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Voices in the Field: Jason Golden on NASCAR

Dr. James ReeseFaculty Member, Practicum Coordinator & Community Relations, Sports Management & Esports and
Jason Golden, Chief Revenue Officer, Richard Childress Racing

How do innovation, AI, and corporate sponsorships impact the world of professional motor sports? And why should Sports Management majors try to learn about finance? Chief Revenue Officer for Richard Childress Racing, Jason Golden, shares all the answers today with APU Sports Management faculty.

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Jim Reese: Hello, and welcome to this latest edition of our Voices in the Field podcast series, brought to you by the APUS Sports Management Program. My name is Jim Reese, along with my colleague, Dr. Brittany Jacobs. We’ll be your hosts for today’s podcast. Now, please welcome our special guest, Mr. Jason Golden, chief revenue officer for Richard Childress Racing. Jason, it’s good to have you. Welcome, and thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule for us.

Jason Golden: Jim, Brittany, appreciate it very, very much. Thanks for having me. Excited to be a part of this conversation today.

Jim Reese: Would you have thought when we were together at Ohio that we’d be doing this someday? I know I never would’ve.

Jason Golden: No, I don’t think so. And I get that question a lot. I know that one was specific to this podcast, but I’m not even sure that, when I was in college, I would’ve told you that I would’ve spent a majority of my career in motor sports and NASCAR racing, either. It just is interesting how some things happen along the way and in your career and the path that you end up on. And for me, it’s been a good one, but certainly wasn’t one that I necessarily would’ve, mapped out when I was a young 20-something on campus, that’s for sure.

Jim Reese: Now, mine hasn’t changed, but I never thought I’d be doing podcasts. I can tell you that’s for sure. And enjoying it at the same time! But, I’ll let Brit pick up on this when she talks about your career path. I remember Andy and I visiting you at UNLV and then coming to see you at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

But, Jason, you’ve done incredible and, and you should be real proud of what you’ve, I mean, chief revenue officer, would you even have thought that job title back in college? I mean-

Jason Golden: No, frankly, not at all. Like I said, I knew that I sort of wanted to… I have the personality – and, kind of, the type A personality – to be in an external role, if you will. To use the college athletics discussion. But sales, marketing, I had no idea exactly what that was going to be, and it just has kind of fallen into this. And now, yes, as the chief revenue officer for one of NASCAR’s biggest, most historic and storied teams is…it’s quite exciting, very interesting, and certainly not something that I would’ve predicted many moons ago, that’s for sure.

Brittany Jacobs: Jim, if you don’t mind, I’m going to follow up on that and jump right into our career conversations. So, you said you didn’t think, “sales and marketing,” when you were coming through your educational program. So, how did you transition into those sectors of sport, and what did it take to get involved? I mean, of course, get all the way up to the chief revenue officer role.

Jason Golden: Let’s back up to my time on campus at Ohio University in Athens. So, as an undergrad, I went through the sports industry, sports administration, sports management program. It’s had a few iterations since then. And, you know, when you first start out, you’re interested in sports. And I think the very first time I walked in, and they asked me what I wanted to be, I said, “I want to be the general manager of the Cincinnati Reds.” Right? That was my goal at the time, to work in the front office, whatever even that meant when you’re 18 coming in as a freshman to know.

And as I learned more about the business side of the sport and understood where the money flowed and what it took to be a successful organization – certainly, everybody understands you need to be successful on the playing surface, the football field, the baseball diamond, the, the racetrack, whatever it might be. But also, just as important, or sometimes more important, is if you can be successful on the commercial side of the house: in the boardroom, in ticket sales, and concessions, and all these sort of things. The revenue-generation side, for lack of a better term.

And as I started getting into more specialized classes, you know, in your junior and senior year – and then obviously I applied and got into the master’s program there as well – started to understand rev-gen, started to understand negotiating, started to understand where the dollars flowed, and started to understand that I had a genuine interest in that. And it seemed to have the right kind of temperament and moxie and whatever descriptor you want to use to be on a sales and marketing kind of role that I just started gravitating towards that. And I enjoyed it.

