Sports Asset Management Committee Profile: Christopher Witmayer, NASCAR Media Group
By Juliane Pettorossi, Editorial Assistant, SVG
Earlier this year, SVG launched the Sports Asset Management (SAM) Committee, dedicated to advancing the sports-media industry’s content-management and storage capabilities and tools. This group, composed of asset-management leaders from each of the major U.S. professional leagues and college-sports entities, has spearheaded this year’s Sports Asset Management Forum (July 25 at the New York Hilton in Manhattan) and will contribute in-depth content to the upcoming online SVG Sports Asset Management Playbook (to be unveiled later this year). In advance of the Forum, SVG will profile the careers of all eight SAM Committee members.
When Chris Witmayer was hired by NFL Films shortly out of high school, he didn’t know what a quarterback was. Although he had limited interest in sports, he was extremely drawn to the field of film and media.
At 20 years old, his friend Bob Riley brought him into NFL Films to fully learn the gear. When a job opening as a tape operator became available, Witmayer applied and got the job but did not want to maintain the status quo. He aspired for more.
Aside from working full time as a tape operator, Chris attended Pierce College, where he studied information technologies and worked with the various crews to get a more well rounded understanding of all aspects of film and media; working as a camera loader for numerous football games, including Super Bowl XXXIX. This was where he got his first taste of sports, mixed with what he already knew he loved, production.
Today, Witmayer is the director of broadcast, production and new media technology at NASCAR Media Group.
After six years and becoming the new media specialist at NFL Films, Witmayer saw an opening that would give him more opportunity in the field of technology. He wanted to experience more and lead different technology changes and revolutions that a company could have. “At NFL,” he said, “they’ve got great guys already doing that.”
He knew the executive producer at NASCAR Media Group, and Witmayer offered the company some of his ideas. NASCAR was accepting and offered Witmayer a position on the team.
“NFL was a great company, but I had a bit more opportunity here at NASCAR,” he said, “It’s not always about the technology and the innovation; it’s about finding the fertile ground where ideas can develop and grow.”
Although it can be expensive to spend money on technology, it has been proved that the ideas at NASCAR have been extremely successful, as it now has the largest asset-management system for sports in the country with about 160,000 hours of content invested. The most rewarding part of Witmayer’s job at NASCAR is the support he gets for these ideas.
“It’s a great company to work for. Once everyone sees the vision, they’re all very supportive,” said Witmayer.
When it comes to the technology industry, he acknowledges its move toward mobile devices and broadcast television. For NASCAR, it is hard to keep up with what the consumer wants, since there is not an abundance of bandwidth.
“That’s certainly a challenge we face here, keeping up,” he said.
Despite the challenges, Witmayer is undoubtedly a fan of the league in which he works. Even though, before getting into the sports industry, he was more fascinated by film and television, the enthusiasm of his employees at NASCAR and the fan base has certainly got him “into” the sport.
“It’s so rewarding to go to the track and see the passion of the fans,” he said, “And the employees work a lot of long hours to bring about the sports so everybody can see it on TV or mobile devices.”
As for his family life, Witmayer has a supportive family back home, although they did not fully understand exactly what he did in the sports industry for many years.
“They didn’t exactly get why I was there and why sports use technology, but I think they do now,” he laughed.
Witmayer currently resides in Charlotte, NC, with his dog, Ruby — as in the programming language. When not at work, he enjoys hiking canyons along the West Coast and traveling, preferably to any place he’s never been.
Although there have been a handful of people who have supported Witmayer including his family, he looks up to his boss, current VP Steve Stum.
“He’s been a great manager, particularly when it comes to how to handle things here in a corporate environment,” said Witmayer.
Through the support of people like Stum and learning from others along the way, Witmayer now uses a distinct piece of advice in his own life and when hiring people at NASCAR: “You can teach a skill, you can’t teach desire.”
“People with a passion are willing to learn and progress,” he said. “If someone has this desire, you can teach them the rest.”
Witmayer has applied this logic to his everyday life and continues his achievement as director of broadcast, production, and new media technology for NASCAR Media Group.