SBD/Issue 103/NASCAR Season Preview

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  • NASCAR Preparing To Open ’07 Season With Daytona 500

    With the NASCAR season opening this weekend with the Daytona 500, THE DAILY presents part two of our season preview, including a look at advertisers’ creatives running around the race, a Q&A with JR Motorsports VP/Marketing & Brand Development Thayer Lavielle, the conclusion of our media roundtable and a look at Red Bull’s entry into the sport. See yesterday’s issue for interviews with DEI President of Global Operations Max Siegel and Toyota National Motorsports Manager Les Unger and more.

    Print | Tags: NASCAR, Toyota
  • More NASCAR Teams Selling Ownership Stakes To Investors

    Jack Roush Joins Trend Of NASCAR
    Owners Selling Stakes In Teams

    NASCAR team owners are beginning to sell “pieces of the entire operation” to investors amid “spiraling costs for labor and intense pressure to spend millions ... to remain competitive,” according to Erik Spanberg of the CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL. Evernham Motorsports is looking for an investor that can “not only pour cash into its motorsports empire but also help secure more ties to corporate sponsors,” and Roush Racing earlier this week announced a partnership with Fenway Sports Group giving it a 50% stake in the team. SMI President Humpy Wheeler said, “This is just the tip of the iceberg. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the next decade, every team has an equity investor.” Spanberg writes Richard Childress “pioneered” the concept by selling part of his race team to N.Y.-based Chartwell Investments in ’03. Chartwell brought “more fiscal discipline, tighter budget controls and a determined strategy to reinvest in the racing operation.” Chartwell Partner Bill Reid said, “It’s become a very complicated sport. A lot of these guys started out with one car and one team. Now they have four or five (teams) or more. You need a lot of capital to be able to afford building for the long run.” Spanberg notes revenue and income “have increased each year since Chartwell and Childress became partners.” While declining to give specific figures, Reid said the investment has produced “a very good return” (CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/16 issue).

    Print | Tags: NASCAR, Speedway Motorsports Inc.
  • Catching Up With JR Motorsports Marketer Thayer Lavielle

    Lavielle Sees Growth Potential For
    Licensed JR Motorsports Merchandise

    After spending more than six years working in the cosmetics industry, Thayer Lavielle made the career change from Assistant VP/Promotional Marketing at L’Oreal to the newly-created position of VP/Marketing & Brand Development at JR Motorsports. Lavielle was hired in June and is in charge of everything from the team’s Busch Series sponsorships to the branding of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s name. She first worked with Earnhardt Jr. in ’02 when he signed a fragrance deal with Drakkar Noir. Lavielle recently spoke with Staff Writer Jim Bentubo.

    Q: Are there any similarities or differences in marketing cosmetics versus marketing a driver and a race team?

    Lavielle: You’re still marketing a brand and creating a brand. The difference is this is really at a — not a startup level, the Dale Jr. brand is already out there — but the company in itself is in its [infancy] so we’re in the process of creating procedures and guidelines, things that at a company like L’Oreal you just take for granted. So we have to create those processes here. But the Dale Jr. brand is much like the Lancôme brand. ... They’re all brands in themselves and you have to be respectful of what that stands for.

    Q: With your background, what new perspective do you bring to motorsports?

    Lavielle: I think what I’m able to bring is a fresh set of eyes to an overall industry that has been in transition and has been shifting, and I can at least bring some outside perspective to the fact that there might be a different way to look at it.

    Q: What do you envision for the Dale Jr. brand and in what ways can his brand be expanded?

    Lavielle: It can absolutely be expanded from where it is. Dale Jr. is authentic to who he is in every fiber of his being. ... He isn’t afraid to stand up for himself or say, ‘This is what I like and I’m okay with being alone in that.’ He is a brand that I don’t look to exploit in a typical sense. I think what we want to do here is to build it to make it more healthy and more whole and add different elements to the portfolio brand that we’re already aligned with.

    Q: Are there any endorsement deals currently in the works?

    Lavielle: Yes, but I can’t tell you who (laughs). The other really big thing we’re working on is giving back to the fans — not giving back in a charitable sense, although one of our initiatives is to organize a foundation –- but more from the perspective of these fans have spent hours and hours of passion and enthusiasm and time and money on supporting Dale Jr. and the Earnhardt family and we want to make a concerted effort to make them feel they’re getting the best products and best piece of Dale Jr. that they can get without him having to necessarily spend time with each one of them individually.

    Q: What do you foresee for the JR Motorsports brand?

    Lavielle: We see there definitely to be growth in the licensing sector and certainly in the partnership sector. We need to take that into account with the global picture of where Dale Jr. is and how that affects JR Motorsports and how that affects our Busch teams and how that affects our other race teams. So it’s bigger than just what our logo is. But we plan to certainly get more exposure on [our logo] and have that eventually be synonymous with Dale Jr.

    Print | Tags: Anheuser Busch
  • NASCAR Advertisers Rev Up New Creatives Around Daytona 500

    With the Daytona 500 both the first and most prestigious race on the Nextel Cup circuit, NASCAR has been successful in encouraging sponsors to build new creatives around the event. There are at least 12 companies that plan to debut new spots Sunday during Fox’ broadcast of the race.

    UPS: UPS will debut the latest spot in its continuing “Race the Truck” campaign with Dale Jarrett in which he is searching for the ultