The Power Of A Slick Presentation
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.