Bobby G. On the Soapbox

On the Soapbox: Lost Letters, Languishing Opportunities Part 1


As I’ve gone through some old files, there’s been a realization, (once again), that as much as time marches forward, many things in the supermodified division remain the same.

Some of those things are for the better, but many times, there have been lost opportunities or a lack of progression because of, what I believe, are generally based on one of two things:

  1. A progressively aging group of owners, drivers, officials, and promoters that no longer have the desire, energy, or passion to carry out new or different ideas, or veer radically from “tried & true” status quo. Some are scared of change, don’t have a clue what changes need to be made, or believe that nothing needs to be changed. The old idea of “do SOMETHING even if it’s wrong” could apply to these types.
  2. A ‘holier than thou” and ego maniacal mentality among people in official capacities and/or team owners, and/or drivers that perpetually hold the division back because of a wish to protect their own interests. This also creates the inability to see motor sport, marketing, and promotion in the entertainment business as it applies to the 21st century. These people believe that the only change that is good is the kind that they think up and are only open to new ideas when it benefits them and/or their clique’. Likewise they are unwilling to seriously soul search and be introspective when it comes to those outside of the clique’ that are willing to offer advice.

Those may be oversimplified generalizations but time and again, I’ve come across correspondence and columns dating back to the early 90s when I started writing for MARC Times Racing News that express similar thoughts and deal closely with these things.

I feel compelled now to start putting them on the site so that maybe it will spur some thought. Better yet, perhaps it will inspire action. I doubt that I am the one to make any of it happen anymore, but I’ve got nothing left to lose and my shoulders can still handle a little more criticism.

I want you to be certain that the original intent as well as this post now is not to be misconstrued as anything more than constructive criticism and observations that I’ve gleaned based on the years I’ve been involved and the conversations that I’ve had with fans, owners, drivers, promoters, sponsors and other officials of today and yesterday, not only in supermodified racing, but across the board in all forms of motor sport. By and large, I am a fan first, albeit a passionate and deeply embedded fan. I am not professionally trained, nor did I go to any school other than that called “Hard Knocks and Life.” So by no means should you think that I am trying to come across as the only person that knows or thinks these things.

After having been involved at a deeper level, I can see where many of the ideas I threw out would be hard to carry out, but most are based on the thought that we are in the entertainment business and that we need to satisfy our customers by showing them that we care about them.

This is done through engagement and interaction and customer service. Mind you this division, or maybe more to the point the division’s sanctions and tracks have multiple customers including fans, teams, sponsors and promoters. Each customer is reliant on the other to have an enjoyable experience at a supermodified show. The drivers depend on the promoter and the fans. The promoter depends on the fans and the drivers. The sponsors depend on them on all.

Those thoughts are not just mouth speak. The results have to come from actions that include more than an autograph session by the drivers, a poster for the promoter, or a website banner ad for the sponsor. Being friendly and approachable is something that our teams to well, but there HAS to be more and everyone is responsible.

It means working with the promoter to effectively put on a “show” that runs as smoothly as possible and in a timely fashion. It means working with a sponsor to understand their needs and then coming up with unique ways to give them a positive ROI. It means understanding the demographics and then drilling down to see what each region requires specifically. It means understanding and learning how to use each Social Media channel properly to effectively gain advocates for the brand. It means creating website content in a personalized and search engine oriented way. Ultimately it means giving more than taking.

Sorry folks, but as much as I LOVE the look, the sound, the smell, and the drivers, (notice I didn’t say the smell of the drivers!), that simply isn’t enough anymore in a society that wants and demands instant and increasingly more exciting and, in their minds, personalized entertainment for their dollar.

This first post is part one of three from a letter that was sent via email on December 18, 2001 to a second generation ISMA competitor with deep ties to the division and intimately knowledgeable with the inner workings of ISMA who is still involved today. The names have been changed to protect identity, and you will notice that some of it was written in haste as the thoughts poured out, but I don’t think it will detract from the overall idea that the same things we are talking about today were being discussed over a decade ago. Read on….

Xxxxxx,
I want to thank you for the opportunity to do business with you and your team.