We had classes where we negotiated fake stadium financing deals from the public sector and all these kinds of things and that – I really seemed to thrive in that. And so, it started to then turn into this, okay, sales, marketing, rev-gen, tickets, sponsorship. These kinds of things are what’s most intriguing to me. And by the time I was a senior, and then in through my grad school year, that was really my focus, but not per se to NASCAR or football or basketball or hockey or anything like that. Just trying to understand where the opportunities might lie.

Jim Reese: All right. Jason, I’ve got a, a question. When I was working with Jacob Agajanian, the car replacement number – and anybody that saw Ricky Bobby/Talladega Nights: a hundred thousand. What does it cost to re- if someone totals a car, what, what’s the cost to replace that, at this point?

Jason Golden: Well, as the chief revenue officer and the guy that has to find the money to pay for it all, I wish it was still $100,000. That is not the case anymore. In the Cup Series, in the top series of NASCAR (there’s a few different series), but in NASCAR Cup Series car, if we total a car there, we’re pushing a half a million dollars… 425, 450. It’s a big hit to the bottom line of we total a car. Now, there are things we can do. We can utilize parts, we can reuse some parts of chassis and things like that. NASCAR has helped us with some rules and regulations around the car to help manage and have some cost controls. But it is, yes, it is, it’s easily $400k if we wipe one out. That’s a big hit, for sure.

Jim Reese: I remember the template that they used when I was down in the pit area and it’s amazing how precise – if you’re off just a little bit, they will flag the car and will not let you go forward. So, it’s really something to see that.

Jason Golden: It’s interesting now and the template was what was used for many years. And now, of course, Jim, we’ve gotten away from that. Everything is digital, and so, we have to go through a laser optical scanner now on our car. Every car in NASCAR has to go through that. So, what they do is engineers draw a 3D drawing of the car, of what the shape and requirements are from NASCAR. They give us a 150,000 of an inch tolerance across the entire body. And so, if we’re not within the 150,000 of an inch parameters, then we cannot race.

And so, what we did at Richard Childress Racing team – one of the bigger teams in the pecking order of NASCAR (we can get into that later) – we went out and actually purchased the exact same inspection tool and inspection equipment that NASCAR uses at the track every week. So, we would have that repeatability to try to ensure that we do that. And the tolerances are so tight at this point and so precise that you’ve got to be able to do that. And then, even within that 150,000 of an inch, there are some advantages to being either as high or as low as you can within that.

So, that also, then, is an advantage for us. When we’re well-resourced, we can push the envelope as it relates to falling within that. And some of the lesser-funded teams, lesser-resourced teams, they don’t have that luxury. They have to build to the middle and build a little bit more conservatively – not necessarily have that competitive edge – to ensure that they are “chinning to the bar,” that NASCAR has put together, as it relates to the specifications on the car itself.

Jim Reese: Well, now, I’m really feeling old, because the last time I saw it, there was an actual template that they set on top of the car to do it. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve been down in the pit, so.

Jason Golden: Well, we used to call it the big metal claw, right? It sort of just looks like a big claw that would come down and sit right on top of the car. And the teams, we have a lot of really smart engineers. We found ways to sort of manipulate the claw. We knew where the claw would touch. We knew where the template would sit on the car. So, NASCAR got pretty wise to that. And once the technology became such that they could use a laser, an optical scanner, that has removed some of the “gray area,” as they say in the rule book, for us. Yeah.

Jim Reese: They put the kibosh on it, huh?

Jason Golden: Yeah. Correct. Yes sir.

Jim Reese: Uh, Britt?

Brittany Jacobs: I was going to say: We’re seeing that tech is becoming more and more integral to sport, as we move forward. And, of course, AI is this entirely new sphere of sport that we’re running into. Are you all using AI or tech in any other ways?

Jason Golden: We really are. And, so, one of the things that I do, Brittany, many times when I’m talking about – in my role, you know, I’m trying to work on getting the corporate sponsors and the corporate partners to come in and sponsor our car, which helps us fund our organization. And one of the things that we try to do when we are in negotiations, or even early conversations, with some of our sponsors, we do a little bit of myth busting, right?

