Enemies Among Us
by Brian C. Mackey
“Jerry Maguire” is one of my favorite movies. Perhaps too much so for I feel that the following “mission statement” may be the kind of haunting naïve position so famed as an integral part of the film. However, as this is my last monthly contribution for a while (for no other reason than I’m running out of things to say), I feel some magnet pulling me toward writing this column.
I am in the business of motorsport marketing. I am the president of a motorsport marketing agency and I have been doing this since 1986. I love racing, or at least used to, and I still love watching the very best in this sport dance the balance between winning and losing in a sport of high achievers, high risk and high adventure.
But there are those within the industry who call themselves “colleagues” that would rather publicly pander to the negatives of this business than promote its virtues. Just like politics, it is always easier and most likely self-serving to point out weaknesses, to elevate the negative in an attempt to influence their own position of power and perceived importance.
Here is why I believe this tactic is not only flawed but also self-defeating for those who commonly practice it and those who listen. Racing is a massive industry and growing larger by the second. As more and more companies, individuals and corporate entities become an integral part of the pie, it is more and more important that all of us involved commonly promote the benefits of this sport rather than focus on undesirable negatives. If the common practice is to point out the weaknesses of the sport, or some part of it, it won’t be long before the lowest common denominator will be its most recognized aspect to even the most casual of observers.
Consider the current open-wheel situation. I remember a year or two ago, I attended a seminar where both CART and IRL gave presentations. Both entities stood before the assembled gathering and earnestly, some might say passionately, tried to distance themselves from the other and provide sales fodder to the idea of sponsoring one series over the other. Now, several years later, I would argue that both entities are more ineffectual in comparison and have a menu of challenges set before them that is far more difficult. Had the practice been initially to look for common interests, to promote the “good” of the open-wheel industry as a whole that they both share, to look beyond the immediate self interests and agenda, I believe that both stood the chance to be in a stronger position today.
In a competitive business like motorsports in general, and within the world of sponsorship in particular, there is a most transparent tendency toward negativism and protectionism. Rest assured, experience tells us all that there is merit to the concern and a reason for the undercurrent of mistrust. Deals get busted, sponsorships get stolen. But on the other hand, for colleagues of this sport to call one another crooks and thieves publicly is a disservice to us all and hurts the overall effectiveness of our collective strength. I understand, perhaps better than most, that there are bad apples among us and none of us are without failures. However, the responsibility of motorsports’ future rests squarely on the shoulders of those willing to accept the challenge. I encourage all to resist splitting our voice among differing factions of motorsport communities in an attempt to gain ground. You don’t often, if ever, hear NASCAR “dissing” CART publicly. It would be counterproductive. Most importantly, their public perception, particularly among corporations, is far more receptive as a result of it. They have not resorted to short term objectives at the cost of long term public civility.
My parting challenge from my monthly column is for all of us to resist the temptation to remind one another of the weaknesses that abound within our sport and splitting our public message among a countless number of motorsport “tribes”. Don’t “bad-mouth” your competition for they share the same passion that brought us all to motorsports in the first place. Those who hear for the first time the negative and cynical message are provided a biased and graceless introduction. It would be refreshing that the whole of us realized that our ultimate self interests are served by setting a positive tone that becomes the common denominator that all will hear.
Having said all that, I think I’m going to change my name to Maguire! See you at the race track and good luck to us all in 2004!