I am the guy with the keyboard, the Internet and some command of English. Here’s how I barely missed out on bringing a race (or two) together.
Last time I wrote about what I loved about writing - how personal it is, how you can express all your joy and pain in something extremely irrelevant as e.g. writing about a pole lap at some race track. It means the world to me. A part of it at least. But I’ll let you into a little secret: there is actually something better than writing a story.
It’s making the story.
The Internet and especially social media is a wonderful thing if you use it wisely. I’m not on Facebook, but I have a Twitter account where from all the people I follow I’ve met about two or three personally. I have a LinkedIn profile where I create new professional connections and talk to people. These are the platforms where the most adverse invitations come from. Amber Lounge was one on Twitter, a guy named Andrew introduced me to Nicolas Perrin on LinkedIn and virtually all the people I interviewed on this blog came through LinkedIn.
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about right now. It’s definitely part of it, it is always the start of it all.
It was the football world cup in 2014 and Germany just humiliated Brazil the night before. I was standing outside this luxurious hotel in my cheap Monty Python shirt I bought from an ASDA store in Bristol, UK two years before and I was waiting for the call of some Dutch people. As we had already established it, we were about to discuss the advertising campaign of the Hungarian round of Acceleration 14. If you haven’t heard about it, Acceleration 14 was a racing and concert series in 2014, touring Europe with former A1GP, touring and legend cars and motorcycles - finishing the weekend off with a retro 80s & 90s concert, hosted by David Hasselhoff.
I got the call, I met the guys who were asking me all these questions about what connections I had in media to help them to get the name out. I had very few, so I was bluffing most of the time. I improvised on the spot, frantically trying to come up with creative solutions. At the end of the meeting I volunteered to get in contact with every media outlet I could think of, connecting the parties and also to ‘hunt down’ racing drivers and riders for the weekend.
Long story short, I wrote an awful lot of e-mails, made a gazillion phone calls and it wasn’t unheard of me walking out in the middle of my English class I was teaching at, just to take the call of the country’s biggest commercial TV channel. In the end, the race didn’t happen due to the lack of interest or funds from drivers/riders, but the concert took place and it was a massive hit with the people: it sold out completely.
I tasted blood and I knew I liked this. A lot.
So last year I tried to raise my game: why don’t we try and bring a race opportunity together, financed by media attention. This is what I tried to do:
Exhibit A: You might know this, but I’ve made several interviews with a young racing driver - son of an F1 champion, whose rivalry with another F1 champion was turned into a movie recently.
Exhibit B: Car repair shop and also a racing team owner where I did an English course - with a Ferrari and other vintage cars in the showroom (latest addition: Opel GT)
Exhibit C: Guy studying at a different English group, fan of motorsports, formerly working with (let’s call it) ‘Big Tobacco Company’, now at a company selling tech stuff.
Exhibit D: Media, specifically a high-profile lifestyle magazine with centerfold glamour models.
When meeting with all these ingredients, the math in my mind was plain and simple: why don’t we put Exhibit A in Exhibit B’s car, funded by Exhibit C’s company, who would be brought in by Exhibit D’s exposure?
I went and asked Exhibit A if he was interested in a drive. He said yes and I got in contact with his manager. I asked Exhibit B if he was interested in putting Exhibit A in his car and he said yes, but he said I needed to get a sponsor. I said no problem. I asked Exhibit C if he could give any contacts to Big Tobacco Company. From ‘BTC’ I learned that not even the slightest, indirect involvement of tobacco was possible under current laws, so I asked Exhibit C if his company was interested in funding the event. He said yes, but they needed to reach a certain audience. I went back to Exhibit B and asked if he had any contacts. He said they had connections with Exhibit D I said ‘Exhibit D it is, then’ and I told it to Exhibit C. He got interested. In the meantime I started banging the drums everywhere else, just in case. Exhibit A’s manager then presented me the terms and everyone was fine with it. Exhibit B said the car and crew would come for free. Exhibit C would pay the rest, but only if Exhibit D was on board. They felt they had the right audience they were targeting, but a direct advertising campaign in the magazine would have been too expensive and in many ways too limited. So when Exhibit A comes in and he has the logo on his racing suit - illustrating an interview spread on multiple pages - it would have made a great promotion asset for them.
Then I was pursuing Exhibit B about what was happening with Exhibit D magazine. He said they wouldn’t get back to him. I took over and started flooding them with e-mails and calls. Yes, they were interested, but everyone was on a summer holiday - they said. I went back to Exhibit C asking if they were really so eager to get into Exhibit D magazine, because I could have definitely got everyone else there was out there, but I wasn’t sure about Exhibit D’s attitude. He said that they might reach a larger audience - by numbers - with everyone else, but Exhibit D readers tended to have money as well.
It was down to the last piece of the puzzle and we were running out of time. Exhibit D magazine seemingly spent two months with ‘summer holidays’ (Who was making the magazine in the meantime? The janitor?) and they just inadvertently - but not entirely unexpectedly - stopped getting back to me.
The project was on its deathbed: the driver was there, the car and crew was there, the sponsor was there, every piece of media would have been there - except the only one that mattered.
After months of work, hundreds of e-mails, loads of telephone calls we had to - or I had to - call it a day. It would have been amazing, however small that dream would have looked like from the outside for some: a driver with a well-known name driving a Suzuki Swift in a national championship at the Hungaroring. Awkward, but beautiful. If it had happened, probably I would be in a very different position right now. Was it a failure? Concerning the devices I had at hand - a keyboard, the Internet and some command of English -, absolutely not.
Why was I doing it? It’s personal, but I really wanted to do something. For someone. For said driver, for said team, for said sponsor, for said media, but especially myself. I really wanted something to happen and to prove: with enough creativity and using your mental and spiritual resources wisely you can really move boulders.
But most honestly, I did it because I could have told anyone - showing the press photos - “That’s me in the corner. That’s me in the spotlight.” Yeah, I actually wanted to be the guy in the corner with the headset.
The people who are making the stories.