Because some people still think that this is a bunch of hillbillies driving in circles, and running moonshine, and building cars in a dirt floor barn, and it just couldn’t be any further from the truth. So, trying to highlight the technology that we put into our cars and what we do is very important to us. And two areas that probably make the most sense. One: the amount of time that we actually get to practice with our cars on the racetrack has been reduced significantly over the years.

So, it used to be, when we would go to a race, we would practice for three or four hours in several different sessions – on Thursday and Friday and Saturday – leading up to the race. Now, we practice for 20 minutes, 20 minutes. And that really is just for us to shake down the car, to ensure that we have everything put together. It’s honed right. It’s all these sorts of things. Nearly all of our practice and setup, now, is done in the cloud, in simulation. And, so, we’ll do setups; we’ll do thousands of simulated laps in our simulation software and in our setup.

And, so, that’s one area where technology has really played a difference. When we “unload,” quote unquote, “unload off the hauler,” we have very little time to make any adjustments to the car. We’ve got 20 minutes. We practice, and then literally go right into qualifying. And, so, we have to ensure that we’ve got our parts and pieces and our setup as honed in as possible. And that’s done through the simulation. The other area that’s most easy to point to is we are using AI machine learning to try to build a playbook on all of our competitors and what the tendencies might be in any given race.

In the movies, you see NASA Launch Control, or a control room, or a situation room, or whatever it might be. We have one of those as well. We have a nerve center, here in our facility in North Carolina, that is manned by dozens of race engineers on race day with direct communication to the track, pulling all of this data and telemetry off of the cars to understand what they’re doing. And then we also went out and partnered with a group called ROAI to write predictive analytic software and AI for us to start to understand what might happen in a race.

All right, what are the tendencies that happen in races that take place in Phoenix, or Bristol, or Texas? But then, also, what are the tendencies of Brittany as a driver and Jim as her crew chief in any given situation? Is she going to pit and take two tires, or four tires, or stay out, or take fuel? Does she typically have a tendency to run longer or shorter on fuel runs? All of these kinds of things, because then we are trying to take that into consideration for us to make the best decisions we possibly can and optimize our performance.

And we can point to a couple times in which the tool helped us win a race when we otherwise, probably, would not have, because the tool made a recommendation to us that was counter to conventional wisdom or what the “gut decision” might normally have been. We finished a race a few years ago at Texas Motor Speedway where we finished first and second. We won 1-2 in that race, and NBC ended up writing an article about it, and putting it on NBC sports the next week. And instead of sending one of their pit reporters to the track to report from there, they came to our headquarters to highlight what we were doing.

So, they had an article, you can look it up, how a decision 1,200 miles away from Texas Motor Speedway helped RCR win the race. So, technology, AI simulation, all of that is very, very integral to our success. And, then again, looking at it from a revenue side also has been another area in which we have to ensure that we are well-resourced to be able to compete at the highest level.

Brittany Jacobs: I have one more follow-up for you. In speaking about the way that you’re utilizing it on the racetrack, are you also utilizing it for any fan engagement? These simulations… Is there a way for the fans to engage in a similar way?

Jason Golden: In an indirect way, yes. Race teams themselves don’t have a lot of interaction directly with the fans. We don’t sell the tickets to a race event. We don’t sell much of the hospitality or the concessions or those sorts of things. But where we do help pretty intricately and where it touches the fans is with iRacing and video games and these sorts of things. They’re taking a lot of cues from what we’re getting: feel, sensory, that sort of thing: what it looks and feels like in the car, what cars will do throughout a long tire run at any given track, and what the falloff might be, and all those kinds of things.

So, the data that we are pulling and using to make our decisions on race day, we also then collectively share with the stakeholders in that group for the fan engagement side. Most notably, through the racing simulator games, video games, these sorts of things, for them to get a more realistic experience of what it’s like to be in the race car.

Jim Reese: That is really cool. I’ve been to numerous races. Another one of your classmates at Ohio, ended up working for Toyota, their sponsorship area. And, so, I used to go to Watkins Glen for free all the time when I was up at Cortland. One of the things about going to different races is the first race I went to, which was the one at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, I didn’t have a driver and I didn’t have a headset. And it was a different experience to when I started having a driver and wore the headset at the race, because – speaking about Britt’s comment about fan experience – that’s where I really connected with the teams and the drivers.

