Thursday, March 19, 2009

NASCAR: Transcript - Mike Accavitti (Dir. Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep Brand Marketing and Dodge Motorsports

Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Transcript
Mike Accavitti, Director – Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep Brand Marketing and Dodge Motorsports

Q: In today’s business climate in the auto industry, what does a race win like Kurt’s a week ago in Atlanta mean for a manufacturer such as Dodge?

A: It means a lot. A race win during ordinary times is important for a manufacturer. However, in times that we’re faced with right now, it’s extremely important and I’ll explain why. What Kurt Bush did (during his post-race interview) on Sunday wasn’t just win that race, for those of you who watched the television broadcast, when Kurt got out of that car, he demonstrated the level of professionalism that he deals with and that he exudes. He got out of that car after racing for 500 miles…you know what kind of day it was…how challenging it was at the end it was. I was thrilled that in his speech in Victory Lane, on national television, he said, “If that doesn’t inspire you to go out and buy a Dodge Charger, I don’t know what will.” He went on to thank Dodge for our support of his efforts. For him to make an endorsement like that is everything. During these times right now when people are not in a hurry to go out and buy a car…they’re looking for motivation and not really paying attention to the commercials…to get an endorsement like that on TV from one of our drivers was everything. I called Kurt after (the race) and talked to Roger (Penske) as well and told them that was the best product endorsement that I’ve seen anybody give for anything in Victory Lane. He realizes the situation that the manufacturers are in and he’s doing his part. I have the utmost respect for that man because some drivers or some other guys might think, “Hey, what can I do about it. The industry is collapsing, but what can I do about it.” Here’s a guy that’s saying I’m going to do something about it. He thought about it. He did it all on his own and after that long-ass race when he’s thinking a zillion different things, for him to remember and make it a point to mention the Dodge Charger and the Dodge brand after that victory it was everything.

Q: What does having the names Roger Penske and Richard Petty under your banner mean to the Dodge brand?

A: If you’re going to be in motorsports, you want to be associated with people that can deliver the results on the track and people that can command the respect when they’re going out and talking to other sponsors and partners. It’s just not about what happens at the track as why we’re in NASCAR; we’re in NASCAR to develop relationships with other companies that will in turn buy our vehicles for their fleets. Having the association with those two icons is very important to us. There are some good names out there, but those guys are at the top of the heap. Richard Petty, I refer to him as the ‘Babe Ruth of NASCAR’ and Roger Penske is known throughout the country and world as not only being a winner on the race track, but as a professional businessman in some of the businesses that he’s been able to turn around and some of the good things that he’s been able to do and the returns that he’s been able to give to the community…particularly Southeast Michigan and the City of Detroit. We’re just so proud to be associated with these two gentleman and their fine organizations.

Q: Can you give us an update for Dodge’s marketing plans for the remainder of this year? Has anything changed since the start of the year?

A: The budget is the same; however I can tell you that we have been able to carve out some money. We’re going to be taking on a grassroots approach. Grassroots approaches are beneficial because they allow you to target your messaging and your experiences to people that really care about it. They’re not mass carpet bombing messages; we’re really focusing in on those folks that it will really resonate with. So what we’re doing is introducing the ‘Dodge Boys Red Zone’ and that it is a mobile NASCAR infield tailgate party so to speak. We’re going to be going around to our dealerships. We’re going to be having product displays at some of our partner company parking lots. We’ll be going to events that our dealers are already going to sponsor. What we’re going to be doing with this motor coach that will be dragging along this NASCAR simulator and some games and events…it’s going to be taking that NASCAR experience out on the road. We’re just not going to race markets with this; we’re going to non-race markets. Those poor folks up in Minnesota that don’t have a race or the people in Iowa that don’t have a Sprint Cup race or Idaho or Washington state, we’ll be taking this mobile exhibit on the road so that they can share the NASCAR experience. Maybe we’ll convert some fans, but at least we’ll be serving those NASCAR fans living in those non-race markets some NASCAR experience.

Q: How important is a win for Sr. Management within the company when you’re trying to ask for additional money?

A: It’s just not for Sr. Management. There are millions of Dodge fans out there that let me know how I’m doing as the Director of Motorsports through their emails and letters. It’s important for us to deliver. You guys hear us talking the game and I realize that the season is only a few weeks old and I’m not pompous to claim victory yet…it’s very, very early in the season. But I will say that we have shown pretty consistent performance through the first weeks of the season. We started out Daytona with four (cars) in the top-10. It wasn’t as spectacular of a finish as it was last year, but we were in a good spot. We followed it up with some solid performances in California and Vegas and of course Kurt…that wasn’t a squeaker…he dominated that race (Atlanta) and even though he was threatened late in the race by (Brian) Vickers and then again by (Jeff) Gordon and Carl (Edwards), he really that he wanted to win that race…and he did.

Q: Do you think that driver’s can be trained to be promoters like Kurt was after the Atlanta race for Dodge?

A: Like a lot of things in life, some guys are really good at golf; others can spend all the money they want on lessons and not ever be good at golf. In this case, I’ll say this about Kurt; I believe for a person to come off credible on television or in a conversation, they truly have to believe what they’re saying. And I’ll tell you something about Kurt… Kurt called me in December and in January because he knew what was going on (with the auto industry). He’s a bright man. He reads the newspapers and sees what’s happening and says, “Mike, I want to help. I want to be part of the solution here.” So he’s really reaching out and that’s why I do feel that it wasn’t just a gratuitous product endorsement (for Dodge) when he got out of that car on Sunday, he truly meant it. He truly meant that he’s trying to help and I believe that’s what he was thinking about during those 234 laps he was leading… I do believe that it crossed his mind several times that, “I’m going to help out my friends and supporters and sponsors at Dodge and the Dodge dealers that help provide this standard of living for me. I believe that there has to be some natural ability, but I also believe that you can train or perfect a person’s skills to a certain point. But the underlying thing is for this thing to come off, it’s truly from the heart for it to be sincere.

Q: As you look ahead to the landscape of the sport a year or so, what do you see?

A: I think as an economy, our country, we’re going through something that we haven’t in a very long time. I think there’s going to be some fundamental changes in everything that we do. But, I don’t think that they’re going to be drastic. Sponsors will come back. I think that forever more the sponsors may be asking for better return on their investments. We’ve always been in that mode. I think maybe a lot of other sponsors – not just car manufacturers – but other sponsors may not have really been held to that same level of scrutiny. I think everyone is going to be that way from now least the next five or ten years. People are going to want to make sure they’re getting a return on their investment. I think the money will come back into the sport. The sun is going to come up tomorrow. The economy is going to improve. Fans are going to come back to the races and life in America is going to be as great as it ever was, we’re just going through this little down turn which will have a lasting impact on many of the things which we do.

Q: Did Kurt Busch’s post-race comments solidify his stand with Dodge? Do you think other driver’s would have done the same? How much impact does it have?

A: Here again, there’s people that are out there that will go out and buy a razor blade because a driver uses one or they’ll go buy a soda pop because a driver drinks one on camera. Cars are a little bit different purchase. There’s a lot more thought that goes into it. People just don’t run out and buy a Dodge because Kurt asked them to or because Kurt might drive one. What happens is that when Kurt says that, it draws people’s attention and makes them aware of the brand and aware of the mark. From that, we see people going to our website and start checking out our products. Or they go to a dealer and start looking at our products. As a marketer, you’d like to think that everyone knows all of your products, but they don’t necessarily know all of our products. So this is a great opportunity to expose them to our products. So what Kurt helped us do is like the equivalent of running a minute commercial in that spot. It got people to think about Dodge. It got people to think about Dodge Charger. They went to the website. They learned more about the products and maybe they stumbled upon a car or a deal that they weren’t aware of and maybe they made that visit to a dealership that they wouldn’t have ordinarily have made and maybe we had a sale because of it. It’s a difficult thing for us to measure…the exact benefit from Kurt’s words, but I will tell you that it is much better for Kurt Busch to win that race and say that then it is for him not to win the race and not say it. I do have the utmost respect for that man. I had it before he got out and said those words. I’ve developed a great relationship with Kurt. I do respect him as a driver and a human being as (I do) all of our other drivers. They’re great guys. I’ve told you guys that before. We’re blessed to have a fantastic stable of drivers and we’re off to a good start this season.

Q: What do you think that we’re going to see at Bristol?

A: I’d like to remind Mr. Busch that I call (Bristol Motor Speedway) the “House the Kurt Built”. I don’t want to put more pressure on the man. I know that he knows his way around that track. Kasey does pretty well at that track as well. I think that it’s going to be an exciting race. I’m not one for making predictions, but I feel like we’re in a good place.

From Dodge

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