Grand-Am Road Racing Media Conference
Topics: Grand-Am Road Racing
January 3, 2013
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to welcome everyone here today for the special announcements we're about to make for Wayne Taylor Racing with regards to this year's GRAND‑AM Rolex Sports Car Series and the upcoming Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Before we get started, I'd like to welcome also the members of the media who have called in on the teleconference phone line. You will have your chance to ask some questions a little bit later in the show.
Before we begin, I'd like to introduce our panel on stage here, starting with Wayne Taylor, three‑time sports car racing champion, team owner of Wayne Taylor Racing. We have Mr. Paul Blakely, who is CEO of Velocity Worldwide. We have Max Angelelli, who is codriver full‑time in the No.10 Corvette DP with Jordan Taylor, who is seated in the center. Then we have the reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter‑Reay.
To kick things often here, our first announcement will be made by Mr. Wayne Taylor.
Wayne, can you give us a little idea what you have here going on sponsorship‑wise.
WAYNE TAYLOR: Thank you all for coming here. This is an extremely exciting time for me and for Max, my partner in Wayne Taylor Racing, as well as Jordan, who is going to be the permanent driver with Max this year. And also welcome Ryan Hunter‑Reay to be driving with us at the 24 hour. We drove together back in 2006.
I want to thank also Jim France, Ed Bennett, Mark Kent and everybody that's been very supportive of the series. At the end of the day, I think everything comes down to timing.
I remember sitting here this time a year ago and wondering where we were going. Jim had made this game changer by us developing these Corvette cars, which was a really good idea, but still didn't really know. When the news came with the program, with the ALMS, it just set a tone for bringing a new client, new sponsor into the series at ground level.
A year ago also I had met Paul through GRAND‑AM. They were representing a brand interested in coming in on the racecar. We talked during the course of the year about our business platform, how we entertain our clients. We built I believe a successful business for Toshiba and SunTrust Bank.
Paul's agency in New York, we figured out fairly quickly, a lot of my clients potentially are his clients, and vice versa. So he took it upon himself to spend the time this year to come to races. We had no intention of even actually talking about sponsorship. It was really developing a relationship and understanding what this platform was.
In motorsport today, everybody is aware that finding money today and sponsorship is almost impossible. So you've got to recreate ways of doing things. So during the course of the year, we set up a great personal relationship. We bounced a lot of stuff off each other. We entertained some of their clients.
They mentioned to me early on in the year they were developing this new software for their digital platform. I didn't even know what 'digital' meant at the time. I think I know now because he tells a good story and I actually feel like I even tell a good story. It might be a lot of bull, but it's a good story (laughter).
I truly think what Paul brings with Velocity Worldwide is, number one, they recognized this platform as a place to do business. That I've got to give thanks to GRAND‑AM and, of course, GRAND‑AM and the ALMS. I think this platform is going to become huge. I think they've decided that their brand, they want to launch it with us in motorsport. I think they're going to bring stuff to the series, to the racing fraternity, that's never been seen before.
I think they can basically with this new digital software in real‑time give you exactly what the ROI is in your investment. I'm very excited about it. We've not spoken to many people in the industry.
Paul, thanks. Thanks to your partners. We're all very excited about this. This is just a great day for Wayne Taylor Racing.
THE MODERATOR: Once again, Paul Blakely, your company has devised a revolution anterior product with regard to social media. Talk a little bit about how this partnership came about from your perspective, what you plan on doing to maximize your involvement in racing and GRAND‑AM.
PAUL BLAKELY: We first, as Wayne said, met about a year or so ago. During that time we were starting to reinvent our own company and business. We knew that the digital world and the social media worlds and the mobile worlds were starting to be conflicted and needed to be converged, the broader pool of potential clients.
As a company, we set about doing that about a year ago. We spent a significant amount of money developing this platform that we call Darius. You'll see our logo on the car. It's on the shirts. It's Velocity Worldwide powered by Darius.
