The Lockdown Diaries: The NASCAR spotter

Image by Whitton/LAT

The Lockdown Diaries: The NASCAR spotter

NASCAR

The Lockdown Diaries: The NASCAR spotter

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The disruptions caused by current shutdowns reach into every corner of the racing industry. RACER.com is sharing stories of how different entities in the sport are tackling these unprecedented challenges in a special series called The Lockdown Diaries.

During a time when most NASCAR spotters are sitting home with nothing to do, Brett Griffin has something to keep him engaged.

Griffin is the eyes in the sky and voice in the ear of Stewart-Haas Racing driver Clint Bowyer on Sunday afternoons. But for the other six days of the week, Griffin is running SpotOn Activations, a marketing company with clients such as driver Ross Chastain and sponsor Nutrien Ag Solutions.

While NASCAR in on hiatus due to COVID-19, Griffin has been busy with the business. He and his small group (he says there are just three of them involved) still have the same workload, albeit without the travel, and important conversations about the future.

“We still have a lot of promotions coming up this summer and this fall with the farmers and growers from Nutrien Ag Solutions,” Griffin told RACER. “Ross being a farmer, he understands all that so he’s willing to go above and beyond to help us make sure we keep the lights on for this thing.”

With the first eNASCAR iRacing event at Homestead-Miami Speedway pulling in over 900,000 viewers on Fox Sports 1, it opened a new door for teams and sponsors to earn exposure while real racing isn’t taking place. Nutrien Ag Solutions had a presence in the race at virtual Texas Motor Speedway when Chastain drove a co-branded car in an agreement between Kaulig Racing (his full-time Xfinity Series team) and Roush Fenway Racing (whom he is helping as Ryan Newman’s substitute).

Griffin admits he’s very fortunate. He started as Elliott Sadler’s business manager in 2001, and during that time, learned a lot about sales and marketing a driver’s brand. Around 2005, Griffin and former Cup Series champion Dale Jarrett started marketing company together and went out and found NASCAR sponsors and leveraged them, putting them in a position to get a return on their investment.

Upon Sadler’s retirement at the end of 2018, Griffin started his current company. Part of working with Chastain is helping build the Florida native’s brand, and Griffin noted Chastain has done an exceptional job contributing with success on the track and subbing for Newman.

When he’s not serving as eye in the sky for Clint Bowyer, Griffin is busy building brands around drivers like Ross Chastain. Image by LAT

“We’ve grown his social media by 300 percent in about 14 months,” said Griffin. “There’s a lot of things that can make you popular in the social media world. But first and foremost, it’s consistency and good messaging to your fans. He put out two videos (recently) about planting trees. That’s something you wouldn’t necessarily see out of a driver unless they have a really good strategy and alignment with their sponsor. His sponsor being Nutrien Ag Solutions, we work extremely hard to help those guys get success with their growers and their farmers and employees, and branches around the country.”

Right now, Griffin believes sponsorship in NASCAR is the most affordable it has ever been in his 20-plus years being involved in the sport.

“I think for us economically, we’re at a really good point to be able to attract new sponsorships,” said Griffin. “Obviously, things like what’s going on with this virus can slow that down, or make companies hesitant to go out and spend those dollars, but at the end of the day, companies need to market their product. They have to look attractive, and I think NASCAR dollar for dollar, among the sports opportunities that are out there, is still the best buy because we’re in national play with every single race. We’re also a big regional and local play within the marketplace, and our athletes, they’re the best at their job.

“I don’t mean actually driving the race cars. I mean when they turn their cars off they’re signing autographs, they’re giving interviews, they’re going to appearances. We never stop recruiting fans. That’s the best part about our sport.”

Although he has two passions, Griffin’s favorite four hours every week is when he’s high atop the racetrack. Griffin hopes he and his peers will be back doing that sooner rather than later, for both the markets NASCAR descends upon – spending money on hotels, rental cars, and food – and also for the livelihoods of the spotters themselves.

“Every spotter is different. Some guys are independent contractors in the Cup Series, and some guys are employees,” explained Griffin. “If you’re an employee, you’re going to get paid unless you get laid off. It’s a case by case scenario. When you look at the lower series such as the Truck and Xfinity Series, everyone there is an independent contractor, and they get paid per race, so obviously, those races aren’t being run. So 100 percent, those paychecks aren’t being written, and those spotters aren’t being paid.

“I got a lot of stuff going on outside of spotting, so I’m not overly worried about that particular piece of it, but for a lot of guys, all they do is spot. That is their livelihood. So I’m worried about everybody. For right now, I’m fine. For how long am I fine? I don’t know. Hopefully, this thing can die off, and we can get back going on time, which right now is Mother’s Day weekend.”

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