ATLANTA Michael Holigan knew if he was going to make his stock car team a reality, he'd have to do it bigger and better than anyone else.
That's why he packaged a race car, a motocross team and a television show into a single project.
"My background is media," the home builder said. "If someone wants a big audience, that's my specialty."
And it proved to be the hook that helped him land the necessary sponsorship to get his NASCAR Busch Series and AMA Supercross team off the ground.
At a time when about half of the Busch Series teams are woefully under-funded or without any backing, Holigan managed to land Enzyte as a sponsor for his new team. Truck racer David Starr is the driver, and he's also one of the stars for Holigan's weekly "The Reality of Speed" show, which airs every Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on Spike TV.
Holigan, who also has appears on the "Your New House" series, knew it was prohibitive for a start-up operation to find sponsorship in NASCAR, so he created the weekly reality series and sold it as a package. Enzyte, which has jumped into the fertile male enhancement market, bought into the creative plan for the stock car team; Samsung and RadioShack bought into the motocross team.
Enzyte gets its name and logo splashed across the television screen throughout the television show. Andy success Starr has on the racetrack, Holigan said, would be a bonus.
"Sponsoring a race team and activating that race team is Marketing 404," Holigan said. "When you talk to a lot of people in this sport, they're Marketing 101. It's amazing how many people in this business don't have any idea how to activate their sponsorships.
"You have to look at your whole marketing program, not just the race team. The idea is to increase sales and build your brand."
With sponsorships costing in the $12 million-to-$15 million range, Holigan decided to make his splash on the Busch Series circuit where costs are considerably less. While his reality racing show will run every week, his race team only has plans to make 15 starts on the junior circuit.
"I don't know how (other sponsors) make those kinds of numbers work," Holigan said. "The question becomes: If I have $12 million, what would that buy me? At the racetrack, you're against 42 other cars and all the other (commercial) sponsors. There are plenty of cars out there to sponsor, but how many get any real exposure? With our television show, Enzyte, Samsung and RadioShack get full exposure."
Holigan used to sponsor Jerry Nadeau's Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports on the Nextel Cup Series through his on-line home building services. He said it was a good tool to market his company, but he figured there were ways to make it even better.
"When I was with Hendrick, I hung out at the shop and saw what happens at the shop," Holigan said. "I thought then that would be a good idea for a TV show. When I decided to become a team owner, I still had that idea in the back of my head."
There are cameras mounted inside the stock car and motocross shops. Crews are being filmed throughout the day as they prepare cars and motorcycles for the next race.
"It's different when you walk into the race shop and there are cameras everywhere," Starr said. "The guys in the shop are in there getting dirty and thrashing away at these race cars and trying to get them ready. You'll see tempers flare or a dirty word will fly and they'll catch it right there on TV. You're going to see stuff you wouldn't normally see at the race track."
"You see the good, the bad, the ugly of what it takes to make one of these," Holigan said.
As the owner of a company, Holigan knew how tough it was for Hendrick to get his foot in the door to deliver a sales pitch. That's why he had to approach sponsors in a different manner.
"If I didn't have my own TV show, I would not be racing with Enzyte," he said. "I had no track record. You can't cold-call a company any more. I had to go in with something bigger and better than anyone else just to get their attention."
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