Jacques Villeneuve Toronto, 1994 Running Clabber Girl Livery
I felt for Tony George today while watching him become emotional at the press conference announcing Penske Corporation’s purchase of the remaining assets of Hulman & Company, the Hulman George family’s business that includes the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the NTT IndyCar series. It was the final corporate asset divested after earlier this year selling off the company’s iconic Clabber Girl Baking Company, the product line that not only gave the Hulman family the funds to purchase the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1945, but which also played a big part of my professional career leading me to where I am today.
In my youth, I became a massive motorsports fan, having been bitten by the bug of racing by spending an inordinate amount of time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, experiencing all there is to take in at this truly amazing facility.
The Incredible Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A “Bucket List” Must Experience
In the early 90’s, I was found myself in Toronto working as an independent agent for Hulman’s Clabber Girl baking powder, working closely with Hulman & Company executives in entering, and expanding sales of the product into, the Canadian market. At the same time (and what many of you may have encountered in your professional career), some stars aligned that ultimately paved my way into my career today.
Stevie Reeves, NASCAR Busch Series, Mid-90’s
First, the Hulman’s struck up a partnership agreement with Canadian Jacques Villeneuve’s CART team for a one off sponsorship program for Clabber Girl at the Toronto IndyCar race. Second, they became a primary sponsor of a NASCAR Busch Series team with driver Stevie Reeves. I was in the right place at the right time, and was involved in activating both programs, being tasked by the Hulman executives (Tony George, Jeff Belskus, Robert Hippleheuser, and Gary Morris) to use these sponsorship programs to develop the brand and sales channel for Clabber Girl in Canada, and assist with special NASCAR projects for them in Mexico (incredibly fun!) and the U.S.
These were wonderful experiences, and I am eternally grateful to everyone at Hulman & Company back then for those opportunities. Not only were they incredibly rewarding, but gave me first hand experience in how to structure and activate motorsport marketing promotional programs to sell products into multiple sales channels and industries.
Watching the live announcement today, I was a bit emotional too, seeing the stewardship of these iconic American brands passed forward, brands that have touched so many (including me), so deeply in not only the United States, but also around the world.
However, I’m encouraged by the fact that the stewardship of IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is being passed to Roger Penske and Penske Corporation. Roger “gets it”, and will not only foster these iconic brands, but also expand their commercial and fan appeal so that they positively resonate now and far into the future.
Will the “Captain” Bring F1 Back to IMS?
Who knows? In listening to Roger at the press conference, we may see the return of Formula 1 to Indianapolis, or a 24 hr. sportscar race, or an IndyCar/NASCAR double header. Any of these would be a fantastic addition to the “Greatest Spectacle In Racing”!