IndyCar Media Conference
November 7, 2013
PAUL KELLY: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this Indianapolis Motor Speedway IndyCar teleconference in which we have very good news to announce today. You probably received the press release earlier this morning in which Hulman & Company CEO Mark Miles announced that he's completed the formation of his leadership team by naming two accomplished sales and marketing executives with extensive automotive and racing industry roots as the leaders of the sales, licensing, marketing and communication functions of Hulman Motorsports. Those two gentlemen are CJ O'Donnell and Jay Frye.
CJ will join Hulman Motorsports as chief marketing officer, and Jay will join Hulman Motorsports as chief revenue officer. We'll have all three of those gentlemen on the call today: Mark Miles, CJ O'Donnell and Jay Frye. Thank you for joining us today. I'd like to start, kick it off with one for you, and that is you've now completed your leadership team with the hiring of CJ and Jay. What in their experience, what in their background attracted you to them and brought them onto the scene? What did you see in these two gentlemen?
MARK MILES: Thanks, Paul. I'll answer that but it may be in the second part with expressing a different thought first. I just want to first make a comment about the significance of this today and then I'm delighted to talk about both CJ and Jay specifically.
You know, we've been now for several months looking to reorganize, restructure and improve the way we do business in racing, and we have spoken for some time about how Derrick Walker we think is the perfect guy to run the competition and operations side of IndyCar but that our intention was to then centralize or combine the management at the most senior level of both of our key racing businesses, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and all that we do here in Indianapolis, and IndyCar and all that it does and all that it represents. Because we felt like we could be stronger, that most of the‑‑ the very different brands and very different operations, but most of the stakeholders were similar, and in doing so we could be better coordinated and more effective.
So to round out the Hulman Company's executive leadership team, adding CJ and Jay to Derrick Walker, to Doug Boles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Robby Greene, who runs our television production company, Gretchen Snelling, our general counsel, and Jeff Belskus, who remains as president of Hulman, his responsibilities include looking after our industrial Clabber Girl, our company's real estate holdings, and all the critical corporate functions of finance, IT and HR, where he remains our chief financial officer, to get that team fully fleshed out now is a big day for us.
Every one of those people takes care of and has accountability for their particular functions, but together they form a management team that will strengthen the company as a whole, and I couldn't be more pleased to welcome CJ and Jay for those reasons to the organization.
In terms of each of them, there are a lot of commonalities, actually. First of all, as people, it matters a lot to us, we want to be a place that people want to do business with and a place that people can trust as folks who are interested in building quality, longer‑term relationships. CJ and Jay are exactly that kind of person. You like them, you believe in them, you trust them, and they have shown significant leadership effectiveness in their careers. We like what they bring to us in terms of the culture of the company we're building here.
It happens that each of them have run a business, so they're coming to this business to look after very important commercial functions, but they've also both been in positions at one time or another in their lives where they had to meet payroll, decide what business to be in, what the priorities were, how to assemble and lead a team, and do all the things that are necessary for a commercial business to be successful.
And I think in joining our most senior management team for the holding company, Hulman, that background on both of their parts was very attractive to us.
They do have specific functions to lead inside the company, and I think they're superbly well‑qualified, each for what we're asking them to take on.
In the case of CJ, a guy who spent his career basically at Ford in marketing and been successful throughout, and then it looks to me as I've understood his story that he's developed this niche, I'm not sure if he would describe it this way, but as I see him moving from Ford to Jaguar to Mazda to Lincoln, I see a guy that they had a lot of confidence in in kind of almost turnaround situations with those brands, and that means that he can deal with effectively allocating resources.
He obviously knows everything from advertising to digital marketing to every form of communication, PR, and he knows the car industry, which is something that matters a lot to us for obvious reasons. He also, in at least a couple postings, in London and in Japan, had international experience, which I think will be relevant to us as we develop our strategy going forward.
