Mickey Andrade started out as an enthusiast, growing up in the suburbs of Akron, Ohio building models and collecting die cast cars. Andrade starting saving for his first car at 15, bought it at 16 and began modifying almost immediately. He read the car magazines and dreamed about future projects, but it wasn’t until he took a job in college at a sign shop that his future began to take shape.
After seeing his skill at designing graphics for customer cars, the owner of the business bought an old box truck and they turned it into a mobile vinyl graphics studio. Andrade would travel to local car dealerships and stereo shops, where he would design, cut and apply graphics and pinstripes to cars for customers. As a result, his work was noticed and he was eventually offered a job at famous Modern Image Signworks in Huntington Beach, California – a long way from Ohio and the epicenter of the booming import scene in the ‘90s.
Eventually Andrade worked his way up to Supervisor of Motorsports at Falken Tire. Working hand-in-hand with drivers and team owners in the most youth-oriented motorsports series, Andrade developed a keen sense of what young enthusiasts are drawn to. He eventually moved on to a position at industry icon HRE Performance Wheels, where he now co-manages the Marketing department and runs HRE’s motorsports initiatives. His current car collection is packed with highly-modified imports, including a 1987 AE86 Corolla GT-S, an award-winning 1994 Nissan S13.4 240SX Convertible, an S14 Coupe and a 1993 Civic SiR-S.
When did it occur to you that working in the automotive industry could be a career?
The realization hit me in 2001 when a good friend of mine who was to attend the Nopi Nationals show in Atlanta, Ga. called me. Intrax suspension was going to use his AWD Mitsubishi Eclipse in their booth as a display car and as it turned out he ended up having to cancel at the last minute. In an effort to make good with Intrax he called to see if I could attend with my 1999 Honda Civic Si. Being from Ohio, this was a huge honor to be invited to represent a Southern California based company. I caravanned on the Super Street tour and met a ton of sport compact industry icons such as, Christian Rado, Stephan Papadakis, Jonathon Wong, Carter Jung, John Naderi, etc. It was then I knew I had to make a move. For me, it was a relocation to Southern California.
Where is the auto aftermarket going? Who is the new target customer?
In general, I see the market from HRE’s perspective. The target market for HRE is and always will be individuals of means; typically older collectors and enthusiasts who want to put wheels on their cars to set them apart from their neighbors and friends.
But, as an enthusiast I believe the market is moving towards racing oriented products. Many of the late model show cars I look at today are incorporating more and more race technology, which I absolutely love! And the target customer to me will always be 18-35 year old men. These are the people that have the desire and disposable income to modify their cars. So in that sense, the core aftermarket target customer has never changed – there are just new targets to identify for companies that operate on the fringe of what we call “the aftermarket,” like HRE – which we consider more of a luxury goods brand than a parts company.
What types of motorsport do you think are the up-and-coming outlets for aftermarket companies?
On and off road timed racing events and drifting are hugely popular with the 18-35 Male target and generally offer a good bang for the marketing dollar for companies large or small. The larger venues and wheel-to-wheel racing series are becoming cost prohibitive for many smaller companies, but the timed events like the standing mile races offer a lot of value as they haven’t become completely mainstream yet, but are action-packed and often draw really wild exotic cars.
How do you use your relationships with motorsports teams and sanctioning bodies to talk to potential customers?
Involvement with race teams and sanctioning bodies has helped me reach potential customers by showing what our products are capable of in the most extreme conditions imaginable. By exposing those strengths you are building brand credibility. But, you cannot rely on the teams or sanctioning bodies solely to do your advertising for you. It is imperative that you have a strategy to support your race teams and promote the sanctioning bodies you work with as a marketing partner. Close the loop by showing your support of their programs. There are many ways of doing this and currently social media is very strong. By supporting these teams and series you are basically adding credibility to their programs and picking up their supporters along the way.
You like to leverage newer types of competition - Formula D, Time Attack, World Challenge, etc. How do they compare to the established series like NASCAR, INDY and NHRA?
The nice thing about the newer types of competition is that they are typically a little more edgy marketing wise and draw a demographic that is more youth oriented. NASCAR, INDY, and NHRA all have solid fan bases but they are predictable and the events are typically out of reach financially for most small companies. The newer events are more reasonably priced although they don't garner the TV time and household notoriety that the more well-known series can, they offer tremendous value. As the visibility goes up so do the marketing dollars required to reach your audience. Despite never having a strong television package, I believe Formula Drift has done a good job offering its supporters fantastic marketing opportunities.
What is the future of Formula Drift and Time Attack? Will they keep growing? Also - who is their typical fan?
I believe the future for these particular motorsports is bright. As long as the sanctioning bodies do a good job of running, promoting, and supporting the competitors they will continue to grow. Some of the motorsports are more participation based and are tough to watch. Others are very fan friendly and super exciting. Those that captivate their audience will prosper. Streaming online video is a great new medium for all motorsport and I hope it helps both series grow and expand. I know many fans tell me they camp out at work or home with a laptop watching streaming video feeds of these races around the world – that wasn’t possible a few years ago. And every car has somebody’s logo on the door.
What are some other forms of motorsport you think are up-and-comers? Why?
For me the most exciting up and coming motorsport is Rally Cross. I attended the event at Irwindale Speedway earlier this year and was completely captivated. If you have the proper product and budget seek out a team and support them. The TV package is good and racing action is great! This is the first motorsport that really bridges the gap between X-Games type competition and racing, and it will become a huge draw, I’m sure of it. It also utilizes cars that look like the vehicles young enthusiasts are actually buying and can afford – unlike NASCAR, which has become completely homogenized.
What can a young business owner do to get involved in motorsports marketing?
By entering into motorsport you open yourself up to risk. As evident, motorsports are very hard on equipment. If you've determined that your product is capable of the abuse, you should begin to build relationships with a team that fits your marketing strategy. Understanding their needs, realistic quantity of product needed, and level of on-site support is critical. If the relationship seems beneficial to both parties then a product marketing partnership can be negotiated. Be careful, jumping into an unknown relationship without doing your homework can result in going over budget or worse, ruining a relationship you worked hard to build. Product support – providing parts at a discount or no charge - is usually the budget conscious way to get involved and make your mark in the racing community without breaking the bank.
Any other thoughts on the future of SEMA, racing, drifting, and the aftermarket?
Keep supporting the teams and organizations. They drive aftermarket sales and awareness and help fuel our passions.