Tell us how you started SD.
In short? Great timing. I was working with another agency that sold in the associate Shell sponsorship programs with Joe Gibbs and Team Rahal. After a few years, the IndyCar program was doing very well and grew into a primary sponsorship for the 1996 season. At this point, Shell was done buying and realized they needed to heavily activate their investment to ensure ROI. Shell asked if I could work with Team Rahal to manage the activation and customer needs of our new primary sponsorship of Bryan Herta. Of course, I said yes! Sport Dimensions was officially born in November of 1995.
Tell us about your experience in motorsport.
I have been interested in all things cars, especially how they work, ever since childhood. I loved working on my cars growing up and when I went to college, I earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering. After graduating, I went to work for BF Goodrich as a tire engineer. I was lucky enough to be assigned to the first engineering team that developed race tires for BFG in 1984. I did a lot of traveling then, supporting IMSA races as an onsite technician. That was my first professional exposure to racing. I also supported the Porsche Club of Germany, where BFG was the official club tire.
From engineering in BFG, I went into the performance marketing group and worked on a new grass roots program named Team T/A. After seven years with BFG, I took a job as the first marketing director at the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). I worked a lot with the rally and solo department, then moved to Pro Racing and Trans Am. I remember we purchased an editing suit that used VHS tapes as a format...and that was cutting edge at the time! During my years with the SCCA, I also did some club racing myself at the mid-western tracks like Mid Ohio, Black Hawk Farms Indianapolis Raceway Park, St. Louis International Raceway and Road America. I wrenched the SSB Nissan 200SX Turbo myself, and the experience and competition were great.
I then moved to a job with Corporate Motorsports, a North Carolina agency that had a great portfolio of sponsors. I was involved with the Caterpillar and Shell programs as the account executive. They were both new programs for the companies, so it was exciting to be involved with. In 1995, I was fortunate to start SD and was contracted by Shell and Team Rahal to manage the activation programs for that sponsorship. We had many programs under management at that time. The major program was with IndyCar and Team Rahal. Joe Gibbs was in NASCAR and drag racing where we managed onsite entertainment and hospitality. We also supported Shell and Craig Breedlove with his speed of sound record attempt in the Black Rock Desert. We even were working at many of the IndyCar races activating the Shell brand as the official fuel sponsor of the series. I have loved seeing so many sides of the dynamic world that is motorsport, and it allows us to offer a complete understanding of the environment today.
What is your favorite type of racing?
I love sports cars and sprint cars, two designs on the opposite side of the spectrum! Sports cars are especially relevant for what their work and competition brings to us as drivers on the roads every day.
What is the biggest mistake executives make with sponsorship?
I think mistakes are made when passion and ego dictate strategy and direction. There is plenty of room for those, but a lasting and effective program must have a sound strategy and plan for what you need to accomplish. We have seen too many brands get involved with teams, series' and sanctioning bodies where those properties have a specific set of assets, but they may not be the ones they need. The good part about hiring an agency, is that we understand the different properties available to ensure you have a portfolio that will deliver the results. We can get a lot more value that way, building hyper-unique and breakthrough programs. The celebrity and excitement of racing is fun and I understand that people love to be a part of that, but all that comes with a sound program that delivers on expectations for all stakeholders.
How can brands get started in sponsorship?
There are many ways, and they don't always have to be with a massive budget. The first step is to identify what your business needs and what you need a solution for. That could be to grow business, secure a spokesperson, entertain customers, reward employees, or any other goal. I don't recommend looking for a driver or team to sponsor and then determine what to do with it. That's backwards. We recommend hiring an agency to provide you with the nuances and full spectrum of the motorsports industry. Motorsports is unlike any other sport and sponsorship environment. There is a lot to understand before diving in, and my team and I are eager to help.
Last thing...favorite memory in your work?
There have been so many, I have been privileged to work and play in my area of passion. Being a part of winning the Daytona 500 will always be a great memory, but its probably the behind the scenes stuff I have done that are most treasured. Talking racing and history with Mario Andretti and Bobby Rahal in a green room room before their speeches at a client event or working 40 hours straight at the 24 hours of Daytona to make sure our BFG's didn't blow out on the Jim Busby Porsche 962's. I wouldn't trade a minute of any of it!
Learn more about Sport Dimensions today.