The Power Of A Slick Presentation

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Sometimes, my day job requires me to attend certain lunch functions where I find myself in the company of some of the movers and shakers in the Nashville area. Keep in mind; I’m there to see them. They are not there to see me. I am not in the movers and shakers club. Most of these events hold about as much allure to me as hitting myself in the head with a hammer, but my job requires my presence.

Anyway, a month or so ago – I happened to be sitting at the same table with one of the top-level people at one of Nashville’s largest companies, who I will refer to as Company A. In fact, Nashville is the headquarters for Company A, who has locations all across the nation.

Several years ago, Company A was once a primary sponsor in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Recently, this company chose to sponsor a car in NASCAR. I asked this key person about their decision to go from IndyCar to NASCAR and her answer was surprising.

She said they received a proposal and a subsequent presentation from an IndyCar team, who I’ll simply refer to as Team X, as well as the NASCAR team that they eventually chose. For several reasons, I will not identify any of the parties involved in this post. I never identified myself as a blogger to the exec with Company A, so she assumed everything was off the record. Also, I don’t want to show up Team X and make them look bad. I’m assuming Company A looked at several factors in reaching their decision. They examined TV ratings, attendance figures, fan base demographics and the actual cash outlay per season. But do you know what she said was the determining factor in their final decision? The quality of the presentation.

Fortunately she and I hit it off, which is rare for me in these situations. She allowed me to pick her brain about the whole process, and she was surprisingly candid. As I listened while she berated the team that had given a very sub-par presentation, my mind kept thinking “Shame on Team X”. But as I drove back to my office, my thoughts went another direction; shame on Company A!

In my line of work, we work with job-seekers who have been dislocated by companies shutting their doors or having mass layoffs. Twenty-year employees are suddenly thrust into the job market with no idea how to look for a new job, much less how to interview. We also work with employers to train them to focus on the candidate and not their expertise at interviewing. Many outstanding candidates are overlooked because they interview poorly. Conversely, there are many people who have superb interviewing skills but make lousy employees.

It could be that Company A made the correct decision for their particular brand. But I seriously hope that the overriding factor was not that Team X did not have as slick of a presentation as the NASCAR team that eventually landed the sponsorship. The team-owner of Team X led the IndyCar presentation, while the NASCAR presentation was led by a staffer who was accustomed to these type presentations. The NASCAR team-owner was present if needed, but did not take part in the presentation.

This could serve as a cautionary tale for IndyCar teams going forward. One can probably assume that Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport all have the staff and know-how to put together the proper type of presentations that companies are looking for. But what about the Dale Coynes of the world, or the Bryan Hertas that are in the paddock?

I use those names hypothetically only to demonstrate the other end of the IndyCar spectrum. Do former or current drivers like Coyne, Herta, Ed Carpenter or Sarah Fisher have the business acumen or the resources required to do a proper boardroom presentation that seems to be expected in today’s business climate? I can’t say one way or the other.

But this much I do know. This top-level person from Company A talked all through our lunch about how Team X blundered their way through their presentation to the point it was almost comical. When Team X was done, they all chuckled amongst themselves afterwards. She described the final decision as a no-brainer once it was time to choose.

I’m wondering if this was an isolated incident. Was this just a case of Team X having a bad day? Or is this the disparity between the haves and have-nots, not only within IndyCar but between IndyCar and NASCAR?

I would like to think that companies are not that short-sighted that they cannot look past a slick presentation or a bungled one, and make a more informed decision based on facts and other concrete evidence. But companies are run by humans and humans can be lazy and superficial. They don’t want to dig through all the minutia of facts and figures. They would rather see the bells and whistles of a slick PowerPoint presentation and whatever else is thrown at companies these days.

If business deals are conducted every day with parties and entertainment with visits to luxury suites and gold outings, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that multi-million dollar sponsorship deals are based on who does the slickest presentation.

My takeaway from this whole conversation with the person from Company A is that the most valued employee of a team may not be the driver, the engineer nor the team strategist. It may be the marketing professional that is able to deliver the slick presentations that companies are expecting. Most of the smaller budget teams cannot afford to have such a person on staff or even contracted out. They apparently wing it themselves and hope for the best.

But in this new racing age and economic environment, can even the small budget teams afford not to have the marketing professional on staff any longer? It’s the old chicken or the egg question, but investing in this position may pay off in droves down the road. Of course, finding the initial way to pay for someone like this is the biggest question teams would face. And that is just one of many dilemmas facing the cash-crunched IndyCar team of today.

