Through the 2012 season, we hosted over 500 people in our exclusive VIP Hospitality, hosted the first-ever Freescale One Make Festival at Fuji Speedway that combined the traditional embedded processing trade show format with racing, and racked up a total of 5 podiums.
As program manager for the entire project, it was sometimes a challenge to keep everything at its optimum. My role included the creation of R&D program direction, hospitality structure and oversight, PR/marketing, and of course all things that need ironing out for the actual racing. Securing hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorship from the beneficiaries of the program was a task that necessitated me to build trust and confidence in me by our partners – Freescale, Toyotsu Electronics, Avnet Electronics Marketing, and Tokyo Electron Device. Navigating the maze that is a multi-billion dollar corporation and its politics was also something new.
Check out this video covering the Freescale One Make Festival.
We always ran the program as a business, and I created a methodology that tracked the ROI for our sponsors, who were all Freescale Japan distributors, which can be summed up as follows:
Evaluation of the racing program effect on new business that is won by Freescale or its distributors : Distributor sales and Freescale sales evaluate each deal on a scale of 0-10 with granular explanation of each number, which then equates to the percentage of the deal the racing program gets credit for a given deal.
If Mitsubishi Electric were to have 25 of its employees from management, procurement, and engineering present at a few races back to back in our VIP hospitality, and new RFPs/RFQs were provided in a timely fashion at or after the events to Freescale, then the sales guys from both Freescale Japan and the assigned Freescale Japan distributor responsible for this customer provide their detailed feedback and evaluation of the effect the racing program.
The effect of the program was vast. There were many components to it: our R&D, our hospitality, the sheer excitement and camaraderie that racing creates, and the overall Freescale brand trust and elevation via PR and marketing.
A little bit of business background. Freescale Semiconductor, based in Austin, TX, is a $5B public corporation, and holds a huge market share in automotive chips and sensors worldwide. It’s main competitor, especially in Japan, is Renesas.
The issue regionally is that Renesas has tens of thousands of employees in its home-base – Japan, and its sales force is thousands strong. Freescale Japan’s easiest route to growth is to siphon away Renesas’ market share, since Renesas’ sales in the space of competition with Freescale may be 20x of Freescale Japan’s total revenue. Meanwhile, Freescale Japan’s sales force, even if you add in all of the distributors sales force on the Freescale account, is a couple of hundred.
Reminds of the movie “300.” This is where the racing program strategy came in. With a racing program, we accomplished the following:
1. Unique positioning of Freescale Japan as the innovator in the Japan market. The only microchip company with a race team conducting active-safety R&D and thus showcasing the engineering know-how and its portfolio of products – spanning the networking, automotive, industrial, and consumer segments.
2. Psychology: Racing is competition to the extreme. By hosting hundreds of decision-makers from our customers, we create our own team that INCLUDES the customers. This team is full of passion and excitement, with everyone rooting for the same thing.
3. Facilitation of direct and friendly relationship with customer management base. Instead of trying to sell from the bottom at the customers, we sell directly to the decision-makers and management, who are now not only on our side logically, but also emotionally.
4. Significant POSITIVE media exposure: Prior to this program, Freescale would have a handful of journalists show up for a press conference. We hosted multiple press conferences centering on the Freescale Racing program and the room was packed every time. Consider what journalist whose job it is to cover the embedded microchip marketplace who would not want to go to a press event about RACING! On top of that, the race car is packed with Freescale technology, and we are doing something no other competitor is doing!
5. The camaraderie that was created between Freescale and its distributors was immense. Spending weekend after weekend together, in a positive and energetic environment. That is such huge motivation for people whose jobs are usually to be at the desk or visiting customers for endless meetings that would want to make you tear your hair out.
What did all of this mean to the success of the program?
Freescale received roughly $75 million dollars of product commitments which will flip to revenue over the subsequent 5 years or so as a DIRECT measured result in 2012. The sales cycle, especially in the automotive segment, is rather long, and can take up to 5 years from winning the design to going to production.
At the season finale at Motegi, I was asked by Hitotsuyama Racing to also race in the Audi R8 GT3 during the same weekend in SUPER GT GT300, resulting in a lot of jumping back and forth between the Porsche and the Audi. In the following Fuji Sprint Race for SUPER GT, I secured the first and only points position in that car for the team for the season.
Stay tuned for the update covering the 2nd year (2013) of the Freescale Racing program in Japan!