And, so, that is a way, and it is fascinating to listen to the back-and-forth that… and you can switch to any car, which was really cool too. Doing anything with that, as far as, obviously, you can only do so much, because they’re just listening in on what you’re saying. But is there a revenue stream there or is that all a third party?

Jason Golden: There’s not a direct revenue stream to us, but there is one, sort of for the greater good. And then there’s some backup house sort of rev share things that happen with the league. But that is still a very important piece for the fan experience and for the sponsor experience itself: to be able to hear and understand and sort of get into the cockpit, if you will, of the driver. So, to listen in on the headset, that is a mandate by NASCAR to ensure all of those… All the radio communication has to be open. We cannot have a secret channel, an encrypted channel, none of these things, none of the teams can, and that is by design, right?

We all could have our own encrypted channels if we wanted to, but they want the fans to be able to know and hear that chatter between the driver, the spotter, the crew chief, the race engineers, those, the voices that are in the driver’s head. Now, another step that’s gone a little further: every car now, Jim, does have a camera in it to give you the driver’s POV. And, so, through NASCAR and through the NASCAR digital platform, you can dial up your favorite driver and then ride along. So, if our, the fans of ours that want to ride along with Austin Dillon or Kyle Busch, then they can do that and tune in and listen to the chatter that is synced up with what’s going on on the racetrack.

So, when you talk about another way that tech is infiltrating the sport and helping, that certainly helps from a fan engagement. And it’s interesting. It’s gotten to the point where – and I think a lot of sports can say this – we almost have such a good fan experience for you to sit and watch first screen, second screen, third screen, that you almost have to think about what it does to potentially the live event. Now, luckily with racing, I still think that nothing replaces being there live to feel the power and the sound and the sights and the smells that come from NASCAR.

But we have come leaps and bounds to help really try to bring the racetrack into the living room and the sensation of speed, power, and, frankly, danger that exists in our sport.

Brittany Jacobs: All right. I wanted to turn back time a little bit, and I know that before you started working for Richard Childress, you were working for IMG College. So how did you transition from the more traditional sporting sector into NASCAR and into motor sports?

Jason Golden: Yeah, it’s, it’s really interesting. So, I’ll give you a quick review on my career path, right? So, I knew I wanted to be in the sales, and marketing, and external kind of roles. So, out of grad school, I started applying for a lot of jobs, and we had a really good alumni network. I got hired on to work at UNC Chapel Hill in the ticket office by an alum.

And it was just an hourly job, but it was my first job, one that I wanted to work on. I almost kind of treated it like an internship. And, at that time, I literally just started applying for sponsorship sales jobs, anywhere I could find them, anywhere they were posted. And I applied, Brittany, probably to 30 sponsorship sales jobs. One of them just happened to be at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I didn’t know anybody there, didn’t have a connection, but for whatever reason, I don’t know, blind luck, whatever it might be, my résumé, my cover letter made its way to the hiring manager and the person in charge of rev-gen there. Got the interview, went and visited with them, phone interview in-person interview, and started working at LVMS.

So, again, had no visions of necessarily working in racing, but it was a chance for me to work in sponsorship sales. And motor sports, NASCAR, at the time, was really, really hot. And I was excited to take the job. So, went out to Las Vegas and worked at the Speedway for four or five years, living there in the market. And, got to know a couple of other OU alums, and you’re going to hear a theme there, some OU alums all throughout this. And the athletic director and an associate AD at UNLV were both OU alums at the time. They had a third-party rights holder back when ESPN used to do it. It was ESPN and ISP and Learfield, all these different players. They had taken their rights back in-house, and I had known them just from living in the marketplace.

They said, “We really want a really strong salesperson to come work for us to be in-house.” So, I went and joined UNLV as an employee of the athletic department, and we were probably in the minority at that time, right? Most schools would’ve had a third-party rights holder, an IMG, a Learfield, a host, whoever it was at that particular time. So, worked there for a couple years, and then they put the rights back out to bid. But, as part of that, there was this caveat that, whoever the rights holder was, that they would kind of absorb that sales team that was in place to be a part of that, which is nice.