This platform is very unique. It essentially converges all aspects of digital and traditional marketing channels into a cloud‑based hub. It means for the first time organizations and sponsors, for example, within racing can, in real‑time, measure the impact of their sponsorship on the consumer or the customer audience that they're going after.
Again, for the first time instead of waiting till the end of the season to quantify your return on investment, you can take control of that on a week‑to‑week, day‑to‑day basis to ensure that you're doing the right things throughout the year, to ensure there's a positive ROI. We feel this is a revolutionary thing certainly for sports in general.
Why we chose motorsports, it was a very simple decision once we got inside the GRAND‑AM organization and understood how they did business. This is just a tremendous business‑building platform. We as Velocity wanted to take our baby, which is the brand‑new business model, and the brand‑new digital platform, and give it the broadest audience possible, but in a very focused way.
If you look at the ecosystem that resides from a business perspective within the whole NASCAR organization and GRAND‑AM, it was a very intuitive move for us to invest so heavily into getting into that arena so we could have access to that ecosystem. Because we believe strongly that the methodology we have as an agency, that the platform we built, can help commercial partners of NASCAR and GRAND‑AM extremely, more so than ever has been done before.
We're here to add value. We're here to extract value. But we want to do it in a very, very focused way.
So from that perspective, then it became, Who do we choose to partner with, because there were multiple teams. So it was either going to be NASCAR or GRAND‑AM. Once we spoke with Wayne, got inside his organization, there was never any doubt who we would approach to become a partner, because the work they do behind the scenes for their commercial partners is incredible.
Naïvely, prior to coming into racing, I thought a logo on a car or on a soccer field was essentially a vanity plate. Once you get inside and actually understand the true value of participation in a sport like GRAND‑AM from a business perspective, then you get it. But you have to be on the inside.
So I'm very happy to be the CEO of an organization that got to see behind the curtain, if you like, because we're definitely ahead of any of our competition by coming into the sport.
We want other private businesses out there to look at our participation in this sport and say, Wow, what are these guys doing that we're missing? If we do that and we can attract more people to the sport, it will only help the sport.
The second point as to why it was so important for us to get into GRAND‑AM this year, the 2013 season, is because of what happened with the ALMS merger. We believe 2014 and beyond is going to be incredibly exciting globally and domestically. We're a global organization, so we wanted to be able to ride that wave and to be with and help the support into the 2014 merger, then just push on from there and really showcase to the world how valuable Grand‑Am Road Racing is as a business‑building platform.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Paul.
WAYNE TAYLOR: Could I add something.
One thing that goes on during the course of these years, over time you hear this, you really need to do a lot of work and put a lot of effort to make the programs work like we did with the good partners we have with SunTrust and Toshiba. As you evolve, you have to add more to drive more revenue, to perform better ROI. What Velocity brings, not only can they measure the ROI, they can also streamline some of the companies to generate more revenue for them.
The program that we did initially with Toshiba and SunTrust was multi‑million dollars. I can see with this new platform, we can really go to the next step.
As far as race teams, drivers, owners, this is going to be an area where anybody will be able to use this platform. There's so many agencies out there, so many driver managers and stuff that are trying everything to bring more money into the sport. We believe these tools we're going to have, we want to offer these tools to the industry.
Basically the branding of Velocity and Wayne Taylor Racing, the greatest part of this relationship is we are both as passionate about each other's program as we are. Working together has been just fantastic. It's as exciting for me as driving the racecars that I did many years ago.
THE MODERATOR: Now we'd like to open the floor for questions.
Q. How difficult is it to change a sponsor logistically with detailing the car? Is that a nightmare kind of thing for you?
WAYNE TAYLOR: I think at the end of October, we had no partner for 2013. When we put the program together, we obviously had to do a big revamp. As you will seen, over the last nine years, SunTrust has been our primary sponsor. While they're staying engaged with me, we needed to have the title sponsor replaced. It's as important to me, the presence that we bring into the series, as it is for them.
