We all have our own agenda at the PRI Trade Show. Some of us go to check out the new and latest technology. Some of us go to get some sort of racing fix during the off season. Some of us go to make connections, look for sponsors, and potentially get product.
In 2008, I was in the third category on that list. Well before my days in ink at Circle Track I was working for the Midwestern-based Mid-American Stock Car Series. If there was ever a real “break” in my racing industry career, it started there. What began with announcing for the series, turned into writing, then public relations, then marketing (which is a funny idea in racing that will someday get its own column). So as the new “marketer” for the series at age 23, I was tasked to go to my first PRI Show and get some stuff accomplished.
Having just finished one college degree and getting ready to start on another, I was all about going to Florida (the show was still in Orlando at the time) during the cold Wisconsin winter months. However, I knew there was some business to take care of if I wanted to validate my trip and have the opportunity to go again. So I set out to make my first PRI Show as successful as it possibly could be.
The first thing I did was grab the PRI Show Guide and start digging for companies I already knew – companies that would make good contingent partners or possibly even that title sponsor we were hoping to find. With my dad’s help I made an extensive list of companies, booth #s, names of the contacts, and what I had hoped we might be able to get from them for the series.
I felt fairly confident that my plan of attack would work and that I would be walking out with loads of new sponsors, and maybe even a shot at a title sponsor. When I hit the show floor I’ll admit I felt a little shocked at what I really was up against. PRI is not speed dating for racers (or series) and sponsors. It’s definitely not trick-or-treating for free product either. It’s a chance for companies (who pay very good money to be there) to introduce and sell product. Thankfully I figured that out quickly and decided to adjust my approach.
My list soon turned from a “let’s land this sponsor” list to a “let’s make this connection” list. I found my booths, sought out business cards and catalogs, made my introduction, and left my proposal with those companies I wanted to hit. Later I would learn that leaving the proposal really isn’t something that is necessary – or actually all that great of an idea – at PRI. Those businesses are bombarded with dozens of proposals that either land in the trash or get “filed” to be “reviewed” after PRI. My advice is to save the paper.
Thankfully, my very first PRI Show wasn’t a complete bust in the product department. I did end up making a connection with a former racer from my area that helped land a very nice contingency program for the Mid-American banquet. We ended up scoring a few other products, as well – mostly from people who already knew the series and were familiar with who we were. Most importantly I left with valuable experience and a few new names of people I should know from the industry.
The following year I returned to Orlando with some very moderate expectations and the same approach of having a list of whom I wanted to see. Having already experienced how frantic PRI can be, it was my hope to revisit my previous connections, have them warm up to me a bit more, and see where the show took me. It ended up being even more successful than I ever could have hoped.
At that time I had also begun announcing for the ASA (now ARCA) Midwest Tour. They had some incredible banquet giveaways and I wanted to do the same for the Mid-American Series. So it was my goal at my second PRI to find something we could hang our hat on. Enter Bruce Mueller from B&B Race Engines.
Mueller (who sadly passed away two years ago) was incredibly well-connected to the industry and a guy who just loved racing so much that he was willing to do everything he could to help the sport. Seeing as he was one of the pioneers of the Midwest Tour engine giveaways, when I ran into him at PRI, I discussed the possibility of doing an engine giveaway at the Mid-American banquet. He gave me little to no hesitation before agreeing to help. We quickly worked up a list of potential companies to contribute and off I went to gather them.
What I found again was that PRI wasn’t necessarily the place to get all of the parts and pieces to complete the deal, but it was the place to pitch the idea, get the connection, and move along. The key was the follow up. Thanks to the connections I made at PRI, Mueller, series owner Doug Strasburg, and my dad, we got everything we needed and were able to give away that engine at the following year’s banquet.
After those two PRI visits, for me, life happened. I graduated college (again), did the job search, got a job, got another, so on and so forth. Unfortunately my trips to PRI were no longer on the agenda. That was until last May when I found my way to Circle Track and now visit PRI as a member of the media. You won’t see me at booths looking for sponsorship or advertising. I’ll leave that to our very capable GM John Viscardo. Now, I’m just interested in getting the story and learning about what’s new in the industry so we can pass it along to our awesome readership.
So what’s the take away from my PRI visits as someone looking to score a deal or two? The answer is simple. Be prepared and temper your expectations. PRI is now at least twice the size it was when I attended. You’ll get lost, you’ll get lost again, and before you know it, an hour is gone. Plan out the show the best you can.
Once you get to the show, be ready to make your connection and keep moving. If this year’s show is anything like last, it’s going to be incredibly busy and these reps simply don’t have the time to talk about having their name on your race car. If you’re serious about doing business with the company, do not leave without getting a business card. I’ll bet most reps give away more business cards during PRI than they do through the entire remainder of the year.
Lastly, expect the unexpected. It may just be a trade show, but you never know when you’re going to run into someone (like when I ran into Bruce Mueller) or something that could alter the course of your show. Be prepared, be flexible, and be ready to see an awesome show. Enjoy!
Don’t forget to stop and visit us in The Enthusiast Network booth #3639. If you can’t make it to PRI be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as we cover the event. For more information on the show visit www.performanceracing.com/tradeshow