All while living in truly the fastest lane.
There is no such thing as “a regular day at the office” in Jill Gregory’s world. As the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for NASCAR, Jill’s job is as fast-paced as the cars on the track. And with so many moving parts, maybe even faster.
“To work at NASCAR, you must be comfortable with ambiguity,” she says. “Every day, you have to be able to roll with the punches.”
Jill oversees the marketing department at NASCAR, which includes brand marketing, social media, content development, analytics, and insights (along with a few other marketing functions). Every day, Jill and her department are tasked with finding ways to reach and engage avid fans, while at the same time cultivating new fans with an eye toward a younger and more diverse audience. It keeps her on her toes, she says, and it’s fulfilling.
“There is Nothing Like a NASCAR race.”
I met Jill at my first NASCAR race, at the Sonoma Raceway in California. From seeing races on TV, as well as absorbing the culture of Pixar’s animated Cars movie with multiple viewings, I thought I knew what a NASCAR race would be like.
It wasn’t anything like I expected. And by the time I had a chance to sit down with Jill to interview her with Toyota Racing, I was converted: there is definitely power in the live event experience.
“There is nothing like attending a NASCAR race,” Jill says. “The racing itself hits all of the senses, but all of the other activities, sights, and sounds create an absolutely unique fan experience. And our track partners have made tremendous investments with enhanced wi-fi, the addition of big screens, kid zones, concerts, and more. We believe that when we bring new fans to the track, we are creating fans for life.”
If you attend an event, you are more likely to understand NASCAR as a whole. The fans are engaged and enthusiastic, and the drivers are happy to meet them. In fact, here’s a confession: I was waiting with a group of female automotive journalists to meet Kyle Busch from the Toyota team, and a friendly man in a red polo and sunglasses approached us with a smile. He asked how our day was going and made small talk for a couple of minutes, and it took me that long to realize that was Kyle himself. The stars are not divas and they are as innocuous as the guy sitting next to you in the bleachers. If the guy next to you can handle 3G forces and had been NASCAR’s youngest ever pole winner in a Cup Series race, that is.
NASCAR’s Road Toward More Diversity
With nearly a dozen years under her belt at NASCAR, Jill knows what she’s talking about. And she cares about giving more women a foot in the door, too. Developmental programs like NASCAR Next (an industry-wide initiative designed to showcase rising young stars in racing), which Jill developed, and Drive for Diversity have created a strong pipeline of up-and-coming competitive drivers, many of whom are multicultural and female.
“To use a racing analogy, diversity has no finish line,” Jill says. “It’s important for us – and all companies, for that matter – to remember this and live by these words. The responsibility to ensure that women are being targeted as future leaders within the company isn’t an HR function, Jill says; rather, it is a NASCAR function and a responsibility that rests with employees at all levels. Building a diverse pipeline. Being proactive in the search. Creating professional development opportunities so that employees can grow with the company.
NASCAR recently supported the establishment of a WISE (Women in Sports and Events) chapter in Charlotte, to widen the networking and professional growth for talented women across Charlotte. Jill believes that when these measures are being taken, a company and a community is naturally better positioned to provide opportunities that will grow and develop women leaders.
Jill’s Top Tips for Women on Their Way Up
Jill’s extensive experience has given her wisdom to pass on to other women who want to make an impact, and she has four key pieces of advice:
- Be courageous.
- Ask for the new assignment.
- Raise your hand for the big opportunities.
- Don’t be afraid to take a seat at the table, and once you’re there, have the confidence to contribute and add value.
When it comes to racing, Jill sees lots of potential for women.
“The industry is one of great opportunity,” she says. “We have women at all levels who are being recognized, and leaders making an impact and contributing to the growth of the sport.”
At the end of the day, Jill and her team are all about racing. And they’re having a little fun, too.