ASHLEY ASKS…… Tony Loiacono
Being able to put together good marketing in racing has always been a question asked by all involved, and a new approach may be the right solution for some. For the first time in NASCAR history, a trade using crypto currencies on the blockchain will sponsor a racecar.
A new form of crypto currency, CONO, will be featured on Brandon Brown‘s No. 86 Chevrolet for the Powershares QQQ 300 at Daytona International Speedway. He’ll also feature True Timber, Kappa Live and The Dan Marino Foundation through the partnership.
Recently, CONO’s Founder Tony Loiacono spoke about the sponsorship, CONO, and more with POPULAR SPEED.
POPULAR SPEED: What does it mean for you to partner with Brandon Brown for Daytona?
TONY LOIACONO: It means that – I look at it from the fact that I’ve been involved with trades for awhile. I believe in concept in trades.
This young man who has done some wonderful things growing up. I call him a young gun. I tell him, “Brandon, you’re a young gun and you have some unique things that you’re going to bring to this sport.” The young man has a background where he started in karts and was a champion in dirt car racing, as well as the American Kart Association. He has run up front in the fourth position in running at Daytona before. He’s got the ability to stay focused. He’s just a wonderful young man. He reminds me of a young man that provides something that I can call defining success throughout the young tenor of his life. I think that is something, and the reason we got involved with Brandon.
PS: Why do you feel NASCAR is the right fit for CONO?
TONY: Well, first of all, they’re the most loyal fans there are. There’s nobody more loyal than them.
Second, we believe there’s a unique opportunity to provide the fans with something new. The crypto currency side of the business is new and refreshing the attention of the young generation. Right now, NASCAR has a quite an older demographic and that older demographic is not the sustainable in the long time. So I look at it that I love the sport of NASCAR and believe in the opportunity to get the younger generation involved.
To be candid with you, they can own part of a car. We can encourage the younger generation to get engaged by being part owner of a car. There’s nothing better than to have a personal partnership with a driver and car. Our strategy is to allow to the consumers that get involved with CONO to participate regularly by earning points while sharing, and engaging on social media – that’s the real part of what we are. We want to enjoy people for enjoying a sport, while at the same time providing something where they feel more personally involved.
Lastly, and most importantly from my standpoint, is about defining success and trying to encourage people to see the personal side and behind the scenes side – and in this case, Brandon Brown.
PS: How’d you come up with the idea of CONO?
TONY: I actually started it with EquiFax and Cisco, and virtual currencies in 2010. We did proof of concepts of using digital currencies in the hyper-grid, testing how to use the currencies to motivate and engage consumers.
PS: For those who may be going what’s crypto currency, what’s the basics of it?
TONY: It’s designed to work as a mechanism of exchange. It provides the ability to create and trade a valuable item, no matter what the item is. It could be your points that you have from American Airlines, your Club Card that you trade in points, down to trading with Bit Coins. So our strategy is to look at what we can tokenomics of providing the ability to let people trade for almost anything of value. So, crypto currency simply stated is an alternative currency and allows us to provide opportunity for public transactions.
PS: Looking three to five years from now, what do you see for the future of CONO?
TONY: Right now, the blockchain is like railroad tracks with loose transactions. I’m going to give you a summary, but I think it will help you. Today, when you want to transfer money from me to you, you have to go to a bank and do a wire transfer and that fund will be transferred. In the future, transactions will be between people. So the blockchain is like a set of railroad tracks between people that gives you a historical ledger, a secure way to transfer tokens. That railroad track as it continue to be used to move transactions, trade value on a regular basis, little cities will be born with that.
So now we have railroad tracks like when they were laid at first, but just like the 1800s, they weren’t all connected. Well, what’s happening is crypto currencies and business as a whole are building off of the block train because of the security and strength of a historical transaction ledger, along with the ability to be anonymous.
One thing I want to add – these transactions are now between people, rather than the banks, and the railroad tracks are like a bullet train. It’s so fast and so quick and so accurate. So instead of a steam engine going down the tracks, it’s a bullet train. It provides the ability to move transactions safely, and secure.
