CHAMPCAR/CART: Sponsorship announcement press conference, Part I

CART Sponsorship Press Conference November 2, 2002 An Interview With: Chris Pook Al Speyer Part 1 of 2 Adam Saal: We'll have Al Speyer of Bridgestone Motorsports and CART President and CEO Chris Pook to join us up front. We want to make ...

CART Sponsorship Press Conference
November 2, 2002

An Interview With:
Chris Pook
Al Speyer

Part 1 of 2

Adam Saal: We'll have Al Speyer of Bridgestone Motorsports and CART President and CEO Chris Pook to join us up front. We want to make what's a very important, significant announcement from where we sit here at CART. It would be appropriate to ask Al to lift the lid on what's a great sponsorship announcement for CART.

Al Speyer: Thank you, Adam. Good afternoon, everyone. This is another milestone for our company and a major announcement for us. I do want to reference a little bit of history here. Back 12 years ago, 1990, when our company didn't have any presence at all really in open-wheel racing, we got involved in sponsoring the Indy Lights championship. Chris Pook was a major part of that at the time. Also Mr. Pat Patrick was one of the founding forces of that series. That got us started. Adam, I think you did some of the PR work for that series.

We've come a long way. We are extremely happy with our association with CART through those many years. We've enjoyed much success right here at Fontana. We're undefeated in 500-mile races. Some of that was against competition. Now we find ourselves as the sole supplier. Our overall long-term association with CART has been extremely beneficial for our company.

Today I'm very pleased to announce that Bridgestone will assume the position of presenting sponsor for the CART Champ Car Series. We will be doing that based on a very comprehensive package that Chris Pook and his team have put together for us of many benefits. We will utilize that package to market our Bridgestone street tires, not just the racing tires. We will very much take a role to increase Bridgestone brand exposure, not only in the US domestic market, but worldwide. That's very important to us.

We see great value in this sponsorship. We want the association to continue on into the future. With that, Chris, I'll let you make your comments.

Chris Pook: Thank you, Al.

Obviously, for the Champ Car Series, it's very, very important, this announcement for us. The relationship with Bridgestone is a tremendous relationship. As you well know, they provide the shoes for all of our racing cars currently.

What this relationship does now is take us to a retail activation level. Bridgestone has numerous retail stores throughout the country and throughout the many markets that we are in, particularly the major urban markets that we are in. This allows us to work hand-in-hand with our promoters and with Bridgestone to take our product one step further to the general public. Simultaneously, we will drive traffic into the Bridgestone stores, and we will sell the Bridgestone product, which is an excellent product.

If you look at their market goals, the market they wish to go to, and if you look at the CART demographics, you see a remarkable alignment between the people who come to our races and who follow our series and the people who buy Bridgestone tires.

The stars line up in that area, and that's very, very important when you're marketing a product, marketing tires, or marketing seats, for our promoters, all marketing your brand. This whole thing is very, very good for us. To have a company of the international status that Bridgestone brings to us to take the presenting sponsorship role I think speaks very well for our series. We're very, very proud of the relationship.

Saal: I believe one of the gentlemen you mentioned a moment ago is now with us.

Speyer: I see Mr. Patrick has joined us now. I was explaining to everyone that we wouldn't be where we are today had it not been for you trusting and believing in our company way back in 1990 when you brought us into the Indy Lights championship. Through your efforts, Chris and many other people at CART, we've enjoyed that association for many years. We expect to continue that.

I very much want to tell all of you how much we appreciate what the CART community as a whole has done for us. It really has been a win-win situation as far as we see it. We know it has helped us to promote and sell our company and our products and our tires. We would like to believe we helped the racing series in putting on great, safe races with dependable tires.

Pat, Chris, everybody else in the room who has helped us, I want to thank all of you for your efforts on our behalf. That's one of the large reasons we are continuing on with our association with CART.

Saal: Mr. Patrick, any comments? I know you didn't expect to speak.

PAT PATRICK: Thank you very much for those kind words. You can really thank Chris Pook for us being in the series. I screwed up the meeting the first day, but Chris went back and salvaged it (laughter).

Anyway, he thanked me for doing all this work, all this stuff I've done for it. It's interesting, at the racetrack, I get the worst tires of the whole thing. My car is last today. That's about as far back as they could put me. Maybe next year, Al, can I get back on your list (laughter)?

Seriously, I'm very happy to be associated with Firestone. Thank you.

Saal: I think we all know he means Bridgestone/Firestone Company, that has been involved with us since 1991. We'll continue this as we head to the next phase.

We'll open it up for questions for Chris or Al.

Q: One of the things that didn't come to fruition with FedEx was there were no national TV commercials. Honda spent the only money on that. Will part of the emphasis of this partnership be national television commercials? Is it more about commercial sponsors than cash? Can you talk about that?

