SEMA News—March 2021

EVENTS

PRI Completes Successful Road Tour

How an Innovative Content-Creation Program Helped Boost an Industry

By Mike Imlay

PRI
From October to December 2020, the PRI Road Tour logged
an estimated 8,600 mi. to showcase businesses of all sizes to
industry followers. The tour was designed as a dynamic
alternative to the annual PRI Trade Show, cancelled for 2020
due to COVID-19.

This past December, the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Road Tour wrapped up its ambitious nationwide schedule of visits to racing and performance businesses from Indianapolis to California. With the metrics and reviews now in, it appears that the tour will pay dividends to businesses in the racing category for a long time to come.

Running from October 10 to December 18, 2020, the PRI Road Tour was created as an alternative to the annual PRI Trade Show held in Indianapolis each December. With the pandemic making a live trade event impossible, PRI officials decided the tour could offer the racing community far greater value than a virtual show.

“We decided to take the PRI Trade Show on the road,” explained PRI President Dr. Jamie Meyer. “There are virtual trade shows popping up. They’re safe, but they’re also less effective. Knowing how intimate this community is, we thought the right thing to do was to go see them, go visit their shops, go visit their racetracks—but we had to do it safely.”

The tour offered an innovative way to connect the industry and help suppliers promote their brands, products and services. Organizers scheduled more than 86 stops encompassing industry manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, race teams, racetracks and related businesses. PRI’s tour contingent included PRI Housing and Travel Manager Michelle Gallegos and a full Driveline Studios content-creation crew headed by Justin Cesler, the studio’s founder. The plan: Capture and share a trove of video, images and exclusive interviews highlighting each company’s newest products, vehicles, races and developments.

The completed content and assets were not only posted on PRI’s website and social-media feeds but also supplied free of charge to the visited companies for their own marketing initiatives. According to Meyer, that reflected PRI’s mission to support the industry and give back to the racing community.

“This was something that we paid for,” he said. “This was no cost to the folks whose facilities we stopped at, and we brought the world’s best content creators right to them so they could tell their story and we could share it.”

After an Indy kickoff, the Road Tour made its way through Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, followed by stops in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California. The project was conducted with the utmost in safety precautions and adhered closely to each state’s COVID-19 health orders and advisories.

PRI
Legendary drag racer Chris “The Greek” Karamesine offered
the PRI audience a rare look into his Chicago shop. Ageless
at 89, he is still competing, building engines and maintaining
race cars.

“We limited [the team] to only critical staff,” Meyer noted. “We did have other employees who joined us, especially in California, but we also limited that so we didn’t overwhelm our guest manufacturers. We followed the state and local guidelines along the way, including daily temperature checks. These guys wore out the hand sanitizer, which was great. We wiped down everything after every stop, every night and every morning.” Because of these precautions and others, no one on the PRI team ever fell ill.

With the latest reviews and metrics still coming in (see sidebar on p. 109), the PRI Road Tour has scored an unmistakable home run.

“The content has been amazing,” Meyer said. “The content and the growth on social media have been phenomenal. We’ll end up with more than 25 million media impressions. It was a massive undertaking, and we had great engagement, great follower growth on all of our social platform forums. One of our videos went viral, really took off. YouTube labeled it as the correct video for the topic—the Godzilla crate engine from Ford Racing.”

According to Gallegos, who was with the production crew every leg of the journey, the PRI Road Tour van racked up more than 8,600 mi. while averaging two stops per day, and some days as many as four. A typical visit involved linking up with a company’s leadership for a run-through of business operations, new products and 2021 business goals, and ultimately a facilities walk-through wherever possible. Those walk-throughs were especially helpful to the production crew in scouting key settings for B-roll.

In addition, the crew set up new-product presentations and full-length interviews with company representatives. That often meant six full-length interviews per day and late nights of postproduction in hotel rooms, editing and uploading digital assets to the PRI Road Tour webpage and social-media platforms

“The goal was to spend a lot of quality time with our PRI exhibitors, attendees and the race community,” Gallegos explained. “It was more about quality and not so much the quantity of visits we could fit into a day. It was about getting to know them, their operations, and meeting all the folks to learn their stories.

“It’s really phenomenal that we could capture peoples’ stories, edit them on the road, and showcase them so quickly. The Driveline Studios team shoots Baja racing and for the industry’s big OEMs. Their work is so well respected, and the quality time they spent on each interview, getting to know the interviewees and subjects, was so appreciated by the companies we visited.”

Among those companies was Eibach, based in Corona, California, which the PRI team visited just before wrapping up in January. A well-known supplier of high-quality springs for all types of racing applications, it shared the experience of many industry companies since the pandemic onset in March 2020.

PRI
The PRI Road Tour also highlighted youth engagement in
racing with a stop to PIT Instruction & Training in Mooresville,
North Carolina, where the PRI crew got to see students
learning pit procedures as well as welding, testing and more.

“It’s obviously been a wild year,” conceded Eibach Sales Manager David Cardey. “Everybody was out of here for a good month—some up to two and three months before some people were coming back. I think we took a little bit of a [sales] hit for basically one month, and it’s been wide open ever since. Business has actually been record-breaking month after month.”

Still, he said, the COVID-19 disruptions continue in the form of staff testing, social distancing in facilities, and supply-chain and materials shortages that can make it tougher to fulfill orders on time. Those challenges made the ability to share new products and company information through the Road Tour all the more important.

“We all love the PRI Show,” Cardey said. “The fact that we are all racers, we love going and talking to the racers and seeing what products are there ourselves. With that not happening this year, PRI reached out, and we were glad to be asked to participate. It was a no-brainer to be a part of it.”

He added that Eibach’s goal for the tour was simply to keep its name out in the industry and demonstrate support for the racing community and the PRI Trade Show when it returns.

PRI
Headquartered in Indianapolis, Chip Ganassi Racing was
among the Road Tour’s first stops in October. The visit
included interviews with officials from the championship
winning team and a firsthand look at its operations.

“We want to be back,” he said. “Obviously, this [tour] is not the same as being there in person with everybody, but we’re hoping that this creates enough buzz with everybody and keeps everybody interested enough that next year gets back to normal.”

Other race-focused companies along the tour route echoed that sentiment.

“I think what the PRI team did with the Road Tour showed an incredible willingness to literally go out of the way for the exhibitors of the [PRI] show,” said Carrie Enders, front-office vice president for RE Suspension in Mooresville, North Carolina. “It took a lot of creative energy to come up with something that has every guy in our shop following along daily on Facebook. It’s a complete win for PRI as far as we’re concerned.”

However, the tour’s biggest beneficiaries may have been the industry’s grassroots racers and brands like Buzze Racing, which was another Mooresville stop.

Eibach
During its final leg of the tour, the PRI Team visited Eibach in
Corona, California, where the videography pros shot several
new-product presentations for the many PRI Road Tour
followers.

“We’re a small shop, and we can’t afford something like this,” said driver Tom Buzze about the digital assets and broad exposure that the PRI crew provided to his team. “We cannot thank them enough, and we could never repay them for what this means to us.”

Comments like Buzze’s were especially gratifying to Gallegos and the production crew.

“Our goal was not just to see the large companies but also to see the small mom-and-pop shops and to be with the racers,” she explained, adding that the racing industry tends to be extremely tight-knit. “Everywhere we went, everyone who followed the journey was so respectful of others in the industry. The community was not only close but also followed each other and cheered them on. It’s the racing world, and it’s competitive, but everybody is also a fan of everybody else’s work too.”

Capturing everyone’s work required a lot of logistical coordination, not to mention equipment—and Cesler’s Driveline Studios crew came fully armed for the challenge.

“For us to come out on the road in a van, we have to have all of the toys,” Cesler said. “We were doing two stops a day, so we were in every type of situation you can be in. Some were well lit, some were not. Some were small, some were big. Some were outside, some were racetracks, some were machining facilities. So we had to build and have every type of equipment we could have. That included a bunch of RED [4K digital cinematic] cameras, a bunch of tripods, a bunch of drones and a bunch of still cameras.”

But the tour mascot ended up being an RC car outfitted with a gimbal and a RED camera. Dubbed “Wall-e” by the team, he achieved a following wherever he went.

“Wall-e is the best,” Cesler said. “He was a fan favorite, for sure. Kind of fun to drive around and get some great shots with. Because of COVID-19, staying safe was our main priority. Sometimes we used Wall-e to get into areas where there were workers and we didn’t want to be in, which was great. Or at the track, like at World of Outlaws, we could get Wall-e into situations that you wouldn’t normally put a person into. He’s the same as a drone but on the ground and powered by four wheels.”

PRI
As it was at CP Carrillo, manufacturing was in full swing at
many PRI Road Tour stops, with performance and racing
suppliers seeing increased demand after an initial April 2020
slowdown. The tour connected followers with the wide array
of brands, products and services found within the industry.

In the end, Cesler said that the tour was personally rewarding for the entire PRI team.

“We’ve seen America,” he said. “We met a lot of great people, saw their hard work, saw their ingenuity. Everyone has had to shift. Everyone has had to do something different. We did something different, and to see everybody do that and put up growth numbers and to be having great years and be preparing for the future, that’s definitely been the highlight for us.”

Some Industry Reactions:

“SRI really enjoyed the opportunity to work with the PRI Road Tour! We were able to showcase some of our performance products and let people see our headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina. Thanks to everyone at PRI for putting this together!”

Kevin Storms, General Manager, SRI Performance

“This is a really great idea. We are so appreciative that [PRI] included us. We have been with PRI since the very beginning, and this is what PRI is all about.”

—Chris Thornton, President, Racing Radios

PRI Road Tour Fast Facts

Tour Dates: October 10–December 18, 2020.

Visit Statistics:

  • 70 tour days in all.
  • 86 tour stops completed.
  • 18 “hand raisers” added to completed visits.
  • Average of two visits per day.
  • Approximately 8,600 mi. traveled.
  • 10 states visited: Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California.

Social Media Metrics:

(October 10–January 7, 2020)

  • 24,144,651 impressions.
  • 17,194,846 unique people reached.
  • 853,221 video views.
  • 474,733 engagements.

PRISee the Entire PRI ROAD Tour

To view all the news, images and videos from the PRI Road Tour shop visits, go to www.performanceracing.com/roadtour.

 

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