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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 15, 2018
THE MODERATOR: We have some special guests with us today celebrating a milestone. Daytona is a place where there are lots of milestones, particularly this year. None bigger than what we're about to learn about right now, which is XFINITY's 100th race. We have a short video to tee that up.
THE MODERATOR: Here to talk more about Comcast's and XFINITY's time in our sport, XFINITY is proudly our series entitlement sponsor and also the official entertainment provider of NASCAR. With us today from Comcast is Matt Lederer, executive director of partnership marketing. To his left, NASCAR senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Jill Gregory.
They're also joined by champions that have made their name in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Chris Buescher, Daniel Suarez, William Byron, and Christopher Bell, last year's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, who will start his first full‑time season this Saturday in the XFINITY Series.
Matt, 100 races, what does that mean to Comcast?
MATT LEDERER: It's exciting. Thanks for having us here. It's always great to be back here at Daytona.
I think back to the first race, having no idea what we got ourselves into, or candidly, what we were doing. To see this come around, us have 99 races. When we figured out this was number 100, we were kind of in awe.
When I sit back and think about everything that went into it, I look at all the work that my great team I have back in Philadelphia, our agency partners, what really hits me is the amount of relationships we've built. That's been the hallmark of our success, whether that is with our broadcast partners, our media partners, the track partners, the drivers here.
The time that these guys have spent for us, the way they've embraced our brand, we make them come into conference rooms, sit down, take one‑hour brand training exercises. They do it willingly, then live it for us. It's been amazing to see.
Our partners at NASCAR. We don't do a lot of long‑term deals. This is a 10‑year deal. This is year four. We have more than a hundred races left to go. We don't do those very often. They're scary for us because our business changes and our business evolves almost on a daily basis.
What NASCAR does for us, they've shown it the way they've evolved this series, whether it be the driver participation, the Playoff format, the series logo, leaning in more to Names Are Made Here, the platform evolved so well. Whether it's us wanting to use NASCAR to talk about our video product the way we have the last three years, touting XFINITY X1, changing the way you experience NASCAR, or more this year seeing us leaning into our Internet product, the fastest Internet in America.
There seems to be a connection there, speed and NASCAR, but it's there. It's a platform that allows us to do this. It doesn't concern us that we have six years left or whatever it is because we know it's going to evolve. We know as our business changes, the NASCAR platform is going to allow us as brand marketers to get that message out naturally.
The other thing I look back on and look forward to growing is how we've been able to use this massive platform. We were looking today at the partner summit. To see 58 million viewers, billions on social, the digital growth. To be able to use this platform as a company and take it and give back to the community, from a Comcast brand standpoint, that's been amazing.
Our Comcast Champion of the Year platform is without a doubt the proudest thing we do, not only in NASCAR, but in all of our partnerships. The support you have given us, the drivers have given us, the industry, we can't thank everybody enough for that. We're very thankful.
We're in awe that our brand is celebrating a 100th race at Daytona. How cool is that? We're really excited about the next 100, 200 plus races left.
THE MODERATOR: 100 races ago, it was a big shift for NASCAR. You've done so much on your activation.
Also, Jill, we shifted in our positioning of this series, Names Are Made Here. Talk a little bit about how the series and its competition has lived up to that positioning that you helped steer.
JILL GREGORY: I could talk about how we've lived up to the Names Are Made Here, but you can see next to me, sitting here, those are the proof points. The drivers that are making their mark in our sport are racing in the XFINITY Series.
I think to Matt's point earlier, we sat down with XFINITY as a partner, they may not have known what to do in NASCAR, but they knew how they wanted to build their business and help us support this series. That was at a time when we were looking to kind of bolster the identity of the series. So they've been fantastic partners with us on and off the track to do that.
We work with them day in and day out on not just how we market the series and market to their customers, but also some of the competition changes that you've seen, different tweaks that we've made to the formats, Matt and his team have been right at the table with us. It's been a huge partnership.
Matt and his team have always been very involved in the Names Are Made Here positioning. It's great to see it come to life with the drivers on my left.
THE MODERATOR: To those drivers on your left, we've all watched you climb the ladder here in NASCAR. It would be great to hear from each of you about what your favorite memory from the series was.
CHRIS BUESCHER: For me, the 2015 season, my favorite memory was, I'm sure we'll all say the same thing, but winning a championship in one of the top divisions of NASCAR, getting to do it with XFINITY coming in as a new partner for that season, made for a lot of fun.
I learned a lot that season, as well as I think everyone at XFINITY did, as well. I was able to go to the racetrack, really realize how much they were trying to rejuvenate the title sponsorship of the series, trying to make it into something that we recognize and push the Names Are Made Here brand. It was something that really got me heading in the right direction.
The championship year there, we got to the end of it, the only one without a Chase, that was a little bit different than it is now. The nerves were no different there at the end, I can promise you that.
Post Homestead, getting to go to Philadelphia and get to meet everybody with Comcast and XFINITY, tour the city, was one of the coolest backstage access deals I've ever gotten to be a part of. Gotten to do a lot of cool things since, but that was one of the more in‑depth.
Really appreciative of everything they've done for our sport. Glad we can say we're going to be seeing you for another couple hundred more. Just appreciate the opportunity to get to have my year there. Looking forward to coming back and making some more races as we can make it happen.
THE MODERATOR: Daniel, your favorite NASCAR XFINITY Series memory for you?
DANIEL SUAREZ: I guess I'm going to sound a little boring, but you can't win championships every year. The way that we were able to get it done, it was in the first year of the new format of Playoffs. That year was so competitive. I mean, I just feel like we were in the position where whoever was going to be able to win everything was going to win the championship. Luckily everything work out well for us. Winning the pole position, the most laps, win the race, win the championship. It was a perfect weekend for us. Definitely that would be a weekend that I will never forget.
