Partner Summit generates ideas, alliances

By Dave Lewandowski

The WaterColor Inn & Resort in Panama City, Fla., provided the setting, the U.S. Air Force supplied a sizable portion of the entertainment and Dreyer & Reinbold principals administered the business aspects of the IZOD IndyCar Series team’s recent inaugural Partner Summit.

Justin Wilson popped in from Denver, Ana Beatriz visited from Sao Paulo and current commercial partners enjoyed two days of briefings from the team and IZOD vice president of sponsor activation Starke Taylor, and informal gatherings at the resort and Eglin Air Force Base.

“Having a team summit is something that I always wanted D&RR to be able to do,” team co-owner Robbie Buhl said. “We’ve always done them in smaller form with just individual sponsors after the season. I thought we were never strong enough as our entity and our group of partners to host our own event and have everybody come until this year.

“On a race weekend you get so busy doing your own thing that a lot of our sponsors didn’t know each other or know what each other did. So it also was a good opportunity for them to spend some time together and for us to learn a little bit more of what the goals and needs are of our sponsors as we look to build our commercial program along with our operational program. ”
– Robbie Buhl

“Early on this year I knew it was something that I wanted to get accomplished. I spent some time with one of our partners, the St. Joe Company, learning about their commercial development around the (Panama City) airport. Then I saw what they had with the resort and residential properties there and said it was a perfect place to host our event at WaterColor.

“It was a great opportunity to spend time with our sponsors. On a race weekend you get so busy doing your own thing that a lot of our sponsors didn’t know each other or know what each other did. So it also was a good opportunity for them to spend some time together and for us to learn a little bit more of what the goals and needs are of our sponsors as we look to build our commercial program along with our operational program.”
Buhl and co-owner Dennis Reinbold also announced that Wilson, who recorded eight top-10 finishes in the 17 races, would drive the No. 22 car for a second consecutive season.

“Having Justin back conveys a message of continuity and something to build from,” Buhl said. “On road courses, he’s as good as it gets. All of our team guys think his feedback and what he’s looking to get from the car is excellent. We just have to keep growing internally and honing our race car for him.”

Partners and team members also enjoyed a unique experience during the summit (not your typical event golf outing).

“As part of this event, you’re trying to get a lot done in a 24-hour window because everyone is busy,” Buhl added. “You want to make it fun and interesting. What’s the fun component to go along with business to make this work? And that’s when some of the relationships St. Joe has with the military in the Florida Panhandle gave me an introduction to Col. (David) Hlatky at Eglin. We said how cool would it be to go out to the base?”
Col. Hlatky, commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing, took care of logistics and provided some entertainment firepower to the outing. The 33rd Fighter Wing is responsible for F-35 A/B/C (Joint Strike Fighter) pilot and maintainer training for the Marine Corps, the Navy, the Air Force and, in the future, at least eight coalition partners.

“We brought out our truck and trailer and did simulated pit stops,” Buhl said. “We had some of the Marines, Air Force and Navy personnel in a pit stop competition, Lockheed Martin brought in two simulators of the F-35 and Col. Hlatky had an F-16 on static display. They were happy to have our group there and proud to show off what they do, and we wanted to show our world up close.”

Reinbold and Buhl first teamed up at Walt Disney World Speedway in January 2000, with Buhl winning on the oval. Now, entering its 12th season (more than 270 races) of full-time competition, the IndyCar driver turned team owner is optimistic about further commercial and on-track success.

“I think it’s as exciting a point as we’ve ever been in the IndyCar Series with this being the second year with IZOD and what they’re doing and now the new chassis in 2012,” Buhl said. “And now we’ll have three manufacturers that will be participating and promoting our sport and getting us out to more people. That’s the key. Competition is a good thing for all of us. We like to tune in to watch the racing and see who is competitive on that day whether it’s the driver, the manufacturer, the team so having multiple badges is great.

“The more people involved the more people our sport will be marketed to through the multiple manufacturers. I can’t recall when things looked so optimistic and exciting for the future of our sport.”

source http://www.indycar.com

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