So, ISP won the rights and, therefore, I just sort of transitioned. One day – I know my office was the same, my phone number was the same. One day I got a check from UNLV, the next day my paycheck came from ISP. I worked at ISP and had pretty good success there. And then, when you work at one of those larger agencies like that, with multiple schools, there’s lots of opportunities to move and grow and get promoted within the organization. Was at UNLV for another four or five years and then got the chance to go run the business at Marshall University in Huntington.

And, so, I was at Marshall University, so I was the GM at that property. And from there, got a chance to go be a regional vice president in Columbus, Ohio. Manage a lot of, several schools in that region, worked out of the Ohio State office, but had a lot of those Mid-American conference schools, which was interesting to me. So, I got Ohio U back in my fold, and Miami, and Akron, and getting some of these. I spent, I think it was seven or eight, years there, sort of in that ISP. And then during that it was ISP, and then it was IMG, and then it was Endeavor, and then it was… there was lots of M&A activity there.

But I went through that process there for seven or eight years. And then Richard Childress Racing ended up hiring an executive search firm looking for someone to head up their sponsorship sales. And what they wanted was interesting, and I just, I guess, I got lucky. They didn’t want somebody that was this “lifer” in motor sports and had been kind of a retread that had worked for five or six different race teams and just sort of bounced around and kind of sold it always the traditional way.

Rather, what they wanted was somebody that had some experience in motor sports but had experience in sales in multiple venues and multiple markets and could speak to both sides. So, my time at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was certainly helpful to understand the NASCAR and motor sports world. And then, of course, my time with ISP/IMG was very helpful, as well, and got to work with some of the biggest brands in the country with Ohio State and Michigan, and then also some smaller ones, because the sale is very different.

So, I sort of had this really diversified background, diversified portfolio if you’re in investment speak, right? But always on the rev-gen side. And, so, they said, all right, this is very interesting. You’ve done a lot of this, you’ve had success at all the stops along the way. And, so, we feel like this is the right kind of thing. We want a fresh look and a fresh perspective on selling motor sports sponsorships and NASCAR team sponsorships, but also somebody that at least has some of the base knowledge of all the inner workings of how this crazy sport works.

So, long story short, I went through a couple different sessions of interviews and got a chance to come visit their campus, and visit with some of their partners, and visit with Richard Childress himself, and sort of shared his vision. And that’s, Jim, how about this? It’s been almost 10 years now that I’m at Richard Childress Racing. Pretty amazing.

Jim Reese: Jason, you know what’s beautiful about what you just described? And this is what Brit and I and all of our professors tell our students, is to volunteer and build your résumé in as many different areas as you can, because you just never know. That’s a perfect example of a non-traditional hire. The more you do that and the more different areas you touch, the more valuable you become. So, students, as you’re listening to this, hope you heard loud and clear what Jason just shared, because it’s very important.

Jason Golden: I agree 100%. And I’ve said this a few times too, especially coming out of school. I hear so many people – sometimes I interface – I’m on the alumni advisory board at Ohio, so I go back, sometimes, and hear them and go, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And I have so many kids say, “Well, I want to be in sports information for pro tennis.” Okay! That is a great goal, but if you are only going to take a job in pro tennis, boy, you’re really limiting yourself initially, right?

And, so, if you can get your foot in the door and gain experience and illustrate that you’re valuable to an organization, there’s plenty of opportunity for you to then grow, and shift, and turn, and learn what makes the most sense for you. But you’ve got to be open-minded, especially when you’re trying to get that initial job. Get yourself in the industry. Start to make connections. Do your job really, really well. And if you do, it’ll pay off.

Brittany Jacobs: Absolutely. Time and time again, we find that the sport industry is so small, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s in racing or whether it’s in eSport, there’s going to be some connectivity or some connection in between them. So, everybody knows everybody, and you’ve got to make sure that you’re making good impressions everywhere you go.

Jason Golden: Agree 100%. So, yeah, for the students listening, I would encourage you to be as open-minded as possible. Try to be as willing to branch out, and take a risk, and take a leap, if you can. Early in my career – I’ve been here now for 10 years, but I also could joke that my wife is a saint – I could probably go pro in moving, because I moved a lot of times. In several different abodes, in several different places along the way, because I was trying to build this career and build this experience and understand what’s out there and really get a varied background to ensure that I was as well-rounded as possible.

