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Published on September 10, 2007

Untapped gold: Grassroots motorsports ripe for dealer prospecting

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Opinion

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (Sept. 10, 2007) — During the California gold rush, legend has it that a prospector stumbled into a saloon and yelled, “There's gold in them thar hills.”


Like the gold that drew so many people to California with hopes of striking it rich, there's untapped gold ripe for prospecting by tire dealers at the local and national level. That gold? Enthusiast car clubs and grassroots motorsports organizations.


In the past decade, organizations like the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), Porsche Club of America (PCA), BMW Car Club of America (BMW CCA) and the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) have experienced great growth. These organizations represent a golden opportunity for local and national tire dealers because support for grassroots motorsports is one of the most effective ways dealers can elevate their brand and gain traction with an influential group of consumers.


Car club members participate in autocrosses, rallies and club races—activities that require plenty of new tires. These members also drive tow vehicles and have cars and trucks they drive daily that also need tires.


More often than not, these people realize the benefits of having a second set of wheels mounted with winter tires. It's not unusual for these car enthusiasts to purchase three or four sets of tires a year.


Yet for all the tires that car club members purchase, the benefit for dealers lies in the fact these people are viewed as tire experts by their friends, families and neighbors. As such, they're frequently called upon to provide advice and recommendations about tires and tire dealers.


Today it's important to be seen as a true expert to retain customers and to bring in new ones. With the proliferation of tire types and sizes, the complexity of making a tire choice has never been greater.


Getting your name and expertise in front of a group of local influencers can help bring a steady flow of customers looking for expert advice and “no risk” tire buying decisions.


One of the most tried-and-true marketing techniques is to “influence the influencers,” so that these enthusiasts will steer their friends and families into your showroom.


How do you reach these influencers? By supporting them and their activities. And support does not have to involve direct monetary sponsorship. Rather, it can be done creatively and effectively in a number of different ways. You may not have to invest money into these clubs and their events, but you will have to invest some of your shop's resources and your time.


Many local car clubs meet monthly to plan upcoming events, talk shop and discuss new racing technology. These meetings provide an opportunity for a dealer to hold a brief clinic on developments in tires and what consumers need to look for in terms of tire service expertise to ensure that high-tech components—such as tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS)—operate properly.


Beyond these meetings, dealers may find luck at the racetrack. All of the national and local chapters of the Porsche, Corvette and BMW clubs, to name a few, hold monthly autocrosses, driving schools and races in local parking lots and at nearby tracks.


While there may be limited opportunities to sell products at these events, dealers can support drivers directly by providing mounting and balancing services at a nominal fee, something that's rarely provided for amateur drivers at the track. For their efforts, dealers can promote their business by giving drivers small stickers for their cars or t-shirts and hats branded with the specific car club and dealer information.


In addition to selling products or services and providing giveaway items, dealers can give service cards to enthusiasts at meetings, tracks and local car club charity events. These cards can be redeemed for free rotations, discounted alignment services, etc., and carry an identifier so dealers can determine which events produce the greatest amount of traffic in their stores.


Yes, to paraphrase those old prospectors: “There's gold in them thar car clubs!”


Grassroots motorsports enthusiasts are seen by friends, family and neighbors as the automotive experts. Your involvement with these important influencers will not only lend credibility to your services and expertise, but can directly increase store traffic—and ultimately, sales.


Mr. Brennan is director of brand development for Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based Kumho Tires U.S.A. Inc.

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