Racing Ahead: Local Event Sponsorship Can Boost Your Brand Awareness - Tire Review Magazine

Racing Ahead: Local Event Sponsorship Can Boost Your Brand Awareness

Local Event Sponsorship Can Boost Your Brand Awareness

Last month we discussed a number of new technologies that are evolving in the tire industry. Goodyear has made huge leaps with its products over the last several years and has been the recipient of a number of awards in this year alone.

It is very fitting that one of the newest tires Goodyear has released under the Dunlop flag, the Direzza Sport Z1 Star Spec, jumped into the spotlight after the opening weekend of the 2008 Tire Rack SCCA ProSolo racing event at California’s El Toro airfield.

“The new tire features the Star Spec tread compound, which helps a performance car’s initial dry grip during sanctioned amateur driving events, such as autocross and high-performance track-events hosted by regional car clubs,” according to Matt Neidert, Dunlop performance tire brand manager.

In a press release after the event, Richard Jung, who won the Street Touring Class with his 2008 Mitsubishi Evo shod with the new tires, said, “I can feel the difference; as advertised, you can push Star Specs on the first run. This was an advantage, since it allowed a more consistent feel and reduced the need for suspension adjustments between runs.”

The Direzza Sport Z1 Star Spec is available in 20 sizes from 15 to 18 inches. There is one 15-inch size (195/55R15 SL 84V), three 16-inch sizes, and the rest are 17- and 18-inch tires in a wide range of sizes to fit smaller cars with a 215/40R17 SL 83W up to medium sized cars with a 275/35R18 SL 95W.

To understand how Goodyear arrived at the Sport Z1 Star Spec, you have to know where it has been for the years leading up to it. First, for more than three years now, Goodyear has been testing its Dunlop tires and compounds by promoting what they call the “Dunlop Driver’s Cup.” Now ending its fourth year, this program was targeted toward select amateur racers who often competed in SCCA and car-club events.

You, the dealer, can benefit from this by becoming involved with a local event, which is typically held in a large parking lot or at a military base. SCCA Solo II allows anyone with a valid drivers license to compete. To find out where local events are held, log onto www.scca.com and click on divisions. The typical cost to drive is less than $20 per person, depending on the area.

Other opportunities associated with this event are sales of performance suspension upgrades, as well as tires and wheels. These events focus on driver control, not necessarily speed. Many events have courses that limit the top speed to no more than 50 mph, but when you have to transition from 50 mph into a hairpin curve with a decreasing radius, you have to know when and where to turn. Also, this format allows for only one participant on the course at a time.

If you are lucky enough to be near one of the race courses where Redline Time Attack events are held, it’s a completely different story.

RTA (redlinetimeattack.com) has grown to a point now that it has seven scheduled events across the country, presented on Speedtv.com, and has major sponsorships from Toyo, Kumho, Hankook and a host of other performance companies.

According to RTA, this is the first sanctioned time attack series open to the general public. These events are held not in parking lots limited to speed and space, but on race tracks across the nation, where you and your customers can drive your own vehicle to the very limit. There are nine divisions, with winners in each division. The schedule allows for all-day practice on Saturdays with the timed sessions taking place Sunday afternoon. The cost is $200-$225 per day. Even if you’re not in one of the cities where a race is being held, you can still benefit because this type of event will pull participants from hundreds of miles away.

Nikolas Malechikos, co-founder of RTA, has some interesting insight for dealers looking to gain exposure with racing enthusiasts: “Tire and performance dealers must have an understanding of the products that this consumer is interested in purchasing. They must be knowledgeable about tires, wheels and alignments, and they have to be able to apply that knowledge to meet the specific needs of the customer.

“In the last two years, there has been a huge increase in the number of tires available for weekend racing. These are a step down from pure competition tires, giving a person a tire that can also be ran on the street, even in the rain,” he said.

Drifting Attention
Next, onto the drift scene. Oh, did you think that this was just a passing trend? Why would I want to be involved with drifting, you might ask? Once regarded as just another car fad, this market has grown from a California event to a national and even international motor sport. Now, after several years of promotion and a number of big name sponsors and coverage from the likes of ESPN2, the marketing opportunity for local businesses has grown significantly.

John Pangilinan, with the ID Agency, explains, “There are a number of opportunities for a local, regional or national business to promote at Formula Drift events. They have per event sponsorships that allow a local company to have their logos and images on a car in the field, as well as signage at the track. We also offer 10×10-foot booth space starting at $500 and up.”

With more media exposure, including broadcast, businesses can promote themselves to a targeted audience that is interested in buying the products that they sell. “For Formula Drift, the bulk of the events have been on the west coast with a couple east coast events at Road Atlanta and Wall Speedway this year. Also added was an event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“Advertising opportunities at all these locations make it easy for companies to expose their brand to multiple targeted locations and a wide audience of drifting fans nationwide,” Pangilinan said.

This year, Formula Drift will go international with two specialty events in Singapore and Monterey, Mexico. With the growth and popularity of Formula Drift, it’s no wonder there are more tire companies involved with the series than any other motorsport in the world, according to Pangilinan.

Already a recognized name in the automotive world, NOPI (nopi.com) has a drift series with Cooper, Toyo and BFGoodrich as major sponsors. NOPI, known for its aggressive marketing, NOPI Drag Racing Series and cultural events, has added the NOPI Drift Series to many of its nationwide events, including events from New York City to Miami and Philadelphia to Salt Lake City.

A Step Further
Each of these series is for the professional racer, but what about the average enthusiast who wants to learn more and hone their driving skills? This is where a number of associations and events all over the country are available. One such sanctioning body is DGTrials (dgtrials.com). The ‘D’ stands for drift and the ‘G’ stands for Gymkhana (a form of autocross with slower speeds, tighter turns and other unique course features). Their events are held primarily in Atlanta and the southeast.

Erik Jacobs, president and CEO of DGTrials, tells us “Our events are open to any individual with a car that will pass the tech requirements – amateur, professional, etc. The only thing we require is a valid drivers license. In some cases, youngsters without a drivers license who can show some racing/driving experience elsewhere may be allowed to participate.

“Our events are typically all ‘lesson’ environments. We have several instructors on hand at all events – including former ‘professional’ drifters and competing amateurs – to give tips and pointers. We have a lot of ideas and suggestions about how local dealers can get involved. One of the easiest ways is for a dealer to bring a tire changer out to the event and swap tires for drivers for a nominal fee, like $5 or $10 per wheel.”

If you are interested in any of these events, contact each organization to discuss specifically how your business and the sport can grow together.

For more information on other amateur racing organizations, send me an e-mail and I’ll forward more information to you.

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