I hope that the pictures were of good use to you and that it will help to nurture and strengthen your relationship with your sponsors.

I was sitting here being wicked bored and started to think about how I could help ISMA. I pondered on a few things that may make the show more exciting and fan friendly.

ISMA has come a ways in its efforts to gain fan recognition of its drivers, which is vitally important for a traveling series. The lay fan needs to have some way to connect to a driver and/or car. I.E. they need to have a favorite to yell for, to follow, or admire.

For me growing up, many times it was the car itself that I fell in love with before the driver became my hero. As a kid I always liked the cool cars if you will. The neat paint jobs, the chrome, the flash. Then came the nicknames. In today’s corporate driven world I think that there has been a tendency to shy away from the possibly politically incorrect nicknames.

Let’s look at it this way for example.  First off you need an announcer that is not only knowledgeable about the drivers from his geographical area, but all areas that are represented by ISMA. Then he must be able to relate to the fans during practice and time trials a brief but thorough history and background of that driver so that the fans can start to feel a connection somehow to each driver.

ISMA is diverse in its driver hometowns and owner hometowns. This should be capitalized on. Then expanded on when you start to think that this heat is made up of drivers from Ohio, Michigan, Mass.,
IN, NY etc. What state is going to win the heat? Using the driver’s nicknames, ‘the Rowley rocket’, ‘wild willie’, ‘the bull’, all the while continuing to build that uniqueness and diversity as the show progresses.

Of course you don’t want it to detract from the show, but to a fan in North Carolina for instance that has virtually no clue about supers, let alone ISMA’s history or the team and driver on the track in that cool car; it is vitally important that they connect with the car, driver, team, and sponsors.

After time trials it should be mandatory for the drivers to go thru the stands or behind the stands when the other classes are on the track for their races. I know that you guys are sometimes very pressed for time and shit happens but again you are building fan recognition. Don’t wait till after the races when the drivers are out of their uniforms and a parent, let alone an 8 or 10-year-old, can’t tell a driver from a photographer! Or worse yet, the fan has to leave to get his or her family home on a Sunday night so that the kids can go to school the next day or the parents to work and the kid is denied that
opportunity to gain a deeper respect and love of the division and his new heroes.

The family is what will ultimately decide the supermodified’s and most racing’s fate.

Why not find a sponsor that will purchase frisbee’s. Have the drivers sign 5 a piece and throw them to the crowd! They do this at AVSS sprint and ARCA midget shows and my kids and even the adults LOVE it!!! Again you have the “one on one” driver recognition. a kid
that gets a frisbee with Xxxxxx Xxxxxx’s name and car number and maybe even his sponsor written on will remember that and be closely watching Xxxxxx Xxxxxx on the track in the feature. Hell you could even have the ISMA website or each driver’s website on it.
Maybe a couple randomly would have discount coupons for items at the ISMA trailer.

Which brings me to another thing. That trailer should never be closed. NEVER!

To Be Continued…

End Part 1 of 3

Did you enjoy this On the Soapbox post? If so feel free to click the like and share it with your friends. Come back next week for part two of this letter and the continuing series of “On the Soapbox: Lost Letters, Languishing Opportunities.” In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please join in the conversation below.

 

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5 thoughts on “On the Soapbox: Lost Letters, Languishing Opportunities Part 1”

  1. Well said, and it certainly does not just apply to supers. I admit that supers are not high on my list simply because they aren’t raced in my “neighborhood.” We live in a time where the automobile, in general, is becoming less and less an object of desire and more and more a necessary evil. In this scenario it is absolutely imperative that motorsports generate interest and excitement on the track and at the promotion level. I think the real issue is that fans, even many rabid fans are becoming complacent. I for one am not satisfied with the watered down product that is being delivered to us.

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    1. Bill, you made some great points. We had a post earlier this year that was a re-blog written by George Phillips from OilPressure dealing with the lack of interest in automobiles in general It’s hard to believe that kids, especially males in their teens would look down upon cars, but like you say, it’s imperative for those in motor sports to understand this key demographic and what can be done to give them entertainment at the race track. You can view the previous post here> https://wingsideup.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/is-the-future-of-auto-racing-in-danger/

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