By IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A popular marketing concept that has been successful in motorsports, particularly in the last decade or two, is “Business to Business,” or B2B, as it has become known in shorthand.
In motorsports applications, B2B is when one participating company gets to know and do business with another company or entity in the paddock. Correctly accomplished, both businesses prosper, which leads to continued – and ideally expanded – support for what is happening out on the racetrack.
For Konica Minolta – which has longstanding relationships as both an official partner of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) and as primary sponsor on Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Cadillac DPi-V.R in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – the B2B opportunities are designed to do just that.
“Really, the spirit of this and the approach of this is very simple to us,” said Konica Minolta Business Solutions USA Senior Vice President, International, Michael Mathé. “We like to do business with people in the paddock because we know how much racing costs.
“If we can somehow do some business together where we can provide some of these partners savings that they, in turn, can reinvest into racing, that would be really the ideal situation for us. To me, that’s the spirit of this, and that’s really the end goal of doing business in the paddock, to be able to provide the savings so they can reinvest in the racing business.”
Mathé estimated that, as a longtime partner of IMSA dating back to the GRAND-AM and American Le Mans era, Konica Minolta has done more than $50 million of business in the IMSA paddock. But the heart of the program and the business relationships are built around the common interest of racing.
“All those relationships have kind of happened through conversations about driving,” said Mathé, who himself has previously driven in the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge and the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama. “A lot of these guys are also drivers, gentlemen drivers and racers, so they can relate.
“We have conversations together, and somehow, we always end up talking about racing door-to-door. It’s been part of the key to success for this program. I try to attend every race as both a fan and as a business person – and certainly, if I can, as a driver. I’m hoping to try to get in the car this year for a couple of races also. It works. If I’ve got to be there for the weekend and work, it’s nice to be able to get in the car, too.”
Speaking of drivers, Konica Minolta had a blue-chip quartet sharing the controls of the No. 10 Cadillac DPi at last month’s Rolex 24 At Daytona with full-season drivers Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande sharing the car with two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso and Japanese FIA World Endurance Championship star Kamui Kobayashi.
The drivers delivered the second Rolex 24 victory in three years for the Konica Minolta Cadillac, which clearly paid dividends. But the company began reaping benefits long before the checkered flag dropped on the race.
“When we decided to move forward with Kamui Kobayashi and Fernando Alonso, we started doing a lot of background work,” Mathé explained. “Especially with Kamui, because of him being Japanese and us being a Japanese company, this set up a platform for us to do some social media and some internal motivation in Tokyo. We were able to engage Kamui to come to our corporate offices and spend a day with our very senior executives, our Chairman and CEO and most of our staff in Tokyo, which was fantastic.
“We have No. 1 market share in a lot of the markets in Europe, so we’re very well recognized globally. So, when you have a driver of Fernando Alonso’s caliber, who’s very well known, for us, it was huge. I’ve gotten many, many emails and different types of communication from all of our branches globally, as well as people reaching out, even from competitors, to say it was a brilliant move for us to have a person of that caliber in our team with that global reach, especially on the social media front.”
As is the case for most other companies, Mathe’ points out that the “social media front” is extremely valuable for Konica Minolta. And they’ve got that front pretty well covered all year long in the WeatherTech Championship via van der Zande and Taylor.
“In particular, Jordan, he’s a staple,” Mathé said. “He is so well known and so followed in social media. That’s always been consistent, and it’s a given. Both Jordan and Renger – I mean, Renger has kind of put us on the map in The Netherlands and in Europe. People follow him quite a bit and are well aware of us and our brand there.
“Of course, Jordan’s reach, we won together with a Konica Minolta-branded Corvette in Le Mans (in 2015). So, he’s been a very, very good partner to us and to really get our brand out there globally, not just here in the U.S.”
And what is Konica Minolta’s brand? It might not be what you think.
“When I mention ‘Konica Minolta,’ the first thing I hear 90 percent of the time is, ‘Oh, I have a Minolta camera,’” said Mathé. “We’re complimentary, and at least we know people have that brand awareness, but we haven’t made a camera since 2005. We actually got out of that business with our merger with Konica, and we’ve moved on to different things.
“We are from office products – which are your traditional copiers and faxes and so forth, black and white and color – all the way to production devices for commercial printers, all the way to decorative print, which is foil and varnish for embellishment for packaging and special marketing materials.
“We purchased a company about a year and a half ago called Ambry Genetics, which is basically precision medicine, so we’re in the precision medicine business. We are very, very involved in the IT services business from projects, from help desks from cloud services and storage. We have several data centers all over the United States.
“So, we have an extensive base of products that we offer today to the end user and to the consumer that a lot of people are not aware of. That’s why we always welcome the opportunity to talk about our company and to really show people all the very many things that we can do together.”
Overall, Mathé is bullish on the many – and growing – opportunities to have those conversations in the IMSA paddock.
“I think we couldn’t be any happier,” he said. “The growth, in particular in the last three or four years, has been tremendous. I mean, just look at the attendance this year at the Roar (Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona test session on the first weekend of January). It was basically the same attendance that we had at the race a couple of years ago.
“From that standpoint, I don’t think we’re at the top of the mountain yet, but we’re getting there. From a racing point of view, I think it’s the premier series in the United States today in sports car racing for sure.
“From a business standpoint, it’s been terrific. I think we’re pretty much on top if you compare it to some of the other series and some of the other partners that are there today. It’s a great compliment to what everyone’s done inside IMSA.”