A Unique Perspective on Partnership Marketing with Tom Legeman of Starcom Racing

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John: Hey everyone, welcome to Life is Digital. I am your host, John Bianchi, get ready to learn about digital marketing as we share our knowledge and perspectives on current trends, best practices and actionable tips to help you grow your business in the digital age. Well, folks, I am so excited this morning because I have a really good friend of mine on who has been in the racing business for quite some time, Tom Legeman works in partnership marketing for Starcom racing, the double zero NASCAR Cup team. Hey Tom, so great to have you on board today.

Meet Tom Legeman, Partnership Marketing with Starcom Racing 

Tom: John, thank you for having me on today. I appreciate it.

John: Absolutely, no, I love having conversations with you because you have such a perspective on the sport when it comes to marketing, but also race day, from the marketing perspective, we were talking about a couple of things before we started the show. I wonder if you could share kind of an industry fact or a little bit about the change in the industry that many fans may not be aware of…

Tom: Yeah, when a sponsor comes on board with NASCAR, everybody assumes. I think on the consumer end, that it’s a brand being exercise that the company is looking to get its name out there, but really a NASCAR team is used in a lot of different ways. One of the ways is at track, being able to bring back companies customers to the track, interact with potential customers and be able to use the team as a sales tool, and it works out very well. And the nice thing about that is then it’s measurable, so if they sponsor you for say 5 – 8 million and they bring back 25 to 35 million in sales back to the company, you can measure that and say, Hey, we’re able to give you a four-time return on your investment. I’ve worked a little bit on a trucking company program years ago, and they… I helped on their hospitality and they were able to measure every year between 60 million and 120 million dollars return on their 6 million dollar investment for the year so… NASCAR is used a lot for that on the team end, and this year has been particularly challenging with covid in place, you can’t bring your guests to the race track, and we’re searching for new ways to justify our sponsorship existence and to give return and value to our customers and that’s what the challenge is here, John.

John: It’s so interesting that you share that, and I think this is a common theme of the shift in business overall, from some of the other guests that I’ve had. Everyone is looking for and searching for new ways to be successful in this environment. Tom, your experience in racing is so varied and you have… You have quite a bit of it. I bet you our fans are interested to know, how did you get your start in racing?

How did Tom Legeman get his start in racing?

Tom: I was a younger brother racecar driver, so that made me in an immediate crew chief, engine builder, welder, you name it, and my brother started racing years ago and I helped him… My brother’s 11 years older than me. So there’s quite a difference. My first NASCAR license, I had really, when I was 15 years of age, I wasn’t supposed to have it, but my brother had lied about my age, so I could come to the track and help him. So I was an official NASCAR owner ’cause back in those things you could not be the driver and owner of a vehicle, so my brother may be the owner of the vehicle at 15 years of age, so I may have been one of the youngest NASCAR owners in history, but from that I learned how to work on race cars and build them. My brother’s career ended probably about 1981-82 when the second recession hit, and it was a shame he had a chance to come back south and race and just couldn’t put it all together because of economics, but from there, I decided I better return to school, get my degree, which I did, and I got my degree in Journalism with an emphasis in advertising and telecommunications. So from there, I went to work for an agency, and when I got back there, I ran into some people that were racing in different series, and the Busch North Series was one and Jamie also ran in to Tommy Ellis, who was the first winner at New Hampshire International Speedway at that time in 1990, won the very first race there. And he asked me to put some sponsorship together for him, and so I did, we were successful. So I was able to get Tommy some sponsorship, Jamie, I got him some sponsorship to run the Busch North Series and also to run twice at Daytona, because back in those days, Jamie, was a three-time Busch North champion, your champions provisional gave you an automatic entry into the Daytona 300-Busch race, so I was able to get him sponsorship and from there things just grew.

John: That… It’s just fascinating. I think it’s interesting how marketing and advertising are so connected to racing where we see the big brands taking these huge spots or sponsoring whole cars. And then obviously, like you said, there’s this whole excitement around being able to be at a track, bring your potential customer or a client to the track. How is branding important to NASCAR and then to businesses that want to get this exposure? Because obviously you have the marketing perspective inside, but you also have the team side and understanding the racing side.