Together we worked on this, enormous amount of work going into this to have all this done in time to be here. It's a big undertaking.
I would also like to thank Scott Atherton and Mike Helton. Thank you for coming to join us today.
PAUL BLAKELY: It's a right royal pain. I work in a very detail‑oriented business, it's a visual business. But getting the branding of this team from the smallest details of the driver's suit to the car, the transporter, have kept us up many nights.
Q. Velocity, is it a publicly or privately traded company?
PAUL BLAKELY: We're private, based out of New York, London, Dublin and Belfast. Our core HQ is here in the United States, in NewYork City.
WAYNE TAYLOR: We're also going from this event to London next week to launch this together with the function that's being held in Birmingham, England, next week. We will do the announcement on the global side.
Q. Paul, why racing as opposed to other forms of entertainment?
PAUL BLAKELY: That's a very good question. We did look at other areas, other forums to help us rule out the new business.
But, as I said, once you get inside of racing, especially the NASCAR organization, I think you see things that others don't. I don't think NASCAR deliberately hides the fact. But certainly from the outside looking in, I didn't realize the potential within the organization and the ecosystem that it's harvested over the years. It's so potent.
As an entity and business owner, when you're bringing something new to market, you want to do it in a very focused way. The United States, the world is a very big place. You can get lost very quickly unless you find a focus and work that focus.
When we were speaking with Wayne and Warren, as well, we really dug in deeply into what we're calling the NASCAR ecosystem to take a look at the potential for business within that.
Listen, it doesn't take a genius to take a look at that and see the brands associated with this organization and the access that coming in at such a high level gives you.
The entire organization, since we announced this privately, have been fantastic. They've been helping us, opening doors. They believe in us, which is very important as well. Certainly Wayne touched upon the fact that he's as passionate about our business as we are about his. I think that was a critical component as well, because Wayne and his team are stalwarts of the racing community, whereas we came in with an idea, we would not be received as if we come in with someone of the caliber of Wayne Taylor Racing.
The reason we chose racing is because it gives us that focus and because of the caliber of the people. It was quite a small universe, so it was manageable for us. Other potential forums, football, soccer, hockey, basketball, they were very broad, didn't seem to be run as well. There wasn't that tight focus.
Although we're not a small company, we're certainly not hundreds of people. So we needed to be able to focus our efforts around something that was going to deliver results very, very quickly for us. We believe this series will help us do that.
Q. Wayne, we see a lot of manufacture involvement in sports car racing. We maybe haven't seen as much new lifeblood coming in from major corporations. What do you think this arrangement says about the current state of sports car racing and looking ahead with the unified series?
WAYNE TAYLOR: Well, I think, as we mentioned at the beginning, it's all about timing, the merger that GRAND‑AM and ALMS are going to have in 2014. I think that set the tone for sports car racing that I don't think we've ever seen before.
Finally we're going to have one set of rules, and we can all go racing.
The venues that we're going to have are what everybody wants to be at. So I think with that, you know, there you have the first commercial partner already signed up. That's going to make a big impact on the sport.
I think from the manufacturers' standpoint, I can't say enough about the relationship I've had with General Motors, the Chevrolet brand, and Mark Kent. It goes back some 20 years. If you look at the depth of Chevrolet's involvement and Corvette coming into the series, it certainly lets everybody know this is a place to be.
Once these announcements get out, when people understand a little bit more what the rules are going to look like for 2014, I think it's just going to be natural that more companies are going to look at us. I think if we can prove that this system works, that we can share these tools with team owners, promoters, whatever, I think it can really flourish.
THE MODERATOR: We're going to make our driver announcement.
Wayne, once again, you're bringing back a guy you've driven with in the past and a guy who had a remarkable season driving a Chevrolet to win the IZOD IndyCar Series championship. Any thoughts on being reunited with Ryan?
