Champ Car World Series An interview with Christopher R. Pook, Al Speyer, Burt Diamond and Kathy Feeny Part 1 of 2 Adam Saal: We thought we would get together several people to join us today on a discussion of what the business model is and...
Champ Car World Series
An interview with Christopher R. Pook, Al Speyer, Burt Diamond and Kathy Feeny
Part 1 of 2
Adam Saal: We thought we would get together several people to join us today on a discussion of what the business model is and what we are doing in the series all year long to support our marketing platform.
We are delighted to have with us today the Executive Director of Marketing for Bridgestone, Mr. Al Speyer. We are also joined by the Global Marketing Manager for Ford Racing Technology, Burt Diamond, as well as the Executive Vice President from PacifiCare Secure Solutions, Kathy Feeny, and of course President and CEO of Champ Car, Christopher R. Pook.
Normally we would let our sponsors open up a conference call but in this case because the event in St. Petersburg represented very much what we at Champ Car are setting out to do in delivering our series as a marketing delivering mechanism, we would like Chris to make some opening comments and talk about how the race went from his perspective.
Chris Pook: Thank you and good afternoon everybody. The Tampa/St. Pete event was a critical event for Champ Car, in as much as it is part of our policy and our strategy to reach majors markets in North America and other parts of the world. When I say major markets, I mean in markets, reaching the masses of the markets and not 40 miles outside of town.
If you take the surrounding area of St. Petersburg, Tampa, Sarasota, Clearwater and Orlando, all of those cities within an hour and a half drive of St. Petersburg, you find you reach the fifth largest market in the United States. That is very significant for all of the companies who are involved in our sport. Particularly companies who wish to reach the retail marketplace, such as PacifiCare, such as Bridgestone, such as Ford, who are with us today.
Any time that we as a sanctioning body, and I would like to suggest to you that we are not just a sanctioning body any longer. We are marketing facilitators. Any time we can have the ability to take our sponsors into a marketplace of that size, and get that market to pay attention to what we are doing and what all of the companies involved in our series are doing, I believe it's very, very beneficial, and we will continue to do that.
Now, the St. Petersburg event is a first-time event and I would say to you is probably one of the better first-time events on a temporary circuit than I have seen in my 28 years in this business. The event was well executed. It was well presented. Obviously, the weather was extremely cooperative. The racing was good. For an inaugural event, as we look forward to the future, it is an extremely good stepping up point for this series to start each year.
So the summary from Champ Car's position is -- very strong marketplace, brand new breakthrough potential and the future is bright at that venue.
Saal: Thank you very much. We will now go to Al Speyer, who, of course, will use the Bridgestone brand as the showcase marketing centerpiece for the series all year. In particular, through one of your dealers, I believe Morgan Tire, you had some success in that market. Tell us about that and the objectives all year long for the Bridgestone brand.
Al Speyer: Thank you Adam, and thank you, Chris. We had a very, very successful event for this inaugural position as presenting sponsor for Champ Car 2003. We were not only the presenting sponsor for the series, but also in this case the official tire of the St. Petersburg Grand Prix and as a season-long, year long effort, our main objective in the presenting sponsor's role is to gain positive brand exposure for our Bridgestone brand, and also, markets down at the local level.
Now in the case of St. Petersburg, Morgan Tire is the business name, but our retail stores that go by Tires Plus and Tires Stores ran a local promotion, in about one hundred locations in the Tampa/St. Pete, Clearwater area. We gave away free Friday tickets to see practice and qualifying and in each one of the locations had a drawing for Sunday tickets and we supported that promotion with radio and newspaper advertising and in store POP [point of purchase] and banners.
We were able to measure, so far, as least an 8 percent increase in store traffic, which is very significant for us, and at the combined locations in that area, for the weekend preceding the race, we had a record in sales. So even before the event started, the entire promotion was very much of a success for us.
The winning managers who sold the most Bridgestone product were invited out to the race on Sunday to see hospitality.
And as we look at on site, we were easily recognizable, visible with our logos on the cars and transporters. Obviously the television broadcast with the graphics added a lot there for us. We were very pleased to see the 19-car field, a lot of new faces and maybe more than anything else, the enthusiasm in the whole St. Pete area from the participants within Champ Car and the fans was actually pretty contagious. There was a very, very strong feeling of everybody working together and looking forward to a very, very good year.
So we had perfect weather for the race. The crowd was very much entertained, I think. We had a very eventful race. Things happened that people didn't expect, but we certainly were grateful to partake in the race itself and maybe to add the icing on the cake, the coverage we got in the newspapers Monday following the event was, some of it, beyond our wildest dreams and expectations.
We wish they could all be like that. We will certainly do our part to try and copy and kind of take this promotional activity we had in St. Petersburg to a lot of the other events. We will primarily be focusing on the ones within the United States, the ones off-shore and Mexico and Canada are done by separate divisions for us.
Again, it was a very, very successful event overall for us and we look forward to going back to St. Petersburg for many years to come.
Saal: Thank you very much, Al. We appreciate it was a great weekend for Bridgestone.
Ford was very much in full force down there, some fantastic on-track performance was also maintained by some good promotional presence by Ford. Talk about your initial impressions of the Champ Car opener in St. Pete and what opportunities you see for the future to help build the Ford brand?
Burt Diamond: I think first of all, there were a few things that were major delights, surprising delights. First of all, it was great racing. We were really pleased with the race venue. I think the race layout and the track was fantastic. It was great to see the really tremendous local media exposure and coverage that the event received, both from the Tampa and St. Pete area. It's an inaugural race, so seeing the grandstands full, certainly on race day, but even being there on Friday, there were a lot of people there. It was really, I think Al used the words contagious, and there was a contagious enthusiasm that was generated in the crowd. And obviously we are always pleased with that.