Jay started with kind of brand background at Anheuser‑Busch and Valvoline but then became a successful operator at NASCAR. I've had people say to me, well, this is a guy who's been successful at running NASCAR teams, but he's never really been just a salesman. First of all, we're not looking for just a salesman, we're looking for leadership, and he is certainly that. But also I think if one talks to other owners in the paddock, for most of them you're running a team, a NASCAR team or an IndyCar team, you're selling every day, and he was not just an effective salesman in his prior life but an innovative one at that.
I think these guys have the personal character. They have the general leadership and business background, and they have the specific functions that they've honed in their life's experiences so far that make them perfect for what we're trying to do here. This is my first chance publicly to welcome both Jay and CJ. We're delighted to have you on board.
PAUL KELLY: I'm going to ask you both the same question, and that is what attracted you to your respective jobs, and what part of your past experience and successes make these respective roles such a good fit for both of you?
CJ O'DONNELL: Well, first I've got to thank Mark. Those were some rather humbling words. Thank you very much. It's hard to top some of the points you made.
I think generally speaking, the background I bring is clearly one of automotive marketing and strategy with over 20 years with Ford, and the point that Mark made around the revitalization of businesses and managing businesses was the first connection that I made to IndyCar and to the Speedway.
I see great opportunity for this business, and it's really at the cusp of taking off in the years ahead with some great competition and other attributes of the business.
And with that, I get another chance to apply the skills I've honed at Ford to the recovery of a great brand, an iconic brand, and its future growth and success. In simple terms, we're here to get a clear communication message for the business, leverage the combined opportunities that come with our partners, our stakeholders, and ensuring that we're working together for the success of the business, and I mean specifically team owners and the venues that are certainly working now to promote their aspect of this great industry.
And then I have to add a passionate sort of personal note to this. At one point in time in my life I had an aspiration of actually driving at Indianapolis, and I knew someday somewhere I'd get a chance to participate in the business. I guess there's a point in your life where you realize you're not going to be a left fielder for the Yankees and you put some of those dreams aside, but this is my chance to take my professional skills now and apply them to the growth of IndyCar in a way that maybe I wouldn't have foreseen when I was 18 but I sure understand right now, and I'm very proud to be part of Mark's new team and contributing to the success of the business.
PAUL KELLY: Thank you. CJ. Jay, the same question to you.
JAY FRYE: Thanks, Paul. Well, I'm originally from Rock Island, Illinois, and I actually grew up listening to the Indy 500 on the radio and watching the tape delayed broadcast on ABC, so I guess that kind of tells everybody how old I am. I'm very fortunate to have a 20‑plus year career at NASCAR, mainly as a team principal and an operating partner.
We'll look to leverage those relationships that I had to help build on the history and the tradition of IndyCar and of IMS. The passion of the IndyCar fans and IMS fans is second to none. I've been incredibly impressed when I've visited Indy, the people that when they found out that I was in visiting the facilities that were immediately awestruck by everything that happens around the 100‑year history of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and of IndyCar.
Mark has assembled a great team. I'm really looking forward to being a part of it, and we've got, I think, a lot of good things to come. We've already started working on a few prospects, I would say, lots of different things, and there's a lot of encouragement and a lot of enthusiasm for the series and the sport, so I really think there's some good things to come.
PAUL KELLY: Thank you very much. Let's open it up for media questions.
Q. Jay, you're going to be involved in the marketing and getting exposure for IndyCar. It seems to me that one of the things that needs to be built I would think is the television ratings as we've heard some sponsors have been a little concerned about the ratings and being involved. Do you see that NBC Sports is a good place to be and that their viewership and awareness of where they are could be built rather quickly?
JAY FRYE: Yes, I think that obviously there's a lot of activity going on at NBC right now. All this activity has a Motorsports theme, and I think the more eyeballs that get on IndyCar and on Indianapolis Motor Speedway will see a great product. It's very exciting. In 2013 they had nine different winners, very competitive, great‑looking cars. So I think the more eyeballs that see it, obviously the more it will enhance the ratings and will improve the overall demographics of the sport.
