SBJ/November 21-27, 2011/People and Pop Culture

Kim Brink, managing director, brand and consumer marketing, NASCAR

Marketer swaps wheels, from GM to NASCAR

Kim Brink spent seven years overseeing advertising for Chevrolet, including memorable campaigns such as “Like a Rock,” and worked with properties ranging from the Olympics to NASCAR. She recently left her position at General Motors to join NASCAR as managing director, brand and consumer marketing. In that role, she will be charged with helping increase the diversity of the sport’s fan base and tasked with finding new, young fans. She recently spoke to staff writer Tripp Mickle about her transition.

What is the biggest challenge you anticipate facing in your new position?
Maintaining that passionate fan base while trying to find a younger and more diverse audience. I was in a similar situation when I was ad director at Cadillac. With the new look of the car and new design of the car, we had to keep the same owner base but also try to find a younger owner. 

What is the biggest professional risk you've taken?
When Cadillac’s image needed to be transformed, we needed a new advertising campaign and we signed Led Zeppelin for the music and theme of that campaign, which was called Break Through. It was such a departure for Cadillac at the time. 

What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
When I was at Chevrolet as the advertising director in December 2003, we launched 10 products over 20 months under a campaign we called “American Revolution.” We returned Chevrolet to sales leadership after a 19-year hiatus.

What is your biggest professional disappointment?
General Motors going bankrupt. It was a very, very hard time. If you asked me what was the best learning in my career, it would be that process. But for all of us that had worked on that brand, it was a severe disappointment. We had to present creative to the Treasury Department. You had people micromanaging every move you made.

While you were at GM, what was the most fun sports property to work with from a marketing perspective? And why?
NASCAR was without a doubt the best-returning sports investment in terms of return on investment. … And also the Olympics. That’s because you have such an American brand like Cadillac or Chevrolet and it was cool over a two-week time frame to launch new creative or cars on a global stage.

While at GM, you ran an ad during the Super Bowl created by a 19-year-old. What’s your take on user-created advertising? Good for the business? Bad for the business? And why?
We were trying to understand how the youth mind-set thinks. How would they launch and market cars? … It was less about the ad she did and a lot about the PR around it. We got a ton of press. I thought it was a very good investment.

What career advice do you have for people wanting to get into marketing?
Appreciate creativity and be fearless.

What is one element that you would like to change about the sports industry?
It seems like it’s still a male-dominated category. I would like to see more diversity in the decision-making and recognition of the fan base.

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