WAYNE TAYLOR: I feel that with help from Mark Kent and Chevrolet, we were able to get Ryan's services to join Jordan and Max. I've always been a fan of Ryan's from way, way back. I at least drove with him when I was still driving.
I think this is exciting. He just won the championship. He's on a roll. He's the most winningest American IndyCar driver out there. He has a lot of experience in these long‑distance races. I think he's going to be a great partner for us and look forward to working with him this weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, had not much of an off‑season. Can you talk a little bit about coming back to race with Wayne Taylor Racing, what memories you might have from that first time back in Utah in '06?
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: Absolutely. This is a great time of year, Daytona. Great to be back in Daytona. One of my favorite races in the year.
To be joining back up with Wayne is huge. I remember at that point in my career, things had stalled down and this was the springboard. Max and Wayne, getting back with them was where I needed to be. I'll never forget that. Thank you very much for that.
To be back with the team, to be back with Chevrolet, I'm so proud of what we accomplished last year, what they accomplished as a manufacturer in IndyCar. But really as a whole, as a big picture, it's great to be a part of the team. I'm really honored to be a Chevy driver, really to bring it full circle, to be here in sports car racing with them. It's a big deal for me personally. Thank you very much for having me as part of the team.
But this lineup that we have here with Max and Jordan, I think is one of the best out there. So I think this is my best shot yet at the Daytona 24. We'll have Velocity Worldwide on the side of the car. The car looks amazing. English here wants to win.
This team has come so close so many times. I hate to say it, but you guys are kind of due for a good result. I won't say you're due for a win because I don't want to jinx anything. The bad luck over the years, it really hasn't shown what the team is capable of.
Now we're ready to go for it. We're really hungry for it. Great organization to be a part of and I'm very happy to be here.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions.
Q. I'd like to ask a question of Max. You have a pretty powerful lineup as Ryan was saying. Wayne definitely agrees. How do you feel about your chances this year with the new sponsor, the driver lineup, the new codriver for the season full‑time?
MAX ANGELELLI: Feeling really well. Very happy. Today is a great day. Velocity Worldwide, Ryan back with us. We look really good. Our Corvette is really strong here in Daytona. We always perform and I'm sure we will perform.
THE MODERATOR: Jordan, this is your first race with Wayne Taylor Racing. Any particular feelings? Feeling nervous or confident?
JORDAN TAYLOR: I'd say excited to be the biggest thing. I've been in GT for the past few years now. I did DP. It's nice to come back to the big class, the lead class, which gets the most attention. I was always proud to be in the GT class because I respect those guys a lot, and I don't feel they do get the respect they deserve.
Obviously coming with my dad's team, a new identity with Velocity Worldwide, it's exciting. Especially having Ryan, after his year last year, it will be cool to drive along with him, another cool guy to compare yourself with in the same equipment.
Really looking forward to it. Think we have a great shot at doing well.
Q. Mr. Hunter‑Reay, I find it rather interesting that this seems like a full circle. Years ago I spoke with you at a Rolex 24 in which you were just at that point of making the determination of which open‑wheel series you would go into. Here you're coming off a triumphal championship with the one you are in. What has it been like, if you can describe, to come that full circle, the trial and tribulation you faced, to walk in and come back here now to run the Rolex 24 as a champion?
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: My career has been far from straightforward over the years. That makes you stronger. When you have to sit at home thinking about the fact you may not get the chance to race cars again, it makes you that much hungrier.
I found a new hunger in racing prior to driving the No.10 SunTrust car at Utah that year in 2006. From there on, it was a new energy that I found in racing. I think that was big for the career in general, for my career in general.
But coming back here to Daytona every year, I don't know what I'd do without this race. It kind of sets the tone for the year. It's a big deal. It's a big deal in racing worldwide. I'm just so happy to be back with such a strong lineup and in a good position in my career, as well.