Q. I agree, but my question is how are you planning on growing the eyeballs? The series has been phenomenal almost from the outset, the competition is second to none, the variety of venues they go to, street courses, permanent road courses, ovals big and small. I mean, it's probably the best group of drivers in the world as far as that goes. But how do you foresee building the eyeballs and getting them to NBC Sports? ABC and ESPN is a little bit easier, but NBC, how are you going to build that?
MARK MILES: This is Mark. Let me interrupt here if I may because I certainly want these guys to speak if they wish, but neither one is really charged with the television responsibility at this point. I just wanted to make a couple comments that from my perspective begin to answer your question. Obviously additional sponsors who will activate with us helps, and doing more from a public relations and digital marketing perspective will help.
But to your question, we have not yet announced our broadcast schedule for next year. The first step was to make the schedule itself, not the broadcast schedule, more attractive to broadcasters because they believe by condensing it it'll be easier for fans to follow the television broadcasts.
Second step is to make the broadcast more coherent, more relevant. Today it's a bit presumptuous of us at the moment to be comparing ourselves to the NFL, so I'm not, I'm simply pointing out a model for its value to us. Today if you watch NFL football, you don't have to guess where to look for what. You know which days to watch, you know which broadcasters have which games, and there's a rationale to it that is an important building block, we believe, for any sport in building its audience on television.
And when we do announce our broadcast schedule for 2014, I think you'll see meaningful improvements in the arrangements with our broadcasters which will help in them following what I think is a more coherent schedule.
And then the things that Jay can do to bring in sponsors, who will not just frankly pay us rights fees and bring people to our races but will also ideally be aggressive in advertising and promoting what they do in association with our racing will be important, and the things that CJ can do in establishing marketing programs once they take the reins and working in all forms of communications will be that much more important in driving people to the broadcasts.
Anyway, I thought it was fair for me to take the brunt of that question. The others are welcome to comment if they'd like.
Q. Today in the release the Hulman Motorsports concept was explained, how IndyCar and IMS in certain areas are joining forces. Could you talk a little bit about that and the advantages you see in the concept of Hulman Motorsports?
MARK MILES: Yes. So from an organizational point of view, we have a company, a holding company called Hulman. It has a number of subsidiaries and it has a number of different brands. The public relates to IMS, but IMS itself has May, and May has three, I think, compelling weekends, and then we have the Super Weekend with NASCAR and sports cars. We have Moto GP, and I think you'll see additional announcements of additional events. I think of each of those events as brands.
And then the company, Hulman, has the IndyCar Series itself.
So in the past we literally had people and senior management for IMS responsible for sales and licensing and marketing and communications of everything just IMS, and across the street about 500 yards away in another building, there were people at senior levels with the same responsibilities, same functional responsibilities for IndyCar.
We believe that that separateness led to a less than effective, than maximally effective way to deal with our stakeholders.
So for example, because Jay now has the sales responsibility for all of it, he can go talk to a company as great sales guys do and figure out who their target customer is, what they're trying to achieve to grow their business, and he can look across the spectrum of assets that we have, our various events at the Speedway and IMS, and by the way, increasingly I think we'll be good at also teeing up and helping with arrangements for sponsorships for our teams and our tracks, our races, so he can look at the whole portfolio of assets that we have and package them in a way that'll make the most sense for the customers, the sponsors in this instance. I think that is important.
Similarly, when we think about social media, you know, we're really talking to the same people, whether they're fans of the various activities here at the Speedway or the series themselves, we want them to be fans of all of it, and we want to grow the numbers.
It doesn't make sense to us optimally to segregate based on kind of the location. Really the businesses are part of the same industry, same ownership, and largely the same stakeholders and customers.