And, so, if you have that ability to do that and to be open-minded and to be able to potentially take a leap and move to a different city or state for the opportunity, if you don’t limit yourself as much, then, if you have that ability to do it, you really should. I encourage you to do so.

Jim Reese: We tell our students to put yourself in a position where you can take advantage of those when they come along.

Jason Golden: Correct.

Jim Reese: That was advice I was given. We try to share that with all of our students as well. I’ve got another question here. It’s to change topics a little bit, but-

Brittany Jacobs: Let’s do it.

Jim Reese: All right, Jason, one of the problems we had when I was with the Broncos: we used to have athlete events all the time at the ticket office at the stadium, and we had a heck of a time getting the athletes to show up, because it wasn’t in their contract. So, my question is: Do you include that in your contracts with your drivers? Because, otherwise, it can be a nightmare trying to get… you make a commitment to sponsors. The athletes don’t show up, so.

Jason Golden: Yes. And, so, I would say that’s one of the bigger differences between NASCAR and the – we use the term, “the stick and ball sports,” from time to time. So, a sponsorship for a NASCAR team is the single largest line item that we have. And that’s not the same for an NFL team, right? Their single largest line item is probably the TV money, and then it’s probably tickets, and gate, and merchandise, and all these other things, right? And sponsorship is probably pretty far down the pecking order. It’s probably not in the top five. Depending on the market, I know.

But ours, it is number one. We don’t receive any ticket revenue; that goes to the track. We don’t really receive any TV revenue; that goes to NASCAR and the tracks. There’s a little bit that flows through in form of race, and purse, and winnings, and that sort of thing. So, sponsorship is the lifeblood of a NASCAR race team. And, because of that, corporate sponsorship and partnership is so ingrained in our sport, literally, it’s the uniform that we wear. When we look at branding on our car, on our driver’s uniforms, it’s the RCR logo, which you maybe can see here on my shirt, because we have to, we have to brand our car.

But people root for the brand of the car, the Caterpillar car or the Bass Pro shops car, whatever it might be. Other sports, they don’t do that. They root for the Caterpillar car or they root for the Dallas Cowboys, not the Dallas Miller lights. So, in our sport, the way we put our driver contracts together is it is incumbent on them to deliver for us sponsor engagements, sponsor appearances, sponsor meet-and-greets, sponsor activities, going to events away from the racetrack, attending sales conferences and meetings, and executive dinners, and all these kinds of things.

So, yes, we build that in, and it makes it a little bit easier because it’s almost a – it’s a team relationship, but there’s also an endorsement piece that comes with the driver. I used to use the example back when Aaron Rogers was playing for the Packers. State Farm had a huge deal with the Packers, but then when they wanted Aaron Rogers, they had to go cut a whole other deal with Aaron Rogers to be able to use that. When Bass Pro Shops wants to have a relationship with us and with our driver Austin Dillon, it’s one stop. It’s one stop. And we can deliver all of that, because that is the most important, but drivers know it too. We have to build that into their contracts. Without sponsorship, the drivers don’t have a job.

Now, the Denver Broncos could potentially lose most of their corporate sponsors in any given year, and the players would still have a job, and the team would do just fine. But if we didn’t have our sponsorship, the drivers would lose the job, and the team may not exist, based on how big or small that organization is. So, that’s a long-winded we way of me saying, “Yes, we build a lot of that in.” The way a driver – the way a NASCAR driver gets paid, at least at the big teams or at a place like RCR, is we provide them with a base salary to do X number of things. Drive the car, and also all of these other sort of corporate and commercial activities that we need for our corporate sponsors.

And then they win a percentage of the race purse that is awarded to the team. And we do that to incentivize them, because if you finished first, you made more than when you finished fifth, and you made more than when you finished 10th. So, it’s a base salary, plus a percentage of purse for the drivers. And that base salary does capture much of these other requirements that we have for them to do for our corporate sponsors. But, on the “stick and ball” world, it’s, “Hey, we’d love you to come do this,” or, “Can you? Won’t you?” And it is just not as much need or connectivity from the player to do it. And, frankly, many times it’s not a contractual obligation. So, it’s just simply not going to happen.