Q. Paul, as a technology provider, when we talk to executives, the biggest area of confusion is what they can do with social media. You have cracked the code. That's fantastic. But the question I have, which is a specific business question, who do you talk to? Do you talk to CEOs, CIO's? Do you talk to marketing people, sales folks? That's something I'm anxious to learn.
PAUL BLAKELY: Very good question.
Again, it gets lumped in with marketing. They're not really the people to speak with initially about it because it's a very strategic thing. It has to be a strategic decision made at the top to engage with your customers on a very sort of one‑to‑one meaningful level. If you choose not to as an organization, fine. You turn off your Facebook page and you're good to go.
It's very much a strategic decision to say, Listen, we're going to guide policy within our organization from our consumers up as opposed to dictating policy and pushing it down.
We find that's not like a big revelation we're bringing to the marketplace, it's how people communicate and consume their information. That's the new paradigm. Companies are starting to realize that. It's definitely our mantra.
It's fine taking decisions at the boardroom level and pushing it down, but there's always a disconnect doing it that way. We advocate a more humble approach from businesses, Listen first, engage the consumer, identify who your consumers are, segment them properly.
The information we're putting out to them, it's not always selling, it's information that is interesting and meaningful to them, but you can't do that unless you know what they're interested in.
The Darius platform allows us, as marketers, to create compelling content that will help us understand the desires of the people at the grass‑roots level, the people we're trying to ultimately sell to. Once we have the business intelligence, as an agency and business, we can make smarter business and marketing decisions. At that point we can bring in the marketing team and say, This is your universe, this is what they're interested in, do your thing, market to them.
So it's fundamentally a very simple approach that we're taking, but we're stepping back and we're not talking about the complexity of digital or social media or the complexity of how to connect with the consumer.
All we need to do is build a tool that will help us connect with them, listen to what they're saying and then we can give them back meaningful stuff that is going to help us and consumers, but will help the business as well.
Q. Paul, you talked a little while ago about the effect mergers had on lining up sponsorships. Were it not for the merger, would we be having this teleconference today?
PAUL BLAKELY: Again, it's an on‑the‑spot question. I'll be honest and say two years ago, this wouldn't have happened at the same level.
But I think the GRAND‑AM Series has come such a long time series, and the ALMS series was the cherry on top, something to build towards.
If the merger wasn't happening, we would still be doing this sponsorship in 2013, absolutely. The fact that we have something to aim for in 2014 with the merger makes it more compelling and drives us even more to bring value to this. So we can help that series when it does launch and we can participate and we can benefit from the merger, as well.
Q. Paul, what are you selling, to whom, and how did you come to believe that those customers were in sports car racing?
PAUL BLAKELY: Everyone's a consumer. If you walk and you breathe and you buy clothes or coffee, you're a consumer. Ultimately like a marketer's task is to connect the brand with the consumer so they can sell more of that product in its most basic form. We have as a global customer engagement agency, our specialists are doing just that.
But we changed things considerably in that we're not using the traditional forms of marketing to do that. We're not advocating the integrated marketing approach where you spend significant dollars and a variety of tactics, like television, like digital media, for example, to accomplish that goal. Ultimately, no matter how refined or sophisticated agencies believe they are, it's still a very scattergun, imprecise science.
What we tried to do as an organization was make that science more precise, build a system and a methodology around a platform that would allow brands, sponsors in racing, for example, to be able to quantify the efficacy of what they're doing in the marketplace.
Listen, it really came from a very selfish place, because we wanted to be better at marketing. We find that after 20 years of marketing, being very successful marketing, advertising, branding people, the fragmentation, with mobile, online, started to make us less effective at quantifying our value because we could not use third party platforms to quantify return on investment for a client.
