Valentino Rossi retired from MotoGP at the end of the 2021 season, after 26 years in the series.
For the sport, he was more than just a rider, he was an icon, putting the sport in the spotlight to a global audience.
While his presence in the paddock will be missed, it is time for MotoGP to move on and become excited about the next era of motorcycling stars, and this needs to happen immediately.
Rossi leaving MotoGP could be seen in the same light as Schumacher leaving F1 or Ronaldo retiring from football. These are athletes that are bigger than their series, but without their series they wouldn’t be where they are today.
What he brought to the sport was a character, something people enjoyed and subsequently support, however in the past few seasons he hasn’t been a title contender, yet the marketing around Rossi was still as prominent as ever.
Even at Silverstone Circuit, their stores are filled with ‘VR46’ merchandise. You would think that a British circuit would be filled with Merchandise for the British motorsport stars, with Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, and Lando Norris being limited to just team wear.
Rossi has a distinctive colour scheme and a race number that people instantly recognised as his race number. This allows him to have merchandise that is unique to him and help increase his popularity amongst sports fans.
But it has been 4 years since he last won a MotoGP race and has had a few difficult seasons before he decided to call it a day. Marc Marquez was probably the natural heir to the popularity crown, but with his difficulties of late, there is no clear successor.
Rossi’s farewell at the end of the 2021 season was emotional and truly reflective of the career that he had. However, if MotoGP doesn’t start focusing on the future starts then they are going to have a serious problem.
There is so much talent in the paddock at the moment that with the correct marketing strategy, they could become a global icon. However, I do fear that this will be difficult and they need to work on maximising the MotoGP audience before going to ‘A-list celebrity’ status.
Valentino Rossi is a legend of the sport and for many be the best there ever was, but like all good things, they must come to an end and it will be interesting to see how MotoGP handle to post-Rossi era.