Insight: Planning Andretti’s Sports Marketing promotional efforts at Miami and NOLA

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Yesterday saw the circuit unveil for the FIA Formula E Championship’s Miami ePrix, one of two events Andretti Sports Marketing is promoting that occur in the next six months.

As MotorSportsTalk chronicled throughout 2014 in the run-up to Milwaukee IndyFest, the buildup to an event is something that takes dedicated months of planning before being executed.

With a chance to look back on how Milwaukee was promoted this year and a look ahead to these next two races, we spoke with Andretti Sports Marketing president John Lopes about the challenges and excitement of promoting its two newest events: the Miami ePrix on March 14, and the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana on April 12.

“Each event is a different challenge,” Lopes told MST in an interview at the Andretti Sports Marketing headquarters in Indianapolis. “Promotions are inherently local by their nature. In the case of NOLA, it’s local to Louisiana and the region east and south. In case of Miami, it’s southeast U.S. and global.

“We are really stoked about that race (in New Orleans),” he added. “From the moment we met Laney Chouest, we know Laney and the people who work there are totally wired in that community. So we don’t have a problem of credibility.”

That dovetailed into a conversation about the promotion of the Baltimore races, which Andretti’s group picked up late summer 2012 before promoting the Labor Day event on short notice.

A breakout on why Baltimore didn’t work could serve as a standalone piece (and will at a later date on MotorSportsTalk).

However, while Lopes said it was an incredible effort to get that race to even happen both in 2012 and 2013, the challenges in dealing with scheduling, logistics, different tax zones and a lack of real community support ultimately doomed the race.

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GP of NOLA logo.

Instant Andretti name credibility in New Orleans, Lopes said, should pay immediate dividends.

“So you go to New Orleans, and you see a track owner fully committed to the state, to philanthropy; and he pours $70 million into a track people said couldn’t be built,” Lopes explained. “So we come in and hear, ‘Oh, you’re affiliated with NOLA? Oh, you know Laney Chouest? Oh you’re from Andretti? We’re stoked!!’”

Lopes said NOLA is a very important market, considering where it sits geographically.

“If you think about it, that track sits in a state with no professional auto racing,” he said. “Then the closest thing to the east is Barber or Talladega. The closest to the west is COTA or Texas Motor Speedway. So that’s a huge chunk of space of underserviced motorsports fans, and more importantly, festival fans.”

A staff that includes Tim Ramsberger, David Goldwater and Lopes leading the marketing and corporate side of affairs has already made key strides in an area where an event needs to succeed: corporate suite sales.

“Corporate sales have been great,” Lopes said. “We haven’t started ticket sales yet, but suite sales are off the hook.”

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Photo: FIA Formula E

As for Miami, which occurs a month earlier and is one of the final rounds in the inaugural FIA Formula E season, Lopes said there aren’t the traditional market challenges for this race because it’s not being marketed as a traditional race.

“This isn’t so much about an auto race as a festival of all things green and eco-friendly,” Lopes explained. “The goal is to promote the green lifestyle, the e-village aspect of what we’re doing. We’re in-and-out one day.

“We’re not trying to compete, and we’re not even trying to appear to compete with any other motorsports initiatives in Florida. It’s about electric cars and electric green life.”

There’s also the added bonus for Andretti Sports Marketing of it being its first FIA-sanctioned event it is promoting.

“For us it’s very cool because we are now able to promote an FIA World Championship event,” he said. “Miami is a tougher market (than NOLA). It’s urban, so it has all those particular trappings, interrupting streets, railroad tracks, and construction. But Formula E is very supportive, and Beijing has shown it can and will happen.”

After eating just one chip, NHRA drag racer says: ‘I seriously thought I was going to die’

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Editor’s note: Due to rain, Sunday’s final eliminations of the NHRA Carolina Nationals have been postponed to Monday morning at 10 a.m. ET. In the meantime, check out this rather unusual tale:

Remember the old Lays Potato Chips commercial from back in the 1980s that bragged “No one can eat just one”?

Well, ask NHRA Pro Stock driver Alex Laughlin and a few members of his team, and they’ll tell you they learned a very valuable lesson that there indeed IS a chip that you can only eat one of.

According to NHRA’s National Dragster, Laughlin and Elite Motorsports crew members Chase Freeman, Kelly Murphy and Brian Cunningham took part Friday night in the Paqui One Chip Challenge.

If you haven’t heard of the Challenge, Paqui Chips has produced a tortilla chip that the company boldly claims is the hottest chip ever made anywhere in the world. The secret is the “Carolina Reaper” pepper, considered the hottest chili pepper in the world, with a rating of 1.9 million Scoville units, according to PuckerButt Pepper Company.

How hot is 1.9 million Scoville units? Let’s put it this way: the Devil might even have a hard time taking this kind of heat. By comparison, a Jalapeno pepper only reaches 10,000 units on the Scoville rating. 

So while they were enjoying some downtime Friday night after the first two rounds of qualifying for the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina (suburban Charlotte), Laughlin and Co. paid $30 for one chip – you read that right, $30 for one chip, it’s THAT hot – and thought they could take the heat.

They thought wrong.

“This is the hottest chip in the world,” Laughlin said on an Instagram post that documented the entire experience, adding a warning, “What to expect: Mouth on fire, short-term loss of speech, impaired vision from tears, extreme profanity — or death.”

View this post on Instagram

Never. Ever. Again.

A post shared by Alex Laughlin (@alexlaughlin40) on

 

Laughlin’s post also includes several reader comments that Laughlin and his crew should have had milk on hand instead of water to try and cool things down because milk has a natural antidote to cool your mouth down after eating hot food.

Sunday morning, with his mouth and throat still a bit sore, Laughlin recalled the red-hot episode to National Dragster’s Kevin McKenna:

Never again. Never. Ever. Ever,” Laughlin told McKenna. “It was definitely not the smartest thing I’ve ever done.

One of our guys showed me a You Tube video and it looked like it wasn’t going to be too bad. I like spicy food and it’s usually never a problem. I’ve been to those places with hot wings where you have to sign a waiver before you eat them and that’s never been a problem.

But this? This is on a whole different level. I thought it might last ten minutes. Fourteen hours later, I was still in bad shape. I woke up at 3 a.m. and Googled “internal bleeding.” I seriously thought I was going to die. We all did.”

So if the heat from the chip was off the hotness Richter scale, where did the stunt rank on Laughlin’s own personal Richter scale?

I’ve done some dumb things, but this is right up there.

Well, I really didn’t think it would be that bad,” Laughlin told McKenna with a shrug. “I mean, it’s just one tortilla chip. Like I said, I can usually eat stuff that other people won’t eat, but I had no idea what I was in for.

“I’ve done some dumb things, but this is right up there.”

If you’re up for another challenge in the future that involves eating hot food, Alex, here’s a suggestion: Even though it’s a few years old now, maybe you should try the Ice Bucket Challenge (but fill it with milk) to cool down quick. Just a thought.

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