"That's something you can't get in a lot of other sports," said Dean Kessel, director of Nascar Nextel Cup Series marketing at Sprint Nextel. "That's why there are more Fortune 100 companies in this sport than any other. Sure, you'd love to put your brand on an NFL helmet--but you can't."
He added that his company's strategy for juggling opportunities in motorsports is "Hub and spoke. We can work with the track, with the driver, teams, and other sponsors. We aren't 'siloed' in one position."
Laura Kouns, motorsports marketing manager for UPS, said that her company has gotten a lot of mileage in focusing much of its efforts on one driver, Dale Jarrett, who retires this year. "It was going to be a one-year campaign, introducing the sponsorship of Dale Jarrett. And now it is in its seventh year." She says the last spot will be shot next week.
Ben Reiling, director of motorsports marketing for Coca-Cola, said a good deal of the company's efforts this year centered on Nascar sweepstakes activated through the My Coke Rewards program, a loyalty program launched in 2006 to support Coke's NCAA involvement. The program allows consumers to collect on-pack codes across several brands.
For Nascar, noted Reiling, fans can collect points online to win anything from real lug nuts from cars and water bottles from races to a weekend fishing trip with Coca-Cola-sponsored racer Greg Biffle.
"That was the heart of why we put it together; the sport is such a lifestyle, and consumers want more and more of it." The company has a long-standing relationship with Charlotte, N.C.-based Lowe's Speedway, where the Coca-Cola 600 is raced.
Although Sprint Nextel has had a big footprint this year as part of its effort to promote the Nascar Nextel Cup series through advertising and sweepstakes, Kessel said next year may be bigger. The company will focus Nascar brand activity around Sprint, with a large program centering on Sprint handsets as a medium for Nascar activity.
"Nextel's reasons for getting into this were pure branding," said Kessel. "We were the fourth- or fifth-place carrier in the market, and didn't have critical mass. So it was an efficient media program. With Sprint we have a lot of awareness, so it is about enhancing experience for fans."
Kessel says next year's handset-related activities will offer a motorsports take on its NFL Mobile, launched in 2006, offering Sprint subscribers free football scores, real-time stats, injury reports and other video highlights. He adds that next year's Nascar efforts for Sprint will be "as big, if not bigger than Nextel. We are learning how to give fans a more robust experience that they can't get anywhere else."
The company will focus the program to deliver Nascar content and stats to subscribers on a Monday-Thursday basis, says Kessel, "because there are so many outlets during the weekend. We are trying to stay in front and make it unique."
Ann Barker, manager of motorsports and licensing for Chevron Corp., said the company, one of the oldest Nascar sponsors, is in its 22nd team-sponsorship season and has been able to expand internationally its Texaco/Havoline brand affiliations through Nascar because of its sponsorship of Chip Ganassi driver Juan Pablo Montoya.
"With Juan, we went global. From Bulgaria to Russia, Singapore, Canada, and Mexico. Customers in Singapore and Russia wanted to put him at point of sale; they now want to push Nascar."