Automotive exclusivity at NASCAR races may soon be a thing of the past, at least at tracks controlled by International Speedway Corporation (ISC).
The company, which handles venues like Daytona Speedway, Homestead Miami Speedway, Watkins Glen International, Darlington Raceway, and Talladega, has fundamentally changed a long-standing ritual at several of its tracks: It no longer gives a sole automaker exclusive sponsorship of a given track for a NASCAR event or series.
Previously, if, say, GM "owned" an ISC NASCAR venue, GM was the only company allowed to: show its cars and trucks on site during races; field the pace car, and do grassroots marketing.
Now, ISC is letting all NASCAR automakers -- Toyota, Chrysler, GM and Ford -- market together at 8 of its 12 race venues. Automakers will share a "manufacturer's row" on the midway near entrance gates, with each getting an approximately 20,000-square-foot area to show its vehicles next to the others, auto-show style. They'll also have marketing opportunities at tracks.
John Guthrie, VP of business development and partnerships for Daytona, says that the new policy is likely to be expanded to other ISC tracks. Guthrie tells Marketing Daily that ISC decided to institute the multi-brand approach last year as a way to make it easier and cheaper for automakers to market to fans.
"Manufacturers have been an integral part of the sport, so when things changed for them, we felt we needed to be supportive to promote the sport as a whole," he says. "So there's a goodwill piece, but it is good for the sport as well." He says fans actually prefer to see multiple brands at a venue. "From a fan perspective, the loyalty around Ford and Chevy is really strong in NASCAR, and the reality is, fans like to see the brands at every track. It's part of the experience."
He says that the new approach benefits automakers because it increases fan exposure to their products. "If you look at all facilities, we sell about 3.5 million tickets a year, and about 75% of that is from the eight tracks that are now multi-branded."
Guthrie says there are still some exclusive deals, at least until those contracts expire. He says Toyota has exclusive sponsorship at Watkins Glen, Dodge sponsors Talladega and Ford has Miami Homestead in November at the end of the season, for the Ford 200, 300 and 400 races.
Tim Duerr, North America motorsports marketing manager for Ford Racing, says NASCAR is a cornerstone of Ford's sports marketing partly because brand consideration for the company's products is 100% greater with race fans than with others.
He says the new paradigm "is kind of a nice situation for us; it brings the economics of scale into line. We are still under challenging economics, so even though we are making money and doing well, we still have to be very cautious."
Per Guthrie, the "manufacturers' row" is outside the stadium in the midway area near parking lots. "It's an important part of race day because people arrive early and expect to see the latest vehicles from manufacturers. They may spend a couple of hours there. There's a lot of lead generation that happens, and it's a solid return on investment."
Duerr says Ford's exclusive sponsorship at Homestead Miami through 2014 makes sense because the Ford 200, 300 and 400 races are at season's end. "It's a heavy investment, but it's also year-end race, so people are basically talking about the Ford championship from Speed Week at Daytona and then all year after that. So we get a year's worth of exposure leading to that race."