Editor's Notebook, May 2003



T.W. Theodore

Something is happening out there. An idea that I thought would have great currency almost a decade ago, then thought was as dead as any idea ever gets, seems to be gathering strength. Women race car drivers can influence women consumers and sell product!!


Imagine that! There is room for women in motor sports advertising beyond the bound-in-spandex Tecate girls. As the gender gap continues to close between male and female race fans, and as women racers are becoming more recognized as being serious about the sport, advertisers are finally coming to understand. WRCDCIWCASP!!


cheered, dreamed, and commiserated...

Over the past than ten years, I've come to know, appreciate, and count as friends a number of dedicated, professional, hard working, fast, and fearless women race car drivers. I've cheered their successes. I've hoped and dreamed with some of them. I've commiserated with a few of them when their careers headed south for lack of sponsorship. I've felt guilty for not being able to be of more substantive help to them.


You know the drill. You research prospective sponsors. You build arguments supporting the notion that they would benefit by sponsoring a woman driver. You put together a professional sponsorship prospectus. You make as tailored and specific an approach as you can. In almost every case, you do not make it to the actual check-writing stage.



Of course, this scenario is acted out by most male drivers and their teams most of the time as well. Yet, there seems to have been a glass-ceiling-like barrier for women drivers that their male counterparts don't face. I've pondered the origins and structure of that ceiling, looking for ways to break, dissolve, circumvent, or otherwise defeat it.


Now, it seems, the ceiling is slowly cracking on the newly perceived strength of the buying power and loyalty of women race fans and the recognition that women race car drivers can be authority figures to them. In the past few months, I've received a number of unsolicited inquiries from marketing folk from fairly major corporations and a few marketing companies. This has never happened before.


soccer moms and brakes...

What made me sit down at my keyboard and write this optimistic column, however, was something I saw on television this weekend. Sarah Fisher drove her street car through a suburban neighborhood, being careful to brake for school children crossing the street and waving to soccer moms dropping kids off, before heading for the track, where she ripped off her shirt to reveal, not spandex, but a fire suit, as she stepped into her IndyCar. She then told us that Raybestos brake pads were the best brake pads every made, or words to that effect.


I was sold. I'll always buy Raybestos brake pads. You should too!


Here was the quintessential example: a woman authority on auto performance talking to female consumers about a product that those consumers feel is important but may not have thought much about previously. Like a thousand advertising executives at the bottom of the ocean, it's a start.


Are these the first signs of a paradigm shift? Do people still say 'paradigm shift'? What is a paradigm anyway?


an opening...

I write this optimistic column for the next generation of women drivers passionate about racing as a career. You must be talented and prepared on the race track and in your sponsor search to take advantage of any opportunity. I see an opening and the glimmer of an opportunity on the sponsorship front. If you are talented and prepared to go sponsor hunting, you just might be able to capitalize on that opening.


Permit an old man's dream. If a few courageous women drivers successfully seize this sponsorship opening, other women drivers could slipstream forward in their draft. I'd like to be there to see that!

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