COLIN NORTH: THE MAN BEHIND TENG TOOLS’ STOCK CAR SPONSORSHIP

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Think of F1 stock car racing sponsors and invariably one of the first names that will  spring to mind is Teng Tools, the Swedish-based company who make a wide range of top-quality tools, tool kits, tool boxes and roller cabinets.

Through Motorsport Manager Colin North, Teng Tools has been a major sponsor of the sport for the past 15 years and will be continuing its relationship into 2018 and beyond .

North, 57, was involved with the company from its beginnings in 1986. As the business grew, the founder of the company, Henry Tengvall, concentrated on the international side of the business, while North looked after the UK side.

“That’s how the business ran for many years,” says North. “And then Henry sold the international side to a big Swedish industrial group 10-12 years ago, and semi-retired but was still the majority share holder in the UK business.

“I then organised with the Irish distributor to buy out Henry and to effectively merge the UK and Irish companies into one, which ran very happily for three or four years.”

So I took semi retirement and then was re-employed to look after the sponsorship UK and the international businesses

However, a son of the Irish co-owners became increasingly involved and presented North with a proposition which meant he was forced to leave the company and take early retirement.

“But they soon realised they had nobody to run the things I had been doing like the sponsorship,” North says, “So they re-employed me as a consultant to do the sponsorship side in the UK business.

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“Teng Tools International in Sweden also employed me to do the same thing on the International side, because I had been helping to do that anyway. So I took semi retirement and then was re-employed to look after the sponsorship UK and the international businesses.”

A few months later, however, and another obstacle was placed in North’s path. The UK business went into administration.

“Teng Tools international then took over the UK business,” explains North. “And so today Teng Tools in the UK is a wholly owned subsidiary of Teng Tools International. And I’m still employed by both companies to look after the motorsport.”

One of the first deals we did was with Frankie Wainman Jnr, through Conrad Wilson of
CW Auto Parts

In the mid 90s much of Teng Tools’ promotion was through magazine advertising, including in Car Mechanics and Practical Motorist, but because its distribution was focused on industry and factories on industrial estates, many enquiries like the product but had no idea where to buy it from.

“So it dawned on me we were wasting our time advertising to people who couldn’t buy our product,” admits North. “And at the same time we were getting a lot of people contacting us asking for sponsorship for motor racing.

“So rather than spend money on advertising in magazines, the focus was on putting the same amount of sponsorship money into product support. And one of the first deals we did was with Frankie Wainman Jnr, through Conrad Wilson of CW Auto Parts.

“The sponsorship was to try and get Frankie involved in ASCAR racing at Rockingham. We also got involved with John Mickel and Paul Musselle, who did the production for ASCAR on Sky Sports, and also Rob Speak for a couple of seasons.”

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Frankie Wainman Jnr was one of the first to have Teng Tools sponsorship

North used to go with his father to Coventry Stadium to watch F1 stock car racing as a boy and was reintroduced to the sport in the 1990s.

“Teng Tools were doing a lot at Coventry Stadium with Speedway at the time. So with Martin Ochiltree running Coventry, and being keen on stock cars, the two linked together.

“We then did a deal through Martin with Neil Scothern, who was on the BSCDA committee, to make his car completely Teng Tools-liveried. After that it just snowballed.

“We took customers along to Coventry and Murray Harrison came up to our box not long after he had been World Champion and was interviewed and had a chat. He asked if we would help him and then somebody else came along, and then somebody else, and it just spread from there.”

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The Neil Scothern Teng Tools cars

The sponsorship deal at Coventry meant every race winner got a baseball cap and a Teng Tools goody bag in which there were vouchers for tools. Drivers could accumulate the vouchers during the season and at the end of the year could use them to purchase free tools.

“If they wanted more tools,” says North, “I gave them subsidised prices through a discount scheme I set up for sponsorship.

“So with someone like Murray Harrison, who had a new truck and wanted a completely new tool kit, I just did him a really good deal. So he used his vouchers and I gave him a very good discount on the balance. That paid towards the cost of a pretty impressive new toolkit in the back of his brand new transporter.”

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The Ryan Harrison transporter

Those vouchers have continued to be be used, as well as the extra deals including the baseball caps, and as a result visitors to stock car meetings will see the Teng Tools logo pretty much everywhere as they walk through the pits.

North then helped towards the sponsorship of the National Points Championship Shootout, which also started with vouchers, as well as at the Autosport Show for those participating in the Live Action Arena.

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Skegness Stadium has Teng Tools as its main sponsor

Then at the end of last season Rob Speak, having taken over control of Skegness as promoter, approached North to help support his venue, which he agree to do.

“The Coventry sponsorship I had always done,” explains North. “But then Coventry suddenly stopped before this season so I then put all my efforts into Skegness. I offered to do Buxton a deal but it was too late because they had already done their meetings this season. We have also got the Shootout round at Northampton, but that’s all I’m doing this year apart from helping individual drivers.”

Teng Tools caters for a wide range of motorsport activities, including Petter Solberg in World Rallycross and the World Speedway Grand Prix, as well as youngsters involved in karting.

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World Rally and two-time World Rallycross champion Petter Solberg is sponsored by Teng Tools

While the benefits for the sports involved are obvious, it is not so clear-cut for the companies themselves. Quantifying sponsorship profitability is a grey area, but North is convinced that F1 stock car racing sponsorship works.

“With almost any form of advertising it is almost impossible to measure the response unless you are advertising on a website and you go on there and buy things,” says North. “You’ve got no idea how much business it generates.

“But for the cost of what we do and the exposure we get in return, it’s almost a no-brainer because of the type of people who are at the tracks. The tracks get hundreds and occasionally thousands of people through the turnstiles – obviously at the World Final they will get very large crowds.

Often we find we get our tools specified in a factory, and when we talk to the people who work there we find they are big fans of stock car racing or Speedway

“With stock cars it’s a little bit different to a lot of the other stuff we do in terms of the audiences that go there.

“When you go around the pits and you talk to drivers and mechanics the vast majority of them are using tools in their day jobs. Spectators  may not be working with tools but some will work in a big factory where they use them.

“Often we find we get our tools specified in a factory, and when we talk to the people who work there we find they are big fans of stock car racing or Speedway. So there is a lot of indirect sales generated we never really know about.

“I used to go stock car racing as a kid with my dad, who was a transport manager, and his company had a fleet of trucks. He was responsible for all the trucks and all the workshops they ran.

“If he had gone stock car racing today, he would have seen a lot of Teng Tools about. And when it came to buying tools for his company’s workshops he would then recognise the brand and have some confidence in it.”

Looking forward, North has already rubber-stamped next season’s World Final at Skegness.

“I’ve already agreed to help sponsor the World Final next year,” North says. “But I’m almost certainly agreed to put up product prices up, which we did in previous years at Coventry and at King’s Lynn as well.”

North is also encouraged by the sport’s profile through the drivers compared to a decade ago.

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Car and driver presentation has made the sport look more professional

“If you look at the drivers today, compared to when I first started going with Teng Tools, it’s becoming a much more professional-looking sport,” he says. “The transporters are better, the cars look better. The drivers are better presented and they seem to be a bit more media savvy.

“Some promotions are also switched on and not tainted with the old way of doing things.

“And Rob Speak, for example, is a driver, so he understands their viewpoint. Everybody knows he is a big fan of the sport, as well as a competitor. He is a breath of fresh air.”

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Colin North, right, with Skegness promoter Rob Speak, left, at the UK Speedweekend

Colin North was talking to Neil Randon

Photos courtesy of Dave Badstock, Colin Casserley, Teng Tools and Neil Randon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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