NASCAR, sports marketing, and the power of networking.
Brent Gambill not only makes a difference in the world of media and communications, but also in the world of his wonderful family, sports, networking opportunities and charitable contributions. In this episode of “There is a Difference” we talk with Brent about how sporting events have changed in the pandemic, the power of networking, how to balance a busy work schedule with a healthy family life and how the NASCAR community gives back. Enjoy!
Brent: I’m Brent Gambill. I’m the Director of Track Communications for NASCAR. I oversee Martinsville Speedway, Richmond Raceway, and Darlington Raceway.
Sporting events have certainly changed in the last year. How has the pandemic affected NASCAR races?
Brent: When the pandemic started, NASCAR was the first team sport to come back. With that, you heard a lot of people wondering, “How can we get a team sport to come back and do it safely?” NASCAR navigated that, with Darlington Raceway being the very first sporting event to come back. After that, every time we host a race, we’re learning more. We’re learning more about processes. We’re learning more about protocols. We’re learning ways to make sure that we can keep people safe.
Last week, I was at Richmond Raceway, and in Virginia there were no races with fans last year. We hosted slightly under 30% of capacity of a 50,000-seat track, which says a lot since we couldn’t have done that a year ago. We keep people more separated. You’re supposed to wear a mask when you’re entering the facility. You’ve got hand-washing stations throughout the racetrack. It’s all cashless concessions. Things have changed and I don’t think we’ll ever look at a sporting event the same way we did before the pandemic.
You have had an impressive career leading you to where you are now. What advice would you give to other sports fanatics looking to work in this business?
Brent: The biggest piece of advice I always give is networking. You’ve got to know people and you’ve got to be willing to talk to folks. I’m from Arkansas where there are no professional sports teams. There are two minor league baseball teams and that’s it. With that, if you really do want to work in professional sport somewhere, you’ve got to be willing to move. You’ve got to be willing to volunteer. You’ve got to be willing to do anything it takes to get that job.
When I finished law school, I started my first job with the LA Dodgers and I would have never had that opportunity, if I hadn’t networked. Before accepting, I’d already been declined. The organization wouldn’t interview me for the job, so it was a big deal to have a friend help me get an interview and, ultimately, the job. It took someone within the Dodgers organization calling on my behalf, saying, “Hey, you should give this guy an opportunity.” That’s how I got it.
So, I started my career in sports marketing through networking and being willing to do anything. I took the bar exam and then three weeks later, I was working for the Dodgers…in a storage closet, organizing jerseys. I can assure you when you finish law school, that’s not the first thing you think you’re going to be doing. But I knew to get my foot in the door, once you get your foot in the door, it’s all about out-working everybody. You don’t have to be the smartest. You don’t have to be the brightest person in the room but what you can control is being the first person in the room and the last person in the room to leave every day. And making sure you say yes to everything that’s offered. That way, you can get more responsibility, which makes yourself more integrated into the culture.
Richard Petty shared the message of the importance of getting vaccinated. Do you think that other well-known drivers are going to follow in that lead?
Brent: Yes. I think that will continue to be the case. In fact, Jimmie Johnson (who’s retired), even tweeted, “Fully vaccinated.” I think you’re going to continue to see that across all sports. Teams, athletes, and others are taking on that responsibility to make others aware that it is safe, and it is the right thing to do, so we can get back to a more regular lifestyle. The Boston Red Sox had several players using their social media to share that message, too.
The NASCAR Foundation does incredible things. What is the coolest way that the organization gives back consistently?
Brent: The NASCAR Foundation has the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award that it gives out every year, which recognizes volunteers of organizations across the country. For example, two years ago, the person who won the award was someone that held sick babies during their volunteer time. He had done it for 30 or 40 year, so the foundation donated back to that organization to help fund it as an honor.
They also represent, “Over the Edge”, which is in Daytona at the IMC building. The events are called “Spediatrics”, they that tend to be tied to the Boys and Girls Club. These events are tied to racing and cars with a STEM theme. For example, one may be a racing tire with the organization teaching the science of how that tire came together. The NASCAR Foundation plays a pivotal role across all the tracks in NASCAR.
What has your family taught you about being a successful professional?
Brent: When it comes to family and what they teach you — it is that quality of life is important. I have to have that quality life at work, but also when I am at home, I have to be present. I have to put the phone down. I can be dedicated and committed and do all those things that are important at the office or track, but at home, I have to have a safe space for my wife and kids.
During the pandemic — especially working from home for months at a time — it’s difficult because the kids can sometimes walk in during a meeting. But the key part for me, when those things happen, it’s not a big deal. If you know me, you know my wife, you know my kids, it’s just part of the deal. It’s a package deal. I think all the way through is teaching your kids character. And they know that because you’re teaching them that at home. And we’re taking that into the workplace as well.
I was gone much of the last two weeks, but in planning for the flight home, I made sure that I was home in time to pick the kids up from school. That had to happen. I had to get up a little earlier. We had to map my day out, but it was important because they were hopeful to see me. So, we made it happen. I was there to pick them up, go grab some ice cream and then have that time to be present for my family. The next trip will be coming, and they know it. I think being conscious of it and knowing that there are times you need to shut it down and be present at home is one of the most important things.
Thank you, Brent.
Watch the full interview with Brent by visiting our YouTube channel @DraperDNA. Here is the link.
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