Think about this – we’re helping the Dan Marino Foundation spread awareness about autism and empower people that have it, as the foundation speaks of. But instead of having to use administrative dollars to make these money transactions happen, you can start cutting it from a 96% that goes to the charity to 99% because of the cost of transaction fees becomes less and less. I see an opportunity with supporting charities; it’s a big thing of what we’re doing. We’re building awareness of how to use the blockchain transactions and allow point transactions or our tokens as a value exchange.
It doesn’t matter what it is. So as I move forward down the next five years, I think it’ll become like what a paypal is on the CONO side.
PS: You have a big background in advertising. What sparked your interest to get involved in that industry?
TONY: Actually, I’ve worked for Verizon Innovation Centers and Cisco. They call me a translator. Technology is so difficult to understand today. They are hundreds of different types of technology that have entered the marketing teams from the stand point of availability to use. The problem is understanding everything. So I became the translator in taking what the IT Department talks about with all of the technology words, and I turned it into simple speaking. We’re a place where we trade valuable items – that is. I take it and make it so you can understand, like I did for you with the railroad tracks. But there is limited number of consumers that understand the blockchain and what even bitcoin is.
I’m coming into this industry and doing exactly what I did with Upper Deck. In 1989 when I came to Upper Deck, the trading cards were only sold in hobby stores. I came into that company and we took it from $14 million when I came in to over $302 million in three and a half years because I focused on the consumer. I see the opportunity in blockchain, and the crypto currency in the same way that it was in 1989 with Upper Deck. We have the ability to instead of trading cards, to trade crypto currencies. We need to educate the consumer on why this is safe, secure, and a new way to make transactions.
PS: For drivers looking for sponsorship – coming from the other side as someone who works in advertising, what’s your advice to them?
TONY: I’m a brand and content guy, been for years. Whether a Fortune 500 company or not, they’re all looking for branded content. I think there is an opportunity in NASCAR like never before. Give the NASCAR fans to share about. In today’s world of social media that everybody has a television in their hand, they want to know the behind the scenes. They want to know why I should care about this driver. What are we doing to personalize it? Let me know him a little bit more than I can just see on TV, because now I can communicate with my fan base instantaneously through several different mediums.
That’s what the audience is looking for. Give me a reason to care for Brandon Brown. I’m going to give you a reason. We don’t want to be between the news; we want to be in the news sharing the wonderful things about Brandon – integrity, and looks for reasons to be a hero someday to someone. We believe there’s an opportunity to personalize the behind the scenes of every driver.
I’ll give you an example of something else that I feel is important. My marketing side has seen me in trades my whole career. I started out Heads and Tails, my agency, and we have that name all based on a coin. I believe in the trading concept as a whole. One of the campaigns with Michael Jordan was called “Trade Jordan” in 1992. Michael was on the block to potentially be traded. David Falk, who was his agent, came to see and we signed an eight-figure deal with Michael Jordan in 1991.
We said we wanted to do something different to bring attention and not be in the hobby stores, but rather the mass retail. So what we did is Michael was going to be traded and at that particular point, we went into Chicago in this market, and we put billboards all over Chicago. It just came up and said “Trade Jordan” – that’s all it said. For the first five days, that’s all it said. The radios all started going, “Who wants to trade Jordan? Who wants Jordan?” On Wednesday night, we went and changed that billboard from saying just “Trade Jordan” to “Trade Jordan. Only in Upper Deck” and showed a picture of Michael dunking a basketball. It turned the corner. It made the consumer that we were doing something creative and fun, and our sales with basketball skyrocketed.
I see some of those components in engaging people. People like to trade and be involved in something they can engage in. Now, we’re trying to bring that age down of the NASCAR consumer, so let’s do something that shows these younger audiences that they can be part of a car. They can actually have tokens that are featured on the car, to build awareness and excitement and engagement.
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