Again, that doesn't mean that we will lose focus. Jay and CJ will organize their staffs so that we've got the right people absolutely laser focused on the right things to make sure we don't drop balls, but as the senior management to cut across the IMS activities and the IndyCar activities, they can make sure that it's all well coordinated and that we optimize the way we put our various assets to the public.
Q. Jay, first off, congrats on the appointment. For you coming from a NASCAR background, you do see a lot of their partners and sponsors with ads and a lot of TV ads. You don't see many ads on the IndyCar side. How do you plan to maybe interact with the current sponsors in terms of their increasing their activation, and secondly in terms of looking for new partners we've had a couple of departures this off‑season. What are some of the strategies you'll need to do to bring more in?
JAY FRYE: Well, thank you. Earlier we mentioned about leveraging our relationships that we have in NASCAR, because there are quite a few. Again, we talked about the sport and that it's pointed in the right direction, all the new initiatives that are going on for next year in the month of May and throughout the course of the whole season with the new schedule.
There's a lot of excitement, and most of the people I've talked to, and it's been really kind of unique since this was announced today, my phone has been blowing up, and a lot of them have been from friends of mine who are prospective sponsors, so I think the opportunity is definitely there to do some really good things actually relatively quickly.
Q. Jay, from your perspective, you've been able to watch IndyCar from afar. You've been in this business a long time. Why do you think it's been a difficult sell for this sport?
JAY FRYE: That's a great question. Again, I think right now the sport is on the uprise. I think, again, with the competition, the race cars are very cool, there's diversity in the sport with the drivers from 14 different countries, nine different winners this year. There's so many good things going on, and I think like we talked earlier about the television package and that there's been some obviously change in the landscape that when people watch I think an IndyCar race, I think they generally become fans and want to know more, and I think that'll just create a foundation to help build on the program and take it into the future.
So I think it's going to change, I believe, over the next couple years. I think going into the 2016, the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 is obviously a huge deal, the project with the IMS 100 is a new and great initiative. So there's a lot of different new and unique things going on in the sport and in the series that I think will draw eyeballs to it, will bring sponsors into it, and when you look at an IndyCar race, too, from a television perspective, it fits really nicely in a couple‑hour window, which I think is something that's different, and I think it's a selling point on our behalf.
Q. My question for CJ, I look at this NASCAR stat, for example, of public relations, and they've got agencies, and I know you aren't coming from a NASCAR situation, but NASCAR has got agencies and it's got about 60 people on staff, and then I look at the IndyCar grouping and there's two or three people on the IndyCar side and a couple on the IMS side in terms of promotion or in terms of media relations and servicing the media and publicizing. Do you have some assurances that the staffing and the resources will increase?
CJ O'DONNELL: Yeah, I've got definitive assurances of that, and in fact Mark and I have had several conversations about adding capacity to the organization to really develop it into a world‑class marketing and PR team, and then working with that new resource and the commitment that we're going to bring to IndyCar and IMS for the establishment of stronger brand and the ability to build the fan base, back to some of Jay's comments. There's a lot of great product out there that we can leverage, and we just need to better develop our message, build our awareness, and allow the product then to speak for itself.
Q. And a follow‑up for you, CJ, the one criticism I hear from partners that are IndyCar partners as opposed to IMS partners is that the message too much has been about IMS and the 500 but not so much about their aspect with IndyCar. How do you service those promotional needs from your office?
CJ O'DONNELL: I tried to capture some of that in my initial statement. I really do think that the strength of the new communications and marketing organization is going to fall from being able to leverage everybody's resources and really tying into everybody's strong efforts to develop the sport.
So I expect in the early days to be in touch with many key stakeholders, the team owners themselves, drivers, sponsors, some of the venues, to make sure that we're quickly lining up to get the word out and strengthen our position.
A cooperative business relationship is what I'm accustomed to, and I think working together with them, we're going to make this a real success.
Q. You've each throughout this conversation mentioned a number of goals that you have for yourselves and the company, but what's on the immediate priority list when you start that first day on the job, which I understand is coming up for both of you?