So we set out very deliberately at that time to build a tool that would converge everything and make us better at serving our clients. What we ultimately ended up building was a platform that can allow pretty much any organization out there to do what we're going to do for our clients, but they can do it for themselves. They can plug in every outreach to Darius and measure in real‑time the effectiveness of those communications.
And, importantly, if the communication you're putting out isn't effective, i.e., the engagement isn't where it needs to be, you can change it on the fly, as opposed to waiting till the next month's publication to place another ad, or spending another $250,000 creating a different TV ad because your previous one didn't work.
It's too slow, it's too cumbersome. The traditional world we believe was dying because it just became so labored in the way that the industry was run that we wanted to become more nimble, because we know and understand this new generation that are consuming through their mobile devices, online, it's so important to be able to give them the information they need in the way they want to receive it.
We can no longer dictate that you will receive your communications from our brand through TV or through print. They want it in a very specific way. We have to be, as marketers and brands, humble enough to listen to the way they want to receive their information, create the content, then push it out to them in a passive way that will allow them to connect with us.
We call it literally having conversations with them because we can have two‑way conversations with individuals for the first time. I don't care if you have a three million person database, we can get into it and give a face, a name, a mobile number and address, age group, to each one of those individuals and segment them accordingly.
That database is no longer a big number because you can use the segmentation within that database to understand your audience better. It drives R&D, product development, within your company because you're hearing the products they want.
For us, it's a more humble approach to marketing because it's more of a two‑way conversational approach, and we, as a company, are listening to our customers' desires and wants and formulating our business policy around that.
Q. How long is this relationship with Wayne Taylor Racing?
PAUL BLAKELY: We see this as getting in at the ground floor for the 2014‑and‑on season. So we're in this for the long haul, and we know that the business ecosystem that we're getting into is going to be very, very fruitful for us as a business.
So, yeah, we're here for the long haul.
Q. Ryan, it's one thing to get back in the car. You won road races before. But how do you get used to the pace of the 24? What do you do to prepare for that?
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: Really, it's just a different type of racing. Just like you would adapt to any different type of car, whether it be a Corvette Daytona Prototype or an ALMS car, it just depends on what you're driving. You drive within that.
Really, the mentality that changes is that you are in an endurance race. You have to take care of the car. You can't hit curbs. You have to look after it to hand it off to the next guy. You can't be too hard on the brakes, have to be good on fuel to be there in the end, which actually it becomes a sprint race in the last few years.
The Daytona 24s, the past few years have been going like sprint races the entire time, but there is that bit of conservation in there. You are looking at your equipment. If you're not, you're going to see cars drop out for sure. It's a different mentality.
That's what I love about sports car racing. It's completely different than what I do year‑round. It makes you adapt, makes you think, Hey, this guy has me beat here in this corner, I need to change that. You learn more about yourself and really your skill set in racing, so...
Q. There seems to be a pattern. Ricky Taylor in the Wayne Taylor Racing car. Now Jordan Taylor coming up in the Wayne Taylor Racing car. Is there a strategy to that? What is the deal there?
WAYNE TAYLOR: Well, we're preparing to get me back in the seat (laughter).
This is such a difficult sport, difficult game, difficult business, that when you have an opportunity to make it a family affair, you do that. But you only do that if you really understand that they have the talent to do this job. If they don't have the talent, you don't just do it.
Both of them have showed they have the talent to do the job. We felt that Ricky driving with us was putting him in the best position for his career. I think we feel happy that he has moved on. That was something we always wanted to achieve. So I thank those guys at Spirit of Daytona. He did win seven races with us and 10 poles.
Jordan, having his three‑race contract with General Motors to run the Corvette at Sebring, Petite LeMans, obviously that's not enough racing for the year. Having Ricky leave, he was just a natural. Him and Max get on really well. He's the only guy that gets on really well with Max, but he does. So I think this could be a really good year.
Honestly, I'm so thankful to everybody and proud that I've been able to do this.
THE MODERATOR: I want to thank everybody for joining us today.
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