Speyer: Yes, absolutely. We are a market-driven company who sells a consumer product. Obviously, in our world of tires, tires are very important to the performance of any vehicle, most of all critically important to the performance of a racing car.

We are going to market to the general public. We've already done some things this year with co-promotions. Our new association will have us with six commercials in every one of the CART races. That's an increase from four we had in each race this year.

We have many other retail consumer promotions that we're talking about now. We've done some activities this year with the co-branded CART Firestone hat where we ran advertisements in local newspapers. Consumers could ultimately call an 800 number and have the hat shipped to their home. Obviously, we would like to get some store traffic of having them come in.

It all generated extra exposure for our brand, our tires, and CART. I think you're going to see more of that in the future. The key is we do market to direct end-line consumers, many of those are racing fans that follow the series.

Q: Chris, what is the difference between a presenting sponsor and a series sponsor?

Pook: Well, obviously positioning is clear. A presenting sponsor clearly is not going to be required to invest the same amount in fee, per se, into the series as a title sponsor would.

I think what's important here, what we have to capitalize on here, is what Al says, the marketing and promotion. That's where a presenting sponsor provides huge, huge value for us.

I think the fact that, as Al said, Bridgestone is a retail company, it sells to the public. We have to recognize the value of that, the value of that to our promoters, to our series, to our competitors. That is of huge, huge value. That's why one of the reasons we're so excited about this relationship.

The fact that the company has been with the series so long, as Al said from its inception with Indy Lights, makes it a natural and logical marriage. Our responsibility, obviously, is at the end of the day to help them sell tires. That's what it's about. That's really at the end of the day what we've got to do. We have to deliver value to our client, Bridgestone. They will put value into the series. Our job is to make sure the activation works on a successful basis.

Q: Is there going to be a series sponsor?

Pook: You always ask these interesting questions. I always give you an interesting answer.

Obviously, we would love to have a series sponsor. We greatly appreciate the relationship with FedEx. But we will take one step at a time in this building block process. If the day arrives when we're sitting here talking to you about a series sponsor, I assure you Mr. Speyer and I will have had lots of conversations about that, and how that series sponsor fits into the equation of the presenting sponsor to make sure it's compatible and that we can get the two of them working together. Rather than have one and one make two, we want one and one to make three, four or five. That is the position we will take as a company.

Q: Why didn't you go for the title sponsorship?

Speyer: Well, to answer that question, I'd like to remind you that a presenting sponsor comes first. That's very important to us, to be first in line. Our arrangement here has left the door open for CART to get a title sponsor, other associate sponsors, as they may be, and nothing in our arrangement precludes CART from getting other people. In fact, we would like them to have a full title sponsor, particularly a title sponsor that we could co-promote with, as well, to maximize our marketing efforts with those of any other title sponsor involved, and the series itself.

Our commitment at this time is a significant one, and we would really like to work with CART to get all of the proper slices filled in that cue.

Q: There's been a projection that Ford would be the title sponsor. The realignment of Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone would be ironic, would it not?

Speyer: I suppose you could look at it that way. I suppose that's a definite possibility. But the activity right now with CART is based on our company's and other companies' association with CART. It is not based on any other business operations.

If that comes to be, that's fine with us. We'll look at it as a step in the right direction.

Q: Chris, does it make it easier or harder for you to sell that title sponsorship now that you have a presenting sponsor?

Pook: I think it makes it a lot easier, absolutely, particularly a company of the stature of Bridgestone/Firestone. I mean, that's a huge, huge, huge step. One thing we've got to remember, folks, we are in the automotive business. In the automotive business, tires play a key role. They play a key role in the day-to-day life on the street. We need to remember that, recognize that.

The fact that we are an extension of the day-to-day automobile business on the street, that we happen to do it on the racetrack, makes the relationship between ourselves and Bridgestone even more valuable from CART's point of view. I would respectfully suggest to you any company now looking at a relationship with this series would immediately see the value of this relationship between Bridgestone and CART.

Q: Al, what might Bridgestone do to raise awareness of the series, in this country and internationally?

Speyer: Well, primarily our focus will be in the United States, North America, including Canada and Mexico. We rely heavily on our Bridgestone brand activity in Formula 1 for Europe and Asia for the most part. We will be doing television advertising, additional print advertising, and most importantly point-of-sale retail promotions tied in with CART and our sponsorship. That stretches across the country.

The use of our corporate ID in the new logo that will be developed for the series, along with other identification elements, we will get with the series not only on-site at every event, but also on the television show which is viewed worldwide, are all methods for us to increase exposure for Bridgestone brand.


Part II

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Chris Pook