SEMA News—February 2021
2020 PRI Road Tour
The First-Ever “Cross-Country Trade Show” takes PRI to The Racing and Performance Industry
Last November, the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) announced that its annual trade show in Indianapolis, Indiana, would not be taking place as scheduled in December. The announcement came after months of working closely with event staff and government officials to develop a plan for a safe and productive Show. Unfortunately, mounting uncertainty related to COVID-19 led the PRI staff to conclude that a productive in-person show was not feasible at the time.
Not long after, though, PRI announced the launch of a new cross-country campaign to gather and share news and updates from dozens of racing-related businesses. Dubbed the PRI Road Tour, the campaign aimed to provide an all-out content-creation bonanza that would take the PRI team directly to manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, race teams, race tracks and more over a two-month span.
“Our goal is to always do what is best for the motorsports industry, and PRI will continue to lead with business solutions for an ever-changing future,” said PRI President Dr. Jamie Meyer.
Aimed at helping manufacturers promote their products and services, the PRI Road Tour began October 10, 2020, in Indianapolis, with more than 85 planned stops at motorsports businesses and facilities throughout the country, concluding on December 15. At each stop, the PRI team captured and shared video, photos and exclusive interviews highlighting the industry’s newest products, vehicles, races and developments.
After the Indy kickoff event, the Road Tour was scheduled to make its way through Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, followed by cities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Arizona and California.
Meyer summed it up: “If the industry can’t come to the PRI Trade Show in Indianapolis, then PRI is coming to the industry.”
While the Tour was ongoing at the time this article was written, one early metric to measure the event’s success is social media. To date, the Tour has generated a significant amount of online buzz. Though mid-November, Road Tour content had already generated more than nine million impressions (on a 2.5 million target), with Facebook and Instagram the strongest performers. Instagram impressions were up more than 400%, with an average engagement-per-post rate up 60% from previously. In addition, PRI saw a 20% increase in Facebook fans over the same period.
SEMA News recently met with representatives of three companies that participated in the Road Tour to learn about their experiences, discuss the benefits that accrued from participating, learn how interacting with PRI staff helped them to better define their business goals, and to learn how taking part in the Road Tour could help companies in the racing and performance aftermarket stay better connected.
Carrie Ember is vice president of marketing for RE Suspension, a suspension support company and parts supplier with a focus on the racing sector and headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina. Steve Garrett is creative director and Mike Buca the brand manager for Design Engineering, an Avon Lake, Minnesota-based manufacturer of heat solutions for multiple markets since 1985. Mike Goodwin is engine/drivetrain/calibration product manager for Ford Motor Company, based in Dearborn, Michigan. What follows has been edited for clarity and length.
SEMA News: We’re sure folks in the industry were disappointed to hear that the PRI Trade Show had been canceled for 2020. What was your reaction and the reaction within your company when you heard that PRI was launching a two-month road tour to visit some of its various members?
Carrie Ember: We were really surprised and not quite sure how that was going to work. I think we all had a bit of trouble visualizing what they were going to do, but we were all really impressed that they were doing something, because it would have been really easy for them to just chalk up this year as a loss and say “See you in 2021.” So the fact that they were going to try something different and something new—we thought it was great.
Mike Goodwin: I was pretty excited to have some type of event where we could discuss some of the cool stuff we have coming up, just get the information out there. Given the world we’re in right now, it was great to have another avenue to reach out and connect with people in the racing and performance markets.
SN: What was your company’s experience with the Road Tour? Did you have any particular goal or aim that you were hoping to achieve from it, and do you feel that you were successful in achieving that goal? Was PRI helpful to that end?
Mike Buca: All the people from PRI were great. They did a great job when they were here. To be honest, we weren’t exactly sure what was going to happen when PRI came, so we had a couple of different things prepared from a few new products that we were going to show at the PRI Trade Show.
Steve Garrett: When you hear about heat control and sound control, a lot of people don’t really know what’s involved in it, and one of the main goals was to help people understand what our capabilities are. We’ve brought in a lot of technology in the last couple of years that has really kind of pushed us to the forefront of this market, and the PRI crew did a really good job with helping us to get that across.
CE: Our main goal was just a little bit of exposure for our company, since we’ve obviously had an up-and-down year due to COVID-19. It was a strong year to start out, then it kind of died, and it hit a brick wall when the state shut down, so we just wanted that little burst of exposure. PRI has been so supportive of everybody who exhibits at the Show, so when they called, we didn’t even hesitate.
And we had a great time! They were here for about five hours, taking a lot of still photography, walking around the shop and taking pictures of our different products and our different machinery. They also shot some video of our various staff here at work, and then they set up an hour-long interview with our president.
MG: We didn’t have anything concrete written on paper, but our goals going in were to get some new product info out there and to show off some of our newest products on video. The videos that [PRI] sent look great overall, and the edits were first class, so the goals of a well-produced professional video with professional editing and high production values were definitely met.
SN: Have you talked with anybody else within the industry or gotten any feedback from other folks who may have been involved with this? If so, what are you hearing from them?
CE: We’re good friends with the guys over at Port City [& Buzze Racing]. The PRI team visited there a couple of days after us, and they had the same experience—just a great time with the guys. I talked to some of the people over at JRI, who PRI also visited, and it’s been great feedback from everybody I’ve talked to. Everybody here in Mooresville has been really impressed.
MB: There are quite a few companies around our area, and those kinds of companies are the ones we talk to on a pretty regular basis. They all seemed to like the way it happened, the same way we did, and I think that it was a positive deal with our company overall.
MG: I’ve had limited conversations, but from what I’ve heard, it’s all been pretty positive.
SN: What benefits would other member companies gain from having participated in the Road Tour—particularly smaller companies that maybe have limited marketing and advertising resources? What kind of company would stand to benefit the most?
CE: The level of professionalism that the crew had—it’s like you can’t pay for that kind of exposure and that level of photography. Just to have a pro-quality video done at no cost to you, there’s absolutely no downside to it.
Having someone come in and see everything in your shop from a different angle than you see it every day and point out the things that they think are really great, it can turn your perception of your company a little bit and make you start seeing things in a different way and see some new angles from which you can market. For us, there was absolutely no downside.
SG: I think it’s just plain exposure. A lot of these companies on the Road Tour are smaller companies, and people don’t know exactly what they do, what they’re capable of. That was the exposure that
I think a lot of people can benefit from that, especially if it’s all compiled in one area where you’re not walking for miles around a show every day. And in case there isn’t a PRI Trade Show, you can sit and surf around the PRI website to get some good information on other companies that you might not necessarily know about.
MG: It’s going to give you a better reach, because all the videos can be leveraged through all your social-media channels. They can be shared; they can be e-mailed directly to your people; they can be put on social-media pages. It gives a kind of a different perspective for people who haven’t been to the PRI Trade Show. For us, we have seen some bumps in terms of traffic on our website, our Facebook sites and our e-commerce site.
SN: Looking forward into 2021 and beyond, would you like to see something like the Road Tour continue in the future, even after the actual trade show returns to Indianapolis?
CE: I think it’s a great supplement, but I don’t think that anything can ever replace the face-to-face contact you get at the PRI Show. I do think that it’s a great promotion to lead into the Show.
As people gear up to go to Indianapolis, some smaller businesses might not think to head up, because smaller companies like ours can get lost in the shuffle with all the big eye-catching booths there. But if people know that we’re going to be there, that might increase our traffic at the Show. It might make people stop and look up our booth number and think, “Hey, I want to stop and see those guys.”
MB: I think they could expand it even when the Show returns to Indy. Think about having something like a PRI Road Tour Stage at the PRI Trade Show, where you bring companies up on the stage and interview them live. We did something similar a few years ago with NHRA at the SEMA Show. We were interviewed, and we talked about our company and what we do as it’s related to NHRA. There was a pretty big group of people watching it, so it was a good experience for us.
MG: I think it’s a neat addition from a nontraditional “guerrilla marketing” standpoint. If you do it in conjunction with the in-person Show, with a Road Tour in the fall and then kind of leverage it with the Show in Indy in December, it could be a great additional tool to reach customers and create some buzz out there from your staff.
See PRI Road Tour videos on shop visits at www.performanceracing.com/roadtour.