There was a party the Friday before the June 9 "Party at the Poconos" NASCAR race. On an unseasonably cold, rainy day, Chevrolet was at the Pocono Raceway hosting Chevrolet dealers, who, among other things, toured the racing pit, and saw Chevrolet's new cars and trucks. They also drove home in a 2014 Impala. The best experience -- hot laps on the track with Chevrolet NASCAR racers like Kasey Kahne, and Juan Pablo Montoya at the wheel -- was nixed by rain. Attendees did get to see the infield garage housing Chevy's NASCAR entrant based on the new SS performance sedan. Chevy showed dealers the Impala-based SS sedan, the new Stingray, Silverado pickup and a bunch of other cars at Pocono. Jim Campbell, who heads up Chevrolet racing, was there, too. He spoke to Marketing Daily about racing, branding, and where the tires meet the market.
Q: What does Chevy get out of its racing investment?
A: First, there are technology transfers. What we learn at the track helps us build a better production car or powertrain, depending on where we're driving the technology, from Corvette to Chevrolet SS to Camaro. We take the learnings from our engineers at the race track right to the Advanced Powertrain Group, and, eventually, they find their way into our production powertrains. It's also a great place to develop young engineers - a great place to hone their leadership skills in a fiercely competitive environment. We take them right back to production and they're better for it.
Q: How about marketing? It used to be race on Sunday, sell on Monday. Still hold?
A: When you race, it elevates brand opinion. People think of you in a more positive light. And, yes, they put you on the shopping list a little quicker than they otherwise would. And race fans get to the track early and are looking for ways to be entertained. So [at Chevrolet's display at race venues], we bring deep displays of race cars, production cars and trucks, performance parts, and accessories.
Q: What vehicles are NASCAR fans most likely to be interested in?
A: We over-index on pickup truck owners; that's a positive as we are introducing the all-new Silverado this year. We will promote it aggressively at racetracks.
Q: What about relationships with Chevrolet drivers?
A: Over the years we've used our drivers. Today, we partner with them around social media to help deliver their perspective on our cars, trucks and performance parts to do it in a way that's very genuine in their racing or personal lives. We serve them up in our Chevrolet social platforms and they will do the same.
Q: Don't people associate with the drivers, rather than the car?
A: With drivers like Jeff Gordon? Fans think Chevrolet. When we introduced the new Chevrolet SS race car, we did it the day before the NASCAR banquet; we had Jeff Gordon drive the SS race car onto the stage, talked about the new car, then raised the curtain and had four race cars from four race teams: Kevin Harvick [for Richard Childress Racing]; Jimmie Johnson [with Hendrick Motorsports]; Jamie McMurray [Chip Ganassi Racing]; and Tony Steward [Stewart-Hass]. Within 15 minutes, the SS went to number one trending on Twitter. SS got huge awareness in that one day.