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Volume 20 No. 42
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Plugged In: Steve Lauletta, Ganassi Racing

Steve Lauletta worked in sponsorship management at Miller Brewing Co. and consulting at the Radiate Agency before taking his current job as president of Ganassi Racing. Over a lunch of butternut squash soup and a Caesar salad, he spoke about the business of NASCAR, his approach to business and decision-making.

The runway to make the sport [of NASCAR] as a whole more efficient is getting smaller. If you’re lucky to keep your sponsorship revenue flat or to grow it a little bit, most teams would be happy with that. But costs are growing more than that. At some point, something’s going to give.

The state of sponsorship in NASCAR:
here’s definitely been a value adjustment because of the decline in ratings and the fact that there has been fewer people in the grandstands, so the visibility part of the equation has sort of leveled out. Our challenge has been to find other assets and value to keep the whole where it’s at. There might have been an adjustment on the value of what the logo on the hood means, but there are a lot of other things you can do as a team to deliver value to a partner. Business-to-business is a good one to dig into.

The motorsports industry needs to do a better job of:
If we can get to a point of more collaboration, so that we’re helping each other, we can grow as a whole. That’s one of the challenges I see having come from stick-and-ball sports my whole career. They are happy to share information with each other. When the Chicago Bears come up with a good idea, they can share it with the Atlanta Falcons. They’re not beating each other up in the same market. We’ve historically been close to the vest because we’ve said, “You might take my sponsor.” There’s a lot more collaboration now [in motorsports], but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be.

One way to approach business: I’ve always been very high on a test-and-learn approach to business. You come up with an idea, test it as quick as you can, learn from it and decide whether you want to implement it all the way. If you talk to some of these sanctioning bodies and we come up with an idea, my idea is, “Let’s do it this weekend.” A lot of times we don’t have that quick action. I’m not saying it’s the right way, but it’s the way I’ve always done it. That’s always proven to be effective.

An area of frustration: I see a lack of urgency to change things. That’s motorsports in general. There are a lot of smart people in the business with a lot of good ideas and to get them implemented is difficult. There’s a forum to discuss ideas, but the decision making isn’t like the NFL where there’s an owners meeting. We have to rely on the sanctioning bodies — NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA, Grand-Am — and they all realize these decisions need to be made quicker than they are.