(Trash) Talk is Cheap

It’s that time of year – okay, it’s always that time of year – when the stakes feel their highest for teams, tracks and manufacturers. We have to get that one last win, that one last show in, that one last sale and, often, that one last dig at our competition.

Media training was a big part of my career when I started out working in professional football because my role was in the public relations department. Helping athletes to understand how to deal with media was one of our most important jobs, and I learned a lot about the importance of positive messaging as it benefits the:

  • Athlete
  • Team
  • Sport
  • Marketing Partners

To say that trash talking in the media was discouraged is an understatement.

Trash talking, in my opinion, hurts everyone. When you see another driver spinning his or her version of a story, it’s so tempting to hop on the media or social media bandwagon and try to correct it. Or put out your own equal-and-opposite take on the situation.

But if you’ve ever worked with me, you know that I advise my clients to take the high road every time, no matter how difficult or tempting the situation is. (And, by the way, the high road doesn’t always mean silence. “No comment” is a response, too.)


Trash Talking Makes YOU Look Bad

Whether you’re talking directly about your competition’s actions or highlighting your position at their expense, in this industry there are plenty of witnesses. If you think you can pretend you didn’t hit someone on the track or scream obscenities at them in the pits, you better think again. When you see your competition doing just that, remember this: they might appear to get away with it, but the people that you care about (or that, I’d argue, you should care about) know better.

If your competition is bad-mouthing you on social media, they’ll likely get a positive response from some. Because they’re self-selecting – they’re pandering their message to their fans. Many of their fans will always be their fans, so they’ll choose to believe their messaging. In fact, they’ll believe that driver is in the right no matter what – whether they saw the race, saw the dirty slide job, saw the hit or saw them checking out at the super market. The faster you accept that, the better off you’ll be.

Pushing others down doesn’t lift you up. Some fans will get off on it, others will see their behavior for what it is: negative. Many fans, tracks and, perhaps most importantly, marketing partners will not associate with that.

Think you’re making a splash? Maybe. Maybe not the kind you think.

Bad Mouthing Hurts the Sport

Pointing out the negativity in others can turn people off to the industry as a whole. Do you think that the abuse of sponsorship – read more here – by teams who have taken money and given no return to the sponsor or, worse, ripped them off entirely hasn’t affected the whole sport? I would argue that bad apples ruined the sponsorship bushel in the last few decades, and that’s why many companies cringe when they hear that word.

Negative messaging reflects badly on all of us, and when companies see drivers doing that, it can turn them off from being a part of the sport entirely. Lose-lose.

Calibrate Your Moral Compass

When you see or hear something negative about you, even if it’s not true, it’s natural for your blood to boil. I know. It happens to me to, even in situations where I’ve gone out of my way to help someone. Take as long as you need to cool off, and keep your responses to yourself.

If your compass is aligned with mine, the type of people that you want to work with – marketing partners, crew members, fans – don’t want to be associated with a negative, loose cannon. Marketing partners value professionalism and respectfulness, even if your brand is silly, funny or otherwise ‘un-corporate’. 

One of the quotes that I saw in my time in the NFL is one that I believe we could change the sport of racing with, if we started thinking as an industry instead of as individuals:

“It’s more important than ever than ever that the players cooperate with the media… It’s important that salaries rise and revenues rise, and the only way that salaries can rise is if revenues rise. Promoting the game through the media is one way of accomplishing that goal.” – former NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw.

We don’t have the Collective Bargaining Agreement that the NFL does to hold tracks and racers accountable, but imagine if we had some way of applying that to racing? I believe it’s in our best interest – yours, mine and the sport’s – to give it a shot.



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About the author

Kristin Swartzlander Kristin Swartzlander is passionate about applying business sense to racing 'nonsense' in hopes of growing the sport of dirt track racing. She is a business strategist who works with entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them learn how to use public relations, marketing and social media to achieve their goals. Learn more about social media, marketing and racing sponsorship on the DirtyMouth blog.