As well, in the beginning of my career in the XFINITY Series, making that step from the K&N Series, which I didn't have a lot of experience. Everything in my career has been happening quick. I didn't have any idea what I was doing the first year, 2015. Things ended up working out well. That year was special for that reason, as well.
I feel like maybe one of the most learning years that I have had in my career so far. Obviously that gave us the opportunity to fight for a championship in 2016.
Just excited to be here, excited to put my name in that list of Names Are Made Here. I'm going to be racing this Saturday afternoon, so I'm still excited of every time that Joe Gibbs, my team, Coach Gibbs, asks me the question if I want to keep racing XFINITY. I don't wait two seconds to say, Yeah, put me in the car, we'll be having some fun.
Excited to be here in the race week.
THE MODERATOR: William, it feels like only a few days since you stepped out of the car as an XFINITY Series champion. Talk about your favorite memory.
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, obviously just like these guys said, the biggest memory you have is that championship. But I think some of the things that XFINITY did for us that were really cool during the year were the Dash 4 Cash race, being able to run for that, have some incentive outside of just winning the race.
When some of the Cup guys were in the race, it gave us a chance to race against our competitors. The format this year was really cool with having to be the top two in the first stage, then be the top two in the second stage, go after it in the third one. That was pretty neat.
I would say that was cool, winning the Dash 4 Cash at Dover. Then the wins we had, the way XFINITY was able to market myself and other drivers, kind of get us out in the spotlight, bridge the gap between us and the Cup Series, was really important.
Obviously the XFINITY championship was the coolest part of last year. I always look back on that as something that I'll keep in mind. You never have a chance to really do that again. That was really special.
THE MODERATOR: Christopher, you're taking a big step in your rookie season. Talk about what you're looking forward to.
CHRISTOPHER BELL: It's special to be a part of XFINITY's 100th race. I remember watching the first race a couple years ago. It's pretty special to be a part of it. The Names Are Made Here slogan is perfect. I want to follow in these guys' footsteps and create my own name.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody. We'll open it up for questions here in the media center.
Q. Matt, in the current business environment, some teams have to run different drivers during different races. I'm not even talking about Cup drivers. What is the challenge in branding when in the case you might have a winner who does a one‑off, road course win?
MATT LEDERER: It's a great question. It takes a lot of pre‑season communication with the teams. We had, I'll forget the number, but a couple dozen drivers last week as an example in Charlotte. We did a photo shoot. Christopher was there. We had them come in and train. There are some guys that are not going to be there full‑time, they're running a handful of races.
It is part of the relationship we have created with the teams to get ahead of it. It's been a change for us because as marketers we don't look at those types of things. To understand who is going to race, those are marketing platforms for us.
It's that early pre‑season communication. Unfortunately sometimes we don't know that till two weeks before Daytona. Sometimes even shorter. Sometimes during the season.
We have great relationships with the teams. We just leverage those.
Q. Matt, do you feel like you put all this work into these guys, make them names, then they run off and join the Cup Series?
MATT LEDERER: No. We love it. It's a testament to what we're doing. Also candidly, when they go to the Cup Series, have success, they know who we are. They know what our brand is. Not only are we the series partner, we're the official entertainment provider of NASCAR. As we want to do things and grow into the Cup Series, we don't have to reeducate these guys too much. We love it.
I remember each of these guys' different moments, but in 2016, watching William I think in the K&N. It was in Dover. You clinched your championship there. I said, We're going to hand that kid a trophy, when we do, we're never going to see him in our series again.
But that's a good thing. We want those types of stories. The success they have on the Cup side helps us.
JILL GREGORY: I think it's also a testament to Matt and his team that they invested time to make these relationships early. I think it was really important when they joined to build team relationships, to get to know the drivers, wish them well as they moved on.
I put a lot of credit to you, Peter. You're much more than just a series partner, you've really invested your time into making the relationships that I think are so important.
Q. Matt, when you look at metrics, seeing what you're getting for what you're spending, is television still the number one thing you look at?
MATT LEDERER: I wouldn't say we rank it. Television is part of it. We absolutely look at viewership. We don't look at it necessarily from a rating standpoint, although we're always very happy to know where NASCAR ranks over the weekend versus other sports.
We will do a lot of measurement to our customers, our potential customers. If you're a NASCAR fan, are you aware of our partnership? How has that changed your consideration of our brand? Are you likely to recommend... All of those metrics, in addition to evaluating the brand exposure we're getting.
Another thing we didn't touch on is the Comcast business or B‑to‑B element here. There's a lot of brands in the world of NASCAR. We've been able to forge relationships on that side, where some brands are now customers of ours. We have a great partnership through Joe Gibbs where FedEx is a Comcast business customer.
Our quarterly reporting is a very long meeting. There's a lot of different things that go into it.
Q. Matt, how do you quantify this? We know the audience is digesting sports differently. How do you quantify that in order to present it to those partners and show the value of your sponsorship?
MATT LEDERER: What I'll often talk about is it's an equation. All of our partnerships are equations. There's not one thing. If viewership is flat or going down, that's going down. How are you driving your social engagement, digital, B‑to‑B, how are we doing in terms of selling on‑site to our customers, how are we rewarding our current customers?
It's not one metric. It's a summation of all these things. Sometimes it's a challenge. People will say, We saw a story, your ratings are down X. This isn't working.
No, there's a lot more to this, not just NASCAR, all of our partnerships, that sum up to that ROI story.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports