agencies pepper their ranks with young blood to work with senior creative types. At SixSpeed, almost all of the faces are young and chances for advancement are ample. The lead account manager for the Crushed Ice event was a receptionist three years ago.
At 44, Cusciotta is the agency’s elder statesman. Dickson is 34, and Johnson is 31. Hurd is 40.
“We’re a young, employee-driven culture,” Hurd said. “We have young people who might be a little over their heads but they are taking their at bats.”
Having a young staff benefits SixSpeed since its target audience consists largely of a younger demographic.
“It’s all about authenticity. That’s the way millennials consume brand experiences,” Hurd said. “We have to make sure we deliver authenticity.”
As for the name SixSpeed: “We’re honest, straightforward and run fast,” said Cusciotta. “We have to be running faster than our clients all the time. It’s that sixth gear overdrive.”