I think that Chris's point really shows what you can do in an urban environment with a very good product that's executed well. Again, I think St. Pete really proved that. So all in all, for us, it was really good.
As a matter of fact, one of my people told me that they heard Robin Miller from ESPN.com, I believe he was talking to the Mayor [Rick Baker] and it was in a conversation with me, so I'm maybe misquoting this or hearing it secondhand, but he was calling it something like potentially Long Beach East. Having been to the Long Beach event a couple of years back, I remember what a fantastic event I thought that was.
So I think to be cited in the same comment with Long Beach is a real testament to this first CART event in St. Pete. It was really, really well done.
In terms of our own marketing plans, really, my time there was spent meeting with a lot of the CART people that I need to get to know, and talking about potential local market programs and dealers in different cities where CART will be racing. We've already hired two full-time sponsor activation people to work on specific activation of CART as a marketing platform for Ford and Cosworth and as media relations persons to work with CART promoters, teams and sponsors.
One of my goals is to try to get our dealers involved in various markets so that it really becomes very akin, I believe to, what Al was talking about. When you get a lot of activation from the local dealer group, that results in sales of our products. That's where we are going to be spending a lot of our time.
From the racing point of view, I would say, with the vast majority of team owners and team managers with other of their technical people, and was very pleased to hear all of the praise that the Cosworth environment is receiving, and I've got to say from having been in many races, I believe the engines performed great all weekend.
Just a very, very well done event from the customer point of view; I think a lot of customer satisfaction. I believe they will certainly be looking forward to next year and Ford views CART as really a marketing platform that is one that helps us build our brand equity of the Ford oval. It is another means of us connecting with our customers and predisposing them to our products and the sale of our products.
So overall, we were very, very pleased. I watched, also, the TV coverage, which I thought was really, really well done. I thought the TV coverage was great. We are going to be advertising on every race, and our ads look great. So I was really, really pleased with that.
Overall, I came in smiling and I left with even a bigger grin. So I think it was definitely a home run weekend.
Saal: True story, you just mentioned about the particular journalist, "contagious" is the words we keep using and the enthusiasm we definitely got with Robin and he was telling the mayor that. We are very fortunate to have within the City of St. Petersburg a great mayor's office led by Rick Baker and we could not have done it without their support.
Moving on to our final guest with us before we open up to questions with the press, Kathy Feeny is the Executive Vice President of PacifiCare Secure Solutions and it was their debut with a very interesting program this year. They got on the podium with Bruno Junqueira and Newman/Haas Racing for the first time in an eventful run with Bruno and they are also an event sponsor and have some signage.
Welcome. It's great to have you here. Tell us about your program this year, how you are going to venues, the teams, as well as your affiliation with Champ Car and what your initial impressions were in St. Petersburg.
Kathy Feeny: Thanks and glad to be a part of the team here and an opportunity to be able to address thanks to Chris for your efforts, also. I don't know how many people saw the [St. Petersburg Times] front pages Monday, but to me it summed it up very well. It was a winning weekend and exceeded our expectations out the chute.
We are new to this and joined for several reasons for not only the broad reach from the dynamic sport that we are going to be associated with, and the kind of marketing reach that we could not get, being a single player, but we are a company on the move and being involved with CART and Newman/Haas, it's a strong fit with our corporate positioning and our marketing strategy.
We saw this all over the event. Our brand motto is "caring is good, doing something is better." There was a ton of doing as we got involved. I would say we caught the fever early on. We came in on Thursday and debriefed this morning, we all wanted to be back at the racetrack. So we definitely have caught the fever.
We are not only going to be involved with Newman/Haas and CART within the marketing program, but really proud to be constructing a program as exclusive health care provider to the entire 19-race series.
So, as we reflect on the last weekend, in terms of our marketing expectations and an organization, we are currently in eight states presently and it's basically Texas west. We are based in California. We are looking to expands on a national platform. The guests that we invited to be with us this year, this experience, I'm understating this, but in three days, we built relationships that would have taken us not only one year to build, but years to build. And it had to do with not only the things that we've set up, but with the environment within the whole race culture, if you will. So the dynamic winning attitude from everybody involved from Bruno to the pit crew to the people at CART and part of Newman/Haas, we could not have asked for a better entree into the arena.
As we are embarking on meeting with people after the race, we definitely ranked well.
Q: How do you plan to expand the event next year?
Pook: I think that you obviously capitalize on the good publicity that came off the weekend. You go deeper into the market. You go deeper into the surrounding market area. You encourage obviously Bridgestone to come back and rebound their promotion again next year. As you heard Burt Diamond say, that he is anxious to get his dealer body involved, and we work with Burt to get the Ford dealers involved in the marketplace and getting them to merchandise and promote around the area with PacifiCare. We look at the cities and the counties and the large employers in the area, and discuss with them programs how we can help PacifiCare get to their market share and promote their products in the marketplace.
Obviously, you build upon the PR campaign. I think one of the interesting things that came out of the weekend was obviously the two Tampa Bay Buccaneer football players that were well-loved and well-recognized in the area, and those guys had such a great time, they will be back and I think they will be back with a lot of their friends. You can't beat that crossover marketing. So we will continue to use that methodology to get to our customer base in the market area and continue to work with the media, the print media, and electronic media on greater awareness as we move forward.