Jim Reese: Jason, you set up our next podcast beautifully, because that one is with the director of corporate partnerships with the Denver Broncos. So, there we go. We’ll have the back-to-back right there. So, Britt, I’ll turn it over to you for the next question.

Brittany Jacobs: Yes, speaking about sponsorship and how important it is in racing, when you think about the sizes of your teams, are they significantly bigger? Do you have a lot more sponsorship managers, coordinators, et cetera than you might see, like we’re talking about, with the Denver Broncos?

Jason Golden: Yeah, we probably do. It’s interesting. Let me just kind of give you an overview on the way our sponsorship model works and what our sponsorship team looks like, and that’ll probably answer your question. So, we field four full-time teams. We have two full-time teams in the NASCAR Cup Series, and then we have two more in what is now called the NASCAR Xfinity Series. It’s had a few names: Nationwide, Busch Series, that sort of thing. So, it’s sort of, if you put it in baseball terms, it’s the major leagues and then AAA.

And we will need somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million in sponsorship to operate those teams. And we get that $50 million, though, from roughly 50 partners. So, we go very deep with a smaller, in the grand scheme of things, number of sponsors than others. When I was at IMG, at many of the colleges, at Ohio State, we probably had 150 corporate partners of some kind. I bet you many NFL teams have 100 corporate partners of some kind. Ours is only 50, so the number of times we ring the bell for a sale is not very frequent. So, the sales team is not as big, but the, for lack of a better term, partnership marketing and fulfillment team is quite big.

Because we have to ensure that we are servicing, and activating, and providing all of those assets and deliverables and attributes that come with a corporate partnership with RCR on a week-in and week-out basis. And we do it in a very labor-intensive way, because we don’t have any home games.

Brittany Jacobs: True.

Jason Golden: Zero. We have zero home games. We have 38 race events every single year, and for 34 of them, we’re boarding an airplane to go to it. Other than Charlotte Motor Speedway, here, and Martinsville Speedway, close by. So, it’s labor-intensive, very expensive, and it requires a lot of handholding, because of the size and scope of what those corporate partners are. Again, 50-ish million dollars in sponsorship from 50 partners. We have the equivalent of probably what would be three or four naming rights partners.

We have several mid-seven-figure partners. We have one eight-figure annual partner. And, so, that is much bigger than the Columbus Blue Jackets. They probably have a couple partners that are in that range and a lot smaller. A small sponsorship deal for us is a few hundred thousand dollars.

Brittany Jacobs: Thank you for that. It’s super interesting to think about how each of those different departments might be structured from sport to sport.

Jason Golden: Yeah. It is very different, and the sheer numbers – for us, we have roughly, between sales, and sponsorship, and content creation, and public relations, and communications, and fulfillment, and logistics, and hospitality, and all those kinds of things, we’ve probably got 20 people that are just there for sponsor services only.

Jim Reese: Well, listen, Jason, we are running just about out of time here. So, I want to ask my last question, which is kind of how I end up each of these, and it’s, what’s next for Jason Golden? Where do you see yourself in – you want to stay in racing, or do you have other ambitions?

Jason Golden: That question was posed to me not that long ago, and I stuttered and stammered with it like I am now. No, here’s what I would say. I have enjoyed, very much, my time at RCR, and in the role that I’m in, being on the executive team for Richard himself, and on his, almost like the president’s cabinet, if you will, with him. And I’ve gotten to learn a ton about how this organization runs and how a professional sports organization runs, certainly on the racing side.

And, because revenue and sponsorship are so important, I’ve probably seen more than I might have if I was in a similar role with a professional “stick and ball” team, because even sponsors can impact what happens on the racetrack, and who the drivers might be, and who some of the players might be on the pit crew. All those kinds of things. So, I guess I would like to eventually, probably, have the opportunity to run a professional sports organization. I use that generic term on purpose, because, could it be another race team? Sure.

