Of all major sports in the US, none benefits more from coverage by business media than NASCAR.
With 106 Fortune 500 companies involved in NASCAR - more than any other sport - and an estimated 1,000 or more other companies participating at various levels of sponsorship, business communications plays as important a role as sports media and fan relations. Andrew Giangola, NASCAR's director of business communications, says that fact is part of what makes his job so pleasing.
"I'm like a kid in a candy store," Giangola says. "Obviously it's very important to sell the sport to fans. We need to be in the sports pages and on ESPN. But what makes NASCAR unique is that sponsor involvement is so prevalent. The stakes are so high, and companies invest multiple millions of dollars in the sport, so business [media] exposure is very important.
"So when the CEOs who sign the checks to support sponsorships see the business media acknowledging the power of the sport, it validates their involvement," he continues. "That's the kind of coverage that's helpful in continuing their involvement and bringing in new companies."
Giangola's main objective is the same as when he took the post in 2003: Generate business media exposure to highlight the sport's power as a marketing vehicle while focusing on stories that convey NASCAR as a "large growing mainstream brand" with passionate fans that support its sponsors."
"The mandate has been to continually tell the story of NASCAR as the big entity, but also to focus on sponsor success stories," adds Giangola. "I like to say the sponsor story is our story."
Giangola says his biggest challenge is serving myriad sponsors while avoiding oversaturation. Sure, each company would love to have its story told in The Wall Street Journal or Forbes, but Giangola must be mindful of avoiding a situation where reporters say, "OK, I've gotten pitched three or four times on NASCAR stories this week. I need to move on and cover something else."
"I try to do what any good PR person does: Let the content rule the day and find the stories," he says. "Today, you have all the sponsors and their agencies pitching stories. That's one of the biggest changes I've seen - you have more people telling NASCAR's story."
Matt Crossman, associate editor at the Sporting News, has worked with Giangola for the past two years. Crossman says Giangola helped him with one of the most enjoyable stories he's ever written - serving as an extra on the Will Ferrell comedy Talladega Nights - and one of the most challenging and successful stories of his career, "NASCARize Me."
For "NASCARize Me," Crossman spent an entire weekend surviving solely on NASCAR products. He ate Domino's pizza, slept at Best Western, shaved with Gillette, and drank Coke.
"I felt guilty for not having included his name somewhere in there, not quoting him, or somehow giving him props," Crossman says. "Without [Giangola], that story would not have been in the same ballpark of what it was."
Crossman says one of Giangola's strengths is that he sees the big picture and appreciates stories from both sides. "When I pitched that story to Andrew, he saw it for what it was," Crossman says. "The point was to write about the scope of NASCAR. He grasped that, both in a journalistic sense and in a 'I've got a job to do' sense. He helped me write a great story, but helped NASCAR at the same time.
"When you deal with Andrew," continues Crossman, "you know you're dealing with a guy who knows exactly what he's doing. If you call him and ask him something, if it's possible for it to happen, it's going to happen. He got me in Will Ferrell's movie!"
Director of business communications, NASCAR
Director of global media relations, McKinsey & Co.
Director of industry media relations, Andersen Consulting (now Accenture)
VP of corporate comms, Simon & Schuster