Brian Johnson, 39
Vice president of marketing, Hendrick Automotive Group
Brian Johnson's path to Hendrick Automotive Group had a high-octane beginning.
Johnson joined Hendrick Motorsports as a marketing services manager before jumping to Hendrick's retail operation in 2015.
He applied some lessons from the track as he assembled a team to support the marketing efforts of the group's dealerships. Hendrick Motorsports was all about creating the best customer experience, Johnson said, and he worked to ensure that sponsors were able to show their clients a great time at its events.
"I kind of adopted that mentality to my team here, that we view the stores here as our customers," Johnson said. "If we were a marketing agency, I have 100 clients, if you will. It's very much like what we did in the race team."
Johnson is proud of the marketing team he built. Many of them moved up from jobs at individual dealerships, while others started as interns and worked their way into full-time positions.
"If you look at the leadership across our organization, many of these people started as porters, or they started as salespeople, or they started as a guest services person," Johnson said. "Look at my own path. Who would have ever thought a sponsor representative at the NASCAR team would end up leading the marketing and advertising department?"
Johnson's marketing crew had to deal with unpredictable circumstances when the pandemic began last year. Trying to carry out marketing objectives in 14 states with varied COVID-19 restrictions was difficult and required many last-minute changes of plans.
Working through the crisis required the team to be "audible-ready," Johnson said, a term founder Rick Hendrick likes to use that refers to being flexible.
"My team, no matter what we threw at them, it was, 'Hey, I know we just built this campaign and it was good three days ago; well, now the order has changed and we have to adjust it,' and they never once complained," Johnson said. "We fought tooth and nail with our stores to adjust, be nimble and audible-ready at any given moment."
— Vince Bond Jr.