Volume X, Issue 9, Page 78

: One of the questions that everyone asks, so we’re going to ask you this, how does the ADRL make money? How does it make sense financially, if they constantly giving tickets away?

KN: Well, it’s like what I said earlier. I feel like my strength is selling sponsorships and marketing partnerships, specifically with companies like Flowmaster, which has been our major financial backer since the inception of the League back in 2004. This being our fifth anniversary season, we’ve added new marketing partnerships with obviously the National Guard being first and foremost, but there’s also companies like Hardees and Pizza Hut, and like I said, there’s many others, but that’s two big examples there. With Hardees and Pizza Hut, the ticket distribution method, as we call it, by taking that method and setting attendance records, and by putting a legitimate 35,000+ people through the gates on Saturday, by doing that, we can go to partners like Pizza Hut and offer them a real solid return on their investment. When you’re able to go into a market like Martin, Michigan, and go into over 50 Pizza Hut locations, and partner up with them for that particular region, for example, there’s a great financial component to that. We have to sell sponsorships, me specifically. My first and foremost responsibility when I come in to work every day is to grow the ADRL financially, which is important to any business. So it’s all about using these huge crowds, or using this huge following that we’re building. You know, we’ve got a mailing list approaching half a million people from the last three years of data collection. Everybody who comes through the gate fills out the back of that ticket stub.

If we continue to grow the series, having title rights sponsors like Flowmaster, the National Guard, and event sponsors like Pizza Hut, and Hardees, and Gatorz Eyewear will keep happening. Having the stands filled are important to these series sponsors and they don’t care how we do it as long as it happens. These companies have made major financial commitments, so taking all that in, it adds up to the total profit.

To this point, having two great and patient investors in Dave Wood and Tommy Lipar, who believe in what our future is, has been the most important component, obviously. Financially, the ADRL is in a situation where we are covering the cost of doing business 100% from our sponsorships, and now creating revenue off those sponsorships, in addition to the revenue we generate from charging for parking, selling merchandise, and concessions. Plus Adrenaline is beginning so sell more and more advertising and we distribute that to our fans.

: Do you ever foresee a time when you will sell tickets to ADRL events?

KN: Oh, we actually sell a few tickets at every event. At every event we sell a few thousand tickets, which is amazing considering how many free tickets are put into the market in the months leading up to the event.  It always shocks me when someone walks up to buy a ticket. So we do sell a few now, but at the end of the day, our business model is focused on -- and I’m not in a position to say that we would deviate from that in the foreseeable future -- our business model is to grow our sponsorship base so we can give this entertainment back to America.

And that’s the other side, the feel-good side to it, you know, especially in a down economy and an election year. The economy is as bad as it’s ever been in my adult lifetime, and the reward of having a father walk up to you with his five kids and say, “Look, thank you so much for these tickets”, and it’s genuine, and it’s heartfelt. There are so many families in this country, they don’t have any disposable income, it’s all they can do to feed and clothe their children and keep the lights on, so to be able to come out and give them world class entertainment … and that’s always a misnomer when fans walk in the gates. They’ve got this free ticket, and how good can the show actually be if it’s free? And then they see this fantastic show, and I say that humbly, but our Saturday night racing is as good as anything in motorsports right now. They walk out of there after the jet cars and the fireworks and all the excitement of the ADRL, and the concerts, and they’re just blown away. You know, there’s so many times they come up to me in the Winner’s Circle and say to me, “You know, I would gladly pay next year.” But that’s not our goal; our goal is to grow our sponsorships and give back to America, and thanks to Flowmaster and the National Guard and so many others, we’re able to do that.

: The ADRL doesn’t have a TV show on broadcast television. A lot of people think that is a very important part of any sanctioning body’s program. How do you feel about that, and what are you doing about that?

KN: Well, a couple of things I’ll say to that. I would ask those people who ask those questions to look at the Nielsen ratings, and I’m not talking about the numbers released by other organizations, but the actual numbers, and see how many people drag racing on television is reaching. Is television important, first of all? Yes it is. It’s important for the ADRL and our future, but we want to have a good television partner, we want to do things in television differently than has been done. We’ve tried a few things already, with our reality show we had early on, and some different things we have planned for the future, but it’s just not as important as people want to believe it is from a sponsorship perspective.

Sponsorship activation is so much more important, in my opinion, than just pure impressions. In other words, the sponsor needs to come in to activate their program to reach their audience, and work to reach their audience. Just to splash their logo on a fence or a hat or the side of a car and then that logo appears on a television show seen by a hundred thousand people, that’s not the direct impression I think our sponsors are looking for. So we’re working on the 2008 season even. We’ve had broadcast television up to this year, and we’ll have broadcast television in the fall. You know all of our shows are going to run in the fall. And the reason we’ve decided to do that is that with the Internet, as you know, everyone wants instant gratification these days, so as soon as they see the results on the Internet, immediately it’s old news.

You know as a kid I can remember having to ride my bike to the Magic Market and wait outside for the Super Stock & Drag Illustrated to come so I could find out the race results from three months prior. With the Internet today, we get that instant gratification. Being able to put our shows on the Internet, we’re finding that at least for the ADRL, we’re reaching a greater audience, and a younger audience -- which is important as well -- than we’d be reaching if we were on the Speed Channel or somewhere else as well.

We’re looking for a television partner right now who wants to be a true television partner, and we’ve got some very interested parties. For this fall, we’re going to be running our show consecutively starting in October, on a network. We’re negotiating with a couple of different networks right now, so that when drag racing is no longer on at the track, and there’s no live results on the Internet -- you know, during those down months -- we can put them on consecutive weeks. So that is our plan for the fall of 2008. For 2009, we’ve got some exciting things on the horizon, but we’re not going to be having TV just for the sake of having TV anymore. I think that’s just bad business.

That’s the end of part one of our interview with Kenny Nowling. In part two, Kenny talks about the future of the ADRL, his experiences with track owners and operators, and a variety of other subjects including the influx of foreign investors and where the ADRL may be taking its act in the next few years.  

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