A NASCAR team, an IndyCar team, a drag racing team in the motor sports world? Sure, possibly. But it also could be a more traditional “stick and ball” operation, or maybe even an agency chapter somewhere that might make sense for me. But I’d like to probably take that next step in running the entire organization, at least the commercial side of the house, if it’s in sport, because I feel like I’m well-positioned for that after all these years on the rev-gen side and understanding how integral it has been with a NASCAR race team.

But at the same time, this is a pretty good gig, and so, I’m not looking to leave anytime soon, but if that right opportunity presented itself and I had the opportunity to run an organization, I certainly think that’d be something I’d be quite interested in doing.

Jim Reese: What a great, honest answer. I love that, because a lot of people will dance around that. I love that response. Fantastic. Britt, do you have anything else before we wrap things up?

Brittany Jacobs: I do have one more question for you, if you have the time.

Jason Golden: Sure.

Brittany Jacobs: All right, so, we talked a lot about rev-gen today, and I know that a lot of students coming into sport management are afraid of finance in some way, shape, or form. It’s a little bit scary when you get the numbers and the math involved. So, what advice would you have to students that are a little bit fearful of sport finance, or rev-gen, or these potential opportunities?

Jason Golden: I get it. It still can be intimidating, and every year, when I get into budget and forecasting for the next year, I want to pull my hair out, and I’ve got to lock my door, and just focus. And I’m not going to lie, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. That’s the reality of the situation, but I will say this: If you can demonstrate, and I know that – I get that I’m a biased lifelong sales- or rev-gen person – but if you can demonstrate that you have a good handle and an understanding on how the money flows in an organization or how the dollars impact an organization – so, therefore, understanding the finances, and understanding budgeting, and understanding forecasting, those kinds of things – especially if, then, you can illustrate that you understand it and you can help generate it, there’s always going to be a position for you at your organization or any others. Many times, throughout the years, I’ve heard of organizations that have to do a little bit of a cutback here or a downsize there or any of these kinds of things. And a lot of the time, the folks that can either generate the revenue, have a good command on the finances, and understand the numbers – they’re more essential than those that can’t. And, so, I would certainly lean into and say, “Yes, it can be intimidating. Yes, it can be.” I was not a finance major, but I certainly, now, have and understand what I need to do to understand how to read a P&L, and put together a general ledger, and understand how to forecast, and understand how to budget, and understand how to amortize, and understand how to think about cash flow, and all these kinds of things.

And I say I believe that is extremely valuable for you, because if you can do that, and demonstrate that, and have a handle on that, then virtually any kind of organization is going to need someone like you, because you have a good handle on that. Whether that’s in racing, in banking, and well, it doesn’t matter. In IT, in tech, if you can do that, if you can generate it, you understand how it works and can manage it, you’re very valuable to that organization.

Brittany Jacobs: That’s a great answer. Thank you so much.

Jim Reese: What a great question and great answer to wrap things up. Jason, anything else you’d like to add before we finish up?

Jason Golden: I would only, again, encourage your students, as they look at trying to build and take that first step out in their career: Be open-minded. Be willing to take a risk. Be willing to even fail, because, guess what? Everybody does. I’ve made mistakes, and I’ve failed, and I’ve made wrong moves. Everybody’s going to do that. Sometimes, some of the best life lessons, and the best opportunities to learn come out of a failure. But just remember that it’s your next job. It’s not your last job.

I think that’s really – it’s simple, but it rings true, because you can still hold onto that dream of being the sports information in pro tennis, but that might not be the first couple jobs that you have to get there. If you don’t limit yourself, you’ve got tons of upside. That’s for sure.

Jim Reese: I can’t speak for Britt, but I can say that that’s one of the things that keeps you going working in teaching, and it’s that, to see that kind of growth, and it’s just amazing.

Jason Golden: Well, thank you for the kind words, Jim. I appreciate it. I appreciate it very much. I’ve, I’ve enjoyed it.

Jim Reese: For our listeners, thank you for your continued support of our Voices in the Field podcast series. Due to requests from students interested in a career in marketing, as I said earlier, our next guest will be Derek Thomas, director of corporate partnerships with the Denver Broncos. Until then, on behalf of myself and my colleague, Brittany Jacobs, from the APUS Sports Management Program, this is Jim Reese saying so long.

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