George Phillips

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11 Responses to “The Power Of A Slick Presentation”

  1. Unfortunately, many executives equate the quality of the presentation with the quality of the team as a whole. Most executives got into that position based on their ability to make good presentations, and they tend to value those skills as being basic to an individual’s (or team’s) value. As an engineer who worked his entire career in corporations led by Marketing departments I saw this throughout my career. It’s not what you know, but how you present that matters.

    A team should go into a presentation showing the would-be sponsor just what the sponsorship would do for the sponsor – not what it will do for the team. Wall Street has drummed the short – term mentality into corporations, so they want to see what a sponsorship will mean to them THIS quarter, and certainly this year. A slipshod presentation that wanders aimlessly will be an insult, and a waste of their valuable time.

  2. Such a sad story. You seem to use “slick” as a pejorative. It’s more than “slick marketing.” When you’re asking someone for a million dollars or more, don’t show up with a junior high-level power point show. Having the amateur team make a presentation does not inspire confidence in the company as a whole. In fact, because IndyCar’s stats pale in comparison to NASCAR, there’s MORE pressure on the presentation to make up for that deficit. There’s a good reason why Nike and Coke and NASCAR invest in marketing and don’t just hire a junior high video production class to shoot their commercials.

  3. Anyone spending valuable corporate dollars has to answer to their supervisors and ultimately the stock holders. Making a good presentation assists the professional in justifying the expense.

    If the presentation by Team X was done as poorly as it apparently was, how could Company A possibly consider them? How do they justify it to management and to stockholders?

    Indycar has its own issues beyond this presentation. You have got to be able to deal with those. That puts the Indycar team in a tougher position before they even walk in the door. They have to be on their A game.

    Like you say, some of the best potential employees are overlooked because they don’t interview as well as others. Unfortunately its a fact of life. I don’t think you can blame Company A for their decision. Honestly, how could they justify choosing otherwise?

  4. I do think I have the parties involved figured out after some thinking, which was fun to work through! Anyways, I can understand some of where George is coming from here personally. I am not really a flashy person, very simple and honest. I can be fun but quiet. Anyways, I was told by someone once “you are smarter than many of your peers but they are more confident about a wrong answer than you are about a thought-out right answer”.

    Maybe that is what makes me an Indycar fan 🙂 But I think I see where this would happen. My best buddy who my wife calls “shady as hell” is extremely successful. He barely finished high school but he is a salesman. He sells cable services for the largest monopoly in cable and makes a low 6 figure salary. I have 2 bachelors degrees and I am more calculated with risks, always complete my work accurately and I am honest. I make not even half of what he does. He makes empty promises, doesn’t call people back who can’t offer him a return he deems acceptable, cheats on his sales sheets (and wife sometimes). But he looks better than I do in a suit and is more confident. He wins, I lose. That is exactly what I see here…..

    • Bruce Waine Says:

      Give us a report back in a few years ……. Your stable status ………. And his ? ? status and whereabouts.

  5. billytheskink Says:

    Professionalism and quality in presentations are important, and it is understandable why Company A made the decision they did. A presentation, after all, is meant to be a representation of the quality of your work and the organization that you represent.

    Perhaps this is an area in which the series can help the teams. Not to solicit sponsorship for them directly, which would be quite unfair to teams that do have success finding sponsors, but to provide some tools and training to help improve the quality of their sponsorship solicitations. This should be open to all teams, not just those that are unable to afford much in the way of marketing personnel (though they would be the primary target).

  6. In the business world professionalism is expected, along with respect for the time of busy people. A sloppy presentation which doesn’t look prepared fails in both of these.
    As stated above those being presented to need to quickly the value for them.
    The keys when presenting are to have a clear vision of what you have to offer and why it will benefit those being presented to, and effectively convey that message.
    The presentation doesn’t necessarily have to be “slick” but it must be clean, concise, and presented with confidence.
    There are companies who provide great assistance in the area of marketing at very, very reasonable rates for those open to learning what they do not know, rather than just staying with the familiar, and the known names.
    Professional doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be effective.

  7. hey George. yes I think anything would be helpful. along with some race promoters who know how to promote the seris as well would help .

  8. Sad to see Dollar General go to Nascar; as a primary sponsor no less

    • Bruce Waine Says:

      Simple explanation……..

      Regular weekend visibility & national audience……… INDY Car Series or NASCAR ? ?

      NASCAR ! !

  9. First impressions last a lifetime. If you cannot nail the marketing presentation, how good is your race prep going to be? How good will your attention to detail be when it comes to the hospitality tent?

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