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How a History Major Got into Motorsports Public Relations


David Hovis

Deciding to shift your career can be challenging. Joining us today, David Hovis, marketing and communications manager for Team Penske, went from being a history major to changing his focus on PR. David will share what brought him to racing public relations, how his role has evolved and advice on how you can switch or start your career in PR.

Michael Lynch: What are some of the biggest changes you've seen in sports, public relations and sports marketing?

David Hovis: Probably the biggest thing that I've seen is the rise of social media and the ability to self-promote and turn yourself and all your race team into your own news outlet and content generating entity. I see that continuing well on into the future as newsrooms shrink and as social media influencers rise. It's a benefit if you are able to combine your digital efforts and your social media efforts to promote yourself, to generate your own content and to push that out via social media and other avenues that can then be picked up and amplified by influencers and/or the other media members that cover your sport or sports in general.

Michael Lynch: How has Team Penske been affected by or how have they adapted to the coronavirus pandemic?

David Hovis: In January of this year, Mr. Penske and one of the arms of Penske Corporation called Penske Entertainment completed the purchase of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series. For the Indy 500 having be run without fans was a very tough decision for Mr. Penske because of the high regard he holds for that race, for the mystique, and the tradition, and the pageantry that includes the fans. We were up close, front and center to that decision on a smaller level. But obviously, it's a part of our company that now are the stewards of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For me personally, the coronavirus means no travel. I've only traveled to one race this year, and that was the first IMSA race, 24 Hours of Daytona. Since then it's been working remotely. A lot of us have figured out and improved upon the ways where you can work remotely. It’s always going to be more beneficial if you're actually at the events you're covering. When the situation arises, it's become clear that it can be done. It can be done with less of a crew and done just as well, if need be, from a remote location. I'd rather be at the racetrack covering the race. But that's been obviously the biggest change thanks to coronavirus is the lack of travel.

Michael Lynch: When this pandemic has passed, will you be traveling again? Will people really be on site as much? Or do you think we've gotten a new paradigm here?

David Hovis: I don't want to speak for NASCAR or IndyCar or IMSA, but I would think that they're are going to be some changes and shifts in the way things are done. I don't know if I would call it a paradigm shift, but I think you will see some of the protocols and processes that have been forced into place because of the pandemic will stick around. I do think that it's going to change all sports, not just motor sports, but all sports. What that's going to look like moving forward into 2021, I'm not sure.

Michael Lynch: What would you suggest to someone who is thinking about going into sports marketing or public relations, or just making a shift in their career?

David Hovis: As it relates to motor sports in general, I would tell them to be prepared to start off and do anything that they could to get their foot in the door. It's really hard. That's something that my eyes have been open to more in the past few years than maybe they ever have been is how hard it really is now to get into the marketing communications department of racing. There aren't many of us. There are more football teams and Major League Baseball teams than there are the top NASCAR Cup Series teams or the IndyCar teams that you identify with those particular series. I would say be persistent, get as much experience as you can. I know that a lot of people that are going to make a career change don't want to drop down and grab experience working at your local short track, if that your local short track is even up and running these days. But, that's kind of what you have to do just to build upon that experience. Stay on top of social media, and the changing landscape and environment of social media. That's always going to be something that you can hang your hat on.

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