During his hiatus from social media in the aftermath of an ugly and unexpected split with Arrow McLaren SP, James Hinchcliffe made one critical move that would change his future.
Although the fan favorite kept his outgoing posts to a bare minimum in the final months of 2019, the Canadian maintained a watchful eye on what was coming in. In what might be a first in racing, the phrase ‘sliding into my DMs’ became a central part to launching a new business relationship that will have Hinchcliffe competing at the Indianapolis 500.
We’ll let ‘The Mayor of Hinchtown’ explain:
“This is going to go down I think as a case study in some sort of motorsports business class at some point, just exploring the new era of motorsport sponsorship,” he said. “First contact was made by an employee of Genesys sliding into my DMs. So this is… Now sliding into DMs is something much more familiar to my colleague, [Ed Carpenter Racing’s] Conor Daly, in a much different capacity…
“But yeah. I got a message in my Instagram direct message inbox saying, ‘Hey, read your story. Raw deal, what does it cost to sponsor an IndyCar?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah. I don’t know.’ I’ve been doing this a while. These aren’t conversations that usually go much past this. Just never thinking that it was going to happen the way that it did. And long story short, I replied with a brief synopsis of what the ranges of partnerships mean and explained it’s very different depending on what the company wants and the level of branding and what sort of activation, etc., etc. But it’s anywhere from X to Y.”
To the 33-year-old’s surprise, the Bay Area tech company that offers cloud-based customer experience and call service assistance came back with a response.
“And he said, ‘All right, cool. I’m going to go chat to my CMO and I’ll get back to you,’” Hinchcliffe continued. “And then he replied and said, ‘Yeah, my CMO’s really interested. Can we know more?’ And I was like, ‘Well, how about I send you my email and we can start communicating like real people?’ And so we did. And man, that’s how the conversation started. And what was so amazing was less than two months later, we were standing on a stage in Florida announcing it to the company and to the world.”
The speed at which the Genesys deal came together is also noteworthy.
“Normally… relationships like this, partnerships like this can take 12 or 24 months to really cultivate and get a company to understand the benefits of a motorsports sponsorship,” Hinchcliffe explained. “And for a company as big as Genesys is with employees all over the world trying to talk to the high-ups in San Francisco from the office at Indy…
“The fact that we got this deal done in such an incredibly short period of time is just amazing and I can’t thank them enough for believing in me and wanting me to represent the company. And now I just can’t wait to get back to work.”
Due to the late change of circumstances with his former team, Hinchcliffe’s opportunities to continue in IndyCar as a full-timer were slim. In the intervening months, enough commercial success has been found to commission an Indy 500 program, but getting back in the saddle for the entire season is a more likely proposition for 2021.
“My immediate team around me, we’ve been working, no joke, 24 hours a day since the beginning of November to first and foremost try to get something together a full season for 2020,” Hinchcliffe said. “And when that became a less realistic option, (the focus shifted to) securing the 500 and simultaneously putting pieces in place for a 2021 campaign. It’s one of those interesting scenarios because had things played out slightly differently earlier at the end of last year, we’d be in a full-time 2020 ride.
“So, we don’t feel like we’re in the right position we should be in, but this is the position we find ourselves in. And certainly a very large part of that is making the right steps and decisions to not only keep existing partners happy that have been incredibly supportive, people like Honda and Honda Canada and Petro-Canada Lubricants, CSN Collision Centres, all these people that have stood by me through this whole thing, making sure that they’re in a good spot, as good a spot as we can get them for 2020 to keep building those relationships and really have a strong collection of partners heading into ’21.”