JAY FRYE: Well, obviously one of the immediate goals for me is blending the groups together, so it'll be the IndyCar group and the IMS group, kind of figuring out where we're at and where we want to go forward as a group and collectively, and then also the title sponsor for the IndyCar Series is obviously something that's very important because once that partner is identified, that actually helps address a lot of the things we've talked about. One is activating the sport, one is promoting the sport, one is getting the fan engagement together, which is very important to the overall health of the sport. Really the first week we're going to kind of figure out where we're at, try to get the groups blended together, get a nice plan and goals and direction, and then once that's done we're going to hit it hard to go out and find a great title sponsor partner.
CJ O'DONNELL: Yeah, I have to start in the same spot. The first task at hand is to make sure that we have a world‑class PR and brand communications organization, and that's going to take a little initial work. We were talking about in the earlier question adding some capacity and building the resources needed to get the job done. So I think building the team and working on that strength, really going from strength to strength if you could, is going to be first and foremost.
After that there's a number of concepts that we're mulling around in both the digital space as well as in PR to strengthen our communication, our message, and ensure that we're building a growing fan base in the years ahead.
Q. This question is for any one of the three of you, actually. Whose responsibility is it for venue promotion? Is it the promoter who pays the series the sanctioning fee to come, or are you going to get the IndyCar and IMS marketing people behind to help them since you guys have connection with the drivers and show cars and that kind of thing, whatever it is you plan to do? Or do you just let the promoter handle the promotion of their upcoming event?
MARK MILES: My take when I arrived was sort of surprised that it wasn't more of an integrated effort. I think we've been somewhat inconsistent from race to race, probably limited by the resources we've deployed, and CJ has already talked about us committing more there. Also kind of based on, I don't know, maybe the aggressiveness of the promoter. So we've worked really closely with some in a more integrated way and not much with others, where they've been more independent. And they are independent, but I think CJ is going to be thinking about, from a marketing point of view, how all of us working together can, in a coordinated way, reach more people, more fans. In my mind you start with the broadest way to throw the net. You think about the number of email addresses you would have if you start with 250,000 IndyCar fans that we have and Speedway folks and go to teams and go to drivers and go if we can to teams' sponsors. We can lasso a whole lot of people, and CJ has already talked about developing effective messages.
I think we want to move aggressively toward more integrated programs with our tracks, and there's certainly a lot of room to do that.
I'd say the same thing about the drivers. We can do more of that. Obviously they have their own interests and they have their relationships with the teams, but if we can get everybody kind of working on the same page, what's in the drivers' interest and the teams' interest and our interest, being more integrated, we'll get more done.
CJ O'DONNELL: I'll just try to piggy‑back the answer in a way. A lot of experience I draw from is strengthened by the automotive retail environment, and there's some parallels here that I believe fit the question very well. We work every day at multiple levels of communication to make sure that we integrate everything we do with the dealer, and ultimately making sure that they can sell a vehicle to a customer that needs that product.
Being able to manage communications and integrate at that level is very much the same as integrating with some of the venues and promoters that manage the sport across the nation for us, and I hope to draw on past experience in sort of a collaborative way to make the work almost seamless to the eyes of the public but very effective and welcome in the eyes of the promoters.
Q. It seems to me that what you have available, a promoter, does not necessarily have, and working with them and helping them and providing them with drivers, because I have yet to speak to a driver who wasn't willing to promote the sport. They love it. They know without fans they haven't got a job, and I don't know of any that would have said no when they've been asked if they had a prior commitment. But I think heading in that direction is great, and I think it's hugely what's needed by the series and the promoters to put more people in the seats and create more interest. I applaud you for that.
MARK MILES: Thanks.
PAUL KELLY: We will wrap up the call today. Thank you very much for joining us. CJ and Jay, welcome, and we appreciate all the media members calling in today.
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