Like a number of alumni NC State sends into the sport of NASCAR, Jeremy Burleson came to college thinking he wanted to be an engineer. But he soon discovered that a career in electrical engineering didn’t allow him to apply his skill set as a people person as much as he’d like.
So he made a turn and got a business degree, a move that paved a different path for him to take into motor sports.
Burleson now works at Richard Childress Racing, one of NASCAR’s longstanding teams, as managing director of partnership marketing and communications. (RCR is, in fact, full of Wolfpack alumni — Scott Frye as its chief financial officer, Mike Brown as its vice president of licensing, and Luke Lambert as crew chief for driver Jeff Burton.)
And though Burleson does not work on making Burton’s car go faster, the sponsorships he deals with are critical to making the car go. “We can’t do our jobs from the business communications side of things without competition doing well on the rae track,” he says, “and competition can’t do what they do without having the monetary support. It’s really a bit of a revolving cycle.”
RCR has more than 40 sponsors, whose money makes it possible for the race cars to be designed, built, transported and raced for 38 races during a NASCAR season. Burleson is responsible for how the sponsors, like Caterpillar and Cherrios, are presented at the race and on the car.
And he’s always looking for new sponsors, which has become more challenging in the current economy. “These days, more often than not, it’s how do we get more for less,” Burleson says. “Rarely do you have a primary sponsor that is going to pick up an entire race season.”
But it’s a challenge that Burleson welcomes because it enables him to use his personality to keep those sponsors happy on race weekends. The key is to expose the people who represent the sponsors to something they’ll never experience in a sport like football, where a fan can’t stand in the huddle and listen to a team talk before it runs a play.
“The access in our sport is second to none,” he says. “[In NASCAR] you’re literally taking a picture with a driver before he gets into the car. You’re literally down with the crew. You’re within arm’s reach of the crew chief. You’re wearing a headset. You’re listening them to call the plays.”
In the summer issue, NC State magazine profiles the jobs of Wolfpack alumni finding success in NASCAR, the professional stock car circuit, as engineers. Be sure to check out how they use the latest technology to find faster speed for their drivers on Sunday.