Mackey Marketing Group Weblog

August 18, 2010

The “great” button caper

Sometimes simple things drive home deeper lessons. Such is the case for the “great” button giveaway at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course. The track was hosting the Indy Car Series and one of my clients was debuting in the series at this event.
His name is Francesco Dracone from Turin, Italy and unless you are a serious student of open wheel racing, you’ve probably never heard of him. Francesco comes to Indy Cars via the Euro F3000 series, a car of similar speed and power to Indy Cars and, in my humble opinion, a better looking and undeniably, better sounding, race car.
Faced with the prospect that virtually no one in the USA has ever heard of Francesco, I wanted to devise a way to introduce him to the Indy Car crowd. With a modest budget, I use the term “budget” loosely here, I wanted to come up with something that would generate some awareness without costing a bundle. I came up with the idea of producing some buttons with Francesco’s name on them. But to emphasize his Italian nationality, and the fact that Francesco always greets and says goodbye with a cheerful “Ciao”, I added the Ciao word to the button. The “Ciao! Francesco!” button was born.
francesco button
I packed the 1000 (!) buttons into my suitcase and took off for Lexington, Ohio to join Francesco in the experience of his Indy Car debut. It’s always exciting to be part of this kind of event and Francesco was very excited about competing in the Indy Car series driving for Conquest Racing. He had never been to Mid Ohio, never raced in the USA, never competed in Indy Cars and never driven at an event that sported this level of fan support and packed grandstands. It was going to be exciting.
Going to an event often means an assortment of marketing and publicity objectives, and here at Mid-Ohio among these were to be my button duties! So here I am, armed with my 1000 buttons and I arrive to meet with Francesco at the track. Now, to be sure, the button idea was mine and while Francesco was supportive of the idea, I wanted the button giveaway to be successful and not fall on its face from lack of interest. I mean, after all, it’s only a button! I brought with me a sign we had made up, saying “Free! Please Take One!” along with a small container to hold the buttons. So I went about looking for a convenient spot to display the buttons. At first, that wasn’t easy. There were no tables around, and the paddock area at Mid-Ohio is a bit cramped and there is not the usual paddock space normally found at an Indy Car event. With no place to put the buttons, the first inclination that this might not work crossed my mind.
Ever an entrepreneur, I devised a small table, made out of a flat discarded shipping cardboard box and placed it over an unused trash container. Voila! A table. The “table” was placed directly next to the garage that housed Francesco’s Indy Car. Now things were beginning to look a bit brighter. Now, I’m ready. I put out my hastily constructed table, placed the buttons and sign on the table and moved away to see what the reaction was going to be for my buttons.
………waiting…………..waiting……….waiting…………..
Not much. A few people would come up to the table, read the sign, maybe even more than once, and stare at the table of buttons. But many wouldn’t take one! They just looked at them! Some people grabbed one or even two and walked away. I reminded myself that these were just buttons, not something people would necessarily be too excited about! But I had a 1000 of these things! I didn’t want to take them home with me! At this rate, I had a multiple season stock of buttons!
It was getting close to lunch time and the crowd in the paddock area was at its peak. Thousands of fans were strolling through the paddock looking at the Indy Cars. The area was packed with fans. If these things didn’t go now, they would never go.
So, I took a chance.
I grabbed the button box and from the paddock, began to hand them out like a carnival salesman!
“Get your free Francesco Dracone buttons here! Free buttons from Francesco” I said in a reasonably loud and enthusiastic voice. I started to add a bit of “sales” pitch to my efforts. “Free Francesco buttons here. We’re welcoming Francesco Dracone to Indy Cars. This is his first Indy Car race. Welcome Francesco with a free button!”
The change was instantaneous!
I would estimate that 95% of the people who passed by me took a button. Before long, there was a bit of a feeding frenzy for a free button. I couldn’t give them out fast enough! Obviously, kids loved them and parents liked them too! Some people stopped to ask me about Francesco; “Where is he from?” “This is his first race? That’s cool!” The fans were very supportive of the idea of welcoming Francesco. “Where is he?” was a common question. “He’s over there by the car,” I responded. When it was a female who asked me, the response often was, “He’s so cute! I’ll wear his button anytime!”
In the course of about an hour or two, I managed to give away most of the buttons. My voice was beginning to give out and I was getting a bit tired of it, so I stopped. While I had managed to give away most of the buttons, I was relieved to find that many fans didn’t just pack them away. “Ciao! Francesco!” buttons were easy to spot on fans all over the paddock area. The fans wore them on their shirts, their hats, on their backpack, camera bags, everywhere. Fans asked me if they could get Francesco’s autograph and several trips to the Conquest transporter to grab a few of Francesco’s autograph cards were in order.
As I neared the end of my bag of buttons, and as the race itself neared, I returned the button container to my improvised table and left the remaining buttons for the fans to grab on their way through the paddock. When I returned after the race, they were all gone. Every single one of them.
The lesson learned here is really a very old and basic one. When it comes to promotion, you can’t take too passive of an approach to it. I was reminded that I can’t rely on the fans to take the initiative and grab a button. No, that was my job! It was up to me to “promote” the idea of the button and create some excitement surrounding my effort. The fans were eager to respond and enthusiastic in their support but taking the initiative was not part of their role.
If you’re promoting someone, something, some event, just remember my button lesson. You must take the lead and push the idea yourself. If the message is heard, the response from the fans is fantastic. Racing fans are legendary for their support and enthusiasm toward this sport. Sometimes, we just need to hand them, one at a time, a reason to cheer.
Thanks to Francesco and to Conquest Racing for allowing me to hand out the buttons without too much distraction to them from the job at hand.
For the record, Francesco had a great race. His goal for the event was to race as competitively as he could but without getting taken out of the race with on track contact with another car. He raced strongly and continually lapped the track faster as the race wore on. He finished in 22nd spot of 27 starters, one position behind Danica Patrick. Francesco’s 1:10.5 second lap during the middle stage of the race was his fastest lap of the weekend and more than 1.5 seconds faster than his qualifying pace. It was a very successful first race and the first of what we all are working on to be many more Indy Car races in the future.
Thanks for reading.
Ciao!

Francesco Dracone

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1 Comment »

  1. Benvenuto a la America Francesco!

    Salutti Brian!

    Comment by Niky Pauli — August 24, 2010 @ 12:23 pm | Reply


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