How is brand important to NASCAR and the businesses that want to get exposure?

Tom: For a company that’s new because of the breadth of the audience, not only that consume the sport digitally, but also on television. It’s a very economical way, people don’t believe it, but it is. It’s a very economical way to get your brand out there, get your message out there for what your product or service is. And then from there, you can break off to the usual expansions, so many people now they use Facebook to do that. They use other forms of media, which are great, but you don’t get a national exposure for a real cost effectiveness like you do when you get involved with a NASCAR program. And NASCAR people, they understand your NASCAR fans, they understand that they support a product that supports that team and that driver, that’s not been ingrained into them from generations of generations, so you immediately have an instant consumer, a potential buyer. I mean, When you look at the indexes, we always index higher in particular areas because of that, because of that NASCAR fanbase understands that “if we make the purchase, we support the team” so it’s just a natural… Really segway for a brand to get involved with NASCAR, really to launch one of their national programs, and it works, it works.

John: That makes so much sense. And I love, I’m gonna try to tie this together into my next question, I think you’re gonna love it, I love how… You’re talking about the visualization of your brand, let’s say, associated with a team, associated with the driver, which is extremely important. Then people love the human aspect of that when you can get access or feel like you have access to someone that’s doing something that’s so incredible at high speed around a race track. From your perspective as a spotter, what is it like being up in the top of the track, seeing it from kind of a different perspective, can you share with your audience how that view and visualization of the race is so much different than what we might see on TV, or really even what we might see when we are down at the track?

Different perspective on the track v. television

Tom: I think the best analogy that I can give is a football analogy that as a spotter, you’re like the offensive or defensive coordinator for a football team, you’re high up in the box, you see the whole field of play. Your pit crew and your crew chief can only see what’s in front of him on the straight away going into turn four to turn one, and also what he gets and looks on the TV, and also all the time splits and times, he can’t see what the car is doing or where your driver is in traffic. Things like that, so as a spotter, you become not only a safety tool for the driver to make sure that he avoids wrecks knows what’s going on, when to pit, but you also become an information tool on how the… What’s the attitude of the car, hows the car handling… You become a second pair eyes for the driver, the driver sees the car through his windshield, you see the car through the corner. So you become a tool… A tuning tool. For your crew chief as well.

John: That’s… It’s so fascinating. I think one day I would love to get up there with you and for maybe 20 laps, just kinda see what you’re seeing, I would love that perspective. I think that would just completely change my whole understanding of racing.

Tom: I’ll put a headset on you, we’ll bring you up either Daytona or Talladega, because that’s where you get the most action and you’re talking… You sound like an auctioneer sometimes you actually have to slow down because you’re three and a half hours on the radio constantly giving your driver information to where he is, where the Packs coming at his line’s moving, if they’re coming up behind him. If where the rest where to go, I mean it’s a lot of action and I’ve done that with guests, we’ve even had drivers up there, and it gives them a unique perspective of what your job is and what you have to do to communicate to them, and it always ends like “Wow”, “I don’t know how you guys do it and sound so calm”, but we do, we do, we stay calm, believe it or not, and we get our drivers through what they have to get through.

John: It. That’s so cool. I love that perspective. What is one of your favorite racing moments? And it could be from any time in career, or it could be recent, but I’d love to know one of your favorite racing moments.

Tom: I’ve got a couple of them. One is the first race my brother and I won, I was a crew chief for him. It was at Ascot Raceway at Ascot Park… And thats the tradition that Ascot had… They had to shut it down. Right, I think 1994. But what the tradition that race track had, we grew up going to that race track, as fans and then later fielding cars for there. To get a win at Ascot was really cool to get it with my brother as his first win, it was great. And that’s back in the day when they had a trophy girls, and the Friday and Saturday, Friday night was the motorcycle race, usually had a very few trophy girls, Saturday night was the Sprint Cars, CRA. They usually had the ____ ran it and they usually had a very good looking trophy girl, Sunday not so much, so my brother made sure I was the one to kiss the trophy girl and not him that night. A little funny side story, but it was great there, I got a Cup win as a second spotter, I used to be the second spotter for Kyle Busch for a number of years when he was at Hendrick, and when he was at Toyota. And we got a win at night in 2008 at Watkins Glen, and then as a car owner was Scott were the first time we fielded an Xfinity car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we made the race, I think we qualified 27th out of 50 cars, and that was a big accomplishment. Because that was only our second race as a team, we had Kevin Lepage driving, Rick Markle was crew chief, we were a really small underfunded group, and to qualify so well and to make that race was a huge accomplishment, and our little team did pretty well… We weren’t in a position to win races, but we ran quite often top 15 top 25 on the bigger tracks, and we were knowing that when we showed up, that guys were gonna go home. And they groaned when we had our entry in, so we got some respect early and unfortunately with finances and some other items that we just weren’t able to continue after.

John: I really appreciate you, Sharing those, I think that story about your brother is something that we would all want to relate to, and that’s a culmination of that family experience, him getting his first win, and I love you also sharing the rest of those stories with us today. Tom as we kind of come to a close… I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. I wonder, I wonder if you could kind of give our audience a little bit of kind of a recap or some key takeaways from today’s conversation that might help them if they’re… Interested in what it means to be a part of the NASCAR experience. I know you’ve shared so much of that at the beginning of the conversation, and then maybe some key takeaways in terms of why marketing and branding is so important for any business, whether it’s in the NASCAR field, or it’s just in general, because that’s something that we definitely love to help our audience understand the power of marketing and branding.

Key Takeaways on the NASCAR Brand

Tom: Yeah, NASCAR is a great sales tool, being with the team is a great sales tool for a company. NASCAR has traditionally been a great fit with retail organizations or retail products, you look at ____, JTT racing, what they do with the Kroger program, and NASCAR and selling through really, the vendors that pay for that product program and it’s great for incremental sales, so they get a bump in sales if they participate with the team through Kroger and getting in CAPS and super markets, you’re in a vial promotions, that’ll come in with a whole race weekend, for that month, and it’s a race thing that the Kroger puts on and Kroger’s happy with it. Increases their sales, the brands on the car are happy, it increases their sales and it’s all about the money. If people make money, and you can show that they made money at the end of the year, you’ll always have a program. So retail is good. Recruiting is great. I was fortunate to be involved with the US Border Patrol recruiting program, I wrote the RFP for it, I’ve worked with Jay Robinson racing and Stacy Carlson and all the others, Elaine Hughes over there to put that program together and make it work. Derrike Cope was over there for a while as well, who’s my current boss, and again, recruiting, we were able to make it work and we knock it out of the ball park, mainly because the Border Patrol was looking for military type people. We were able to connect with the military bases with people that were opting out of the military or retiring, get them involved with the US Border Patrol. And so when we started, we had an 80% percentile of students they would take… And they’re testing scoring. When we ended the program, they were at 94.5% percentile were above, so we gave them not only more recruits, a better recruit, and to this day it still was the best recruiting program. Going into the future, I think looking at digital, the TV contracts will be coming up in 2024. Everybody says, “Oh boy, that’s gonna be the end of NASCAR.” I certainly disagree, with the way TV has changed with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney. I think there’s a potential for NASCAR to go to the next level financially through these TV programs, because the holy grail for all of television and film is live sports programming, and Amazon doesn’t have that as yet. Netflix has played with volleyball and things like that, and they’ve gotten some pretty good result. So NASCAR will be in a very good position at that point to negotiate deals that could actually be better for not only the organization, but also for the teams. So looking ahead at… Very, very bullish on NASCAR.

John: Well, I love that, and I think like you’ve highlighted the importance of getting your brand out there, telling your story, matching yourself with what’s important and valuable to your audience is really the key in understanding of how you use a medium like NASCAR, a sport like racing or like you said, being visible in front of your customers in a local Kroger. That’s how you leverage partnerships and make sure that your business is getting ahead and being in front of that correct target audience. Well Tom, I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you today, and I can’t thank you enough for coming on board the show.

Tom: My pleasure, thank you again John for having me onboard and enjoy the talk, enjoy the conversation.

John: Absolutely, well I also appreciate you, the audience, for joining us for this episode of Life is Digital. I am your host John Bianchi, please remember to rate, review, and subscribe to the show. Until next time, don’t stop marketing.

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