• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

HUMOR MIGHT BE A USEFUL TOOL for STEWART

UPDATE: The Formula One season ends Sunday in Brazil and I'll be on the year's final The Checkered Flag show with Rick Benjamin on Sirius XM 94/208 shortly after race ends.


The reality of the modern media environment is plenty of people will say it's a bigger story that Jimmie Johnson didn't win his sixth consecutive Sprint Cup than Tony Stewart becoming the new NASCAR champion.

There's some merit, and some unfairness, in that. From a PR perspective and the standpoint of the Cup winning sponsors, I would definitely consider countering it with some interview one-liners and a humorous TV commercial playing off the end of Johnson's reign. Humor -- used correctly -- has become a well established way of deflecting a controversy or making a key point.
Ronald Reagan did it brilliantly: Watch this YouTube clip of the way Reagan took care of the issue of his age during a 1984 debate with Walter Mondale. It's a classic and proves my point exactly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkVUEETinj0

If and when all the Jimmie talk gets underneath the skin of the new NASCAR championship collective, "well," they might try this famous line from Reagan's 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=Wi9y5-Vo61w


Let's just say it -- and NASCAR critics, give credit where it is due: The new championship points system worked. And Tony Stewart -- in an A.J. Foyt-esque drive -- and Carl Edwards produced a championship race for the ages. Congratulations.


Kenny Bernstein's retirement from racing must be noted here. I've known Kenny going back to the early 1980s and spent some quality time with him just a few weeks ago when NHRA was here in the Phoenix area. Kenny will forever be remembered as "First to 300 mph" but long-ago earned his reputation as one of racing's great business people. When he's inducted next spring into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Ala., (I voted for him) that demands to be recognized along with all his winning, six NHRA championships, and, as an owner, Indy 500 pole plus NASCAR and Indy Car series wins.

Kenny knew how to deliver Return on Investment for sponsors. One thing he always did was send a thank you letter to journalists for their coverage -- I've received several. NHRA President Tom Compton said this about Bernstein's career and he's completely correct:

“He paved the way for team sponsorship in NHRA and showed others how to not only win on the track, but how to service team sponsors and develop long-lasting business relationships."

There's more to the story and I'll get into that in my December "Drags, Dollars & Sense" column on CompetitonPlus.com . For now: Kenny helped make racing, as a sport and as an industry, what it is in America. My congratulations, thanks, and best wishes to Kenny and wife Sheryl.

[ more next week . . . ]