SBJ/Feb. 17-23, 2014/In Depth

NASCAR COO Dewar finding his groove

For a NASCAR rookie, Brent Dewar knows the stock-car racing world pretty well. He joined the sanctioning body as chief operating officer in December after spending the past year as a consultant to NASCAR Chairman Brian France. Before that, Dewar worked for 32 years at General Motors, where he learned the value of NASCAR while running the Chevrolet division and later presiding over GM’s $3 billion annual media budget.

Dewar recently spoke with SportsBusiness Journal about his new position and where he’s focusing his attention.


ON HIS NASCAR ROLE: I’m running the business aspect, which is the sales, service and marketing operations of the business. Mike Helton as the president is leading the competition side of it. He and I are partners; we work very closely and we both report to Brian France.

Dewar became familiar with NASCAR during a lengthy career with General Motors.
Photo by: NASCAR
ON THE NEW PLAYOFF SYSTEM EMPHASIZING WINNING RACES OVER CONSISTENCY:
I had a lot of conversations with [Brian France] when I was on the [carmaker] side and then on the consulting side. The need to drive change, the right level of change, to keep the sport vibrant — that’s what this has been about. Although I’m joining new, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the very strong leadership team that he’s put in place that’s been driving this innovation, whether it’s on the digital side or whether it’s on the competition side.

And as a consultant, I worked closely with Mike on some of the changes on the competition side the last year. Complacency gets you in the wrong place. Everybody’s looking to innovate further. We’ve got great broadcast partners and they’re looking not to stay status quo. They’re looking to innovate as our track partners, as are we. That’s what great companies do.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE 10-YEAR CONTRACT WITH FOX AND NBC THAT BEGINS IN 2015: This is a sports culture and we’re fortunate to be part of the sports culture. Look at all of the major sports, and we’re one of them. And [we have] great partners currently and great partners moving forward.

It allows access to our sport, to many households. What we’ve learned is it’s just not at the track or the broadcast. It’s everything. It’s just like media. You don’t just read a magazine or just listen to radio or just watch TV.

Media comes in all forms and you need to be consumer-centric. These new broadcast deals are the validation of the importance of the sport. If there’s a key word to all of this it’s innovation. You’re seeing innovation at the tracks; if you don’t get to go to the track, you can watch it on broadcast, and if you can’t make it to the broadcast or at the track, you connect through digital.

ON LEARNING NASCAR FROM THE INSIDE: I think the strategy has been well thought out over the last four years. We’re at various stages of implementation. I think the Industry Action Plan is a work in progress. My role is to keep that going and further enhance it as we go forward.

So my skill set is working across functions. That’s what I can bring to it. The first 120 days, I’m meeting all the stakeholders, whether it’s [the carmakers], the broadcast partners, internal staff or sponsors.

So I’m spending the first 120 days out of the office, seeing as many people as I can. I’m doing more listening than talking. … To be an effective COO, I should be able to hear those inputs and help make the engine fire on all cylinders a little bit better.

ON COMPETITION FOR THE ATTENTION OF SPORTS FANS: We’ve got to continue to not rest on our laurels. For the fan that’s brought us [to where we are] the last 50 years, we need to bring them with us. And we need to be engaging and thoughtful to the casual fan. Product relevance, the Gen 6 [car], focusing on the entertainment of the show at the event, social media or digital, not waiting [for the fans] to come to us.

It’s very difficult ... but it’s part of our challenge and assignment to get fans to stay connected.

ON BRINGING IN NEWER AND YOUNGER FANS: It’s a work in progress. Part of the challenge of any sport, any company, is to keep your core fan and attract the new fans. Millennials, we have to make sure we’re relevant, the connection points we use is where we go. That’s a long-term plan. You don’t change your demographics in a week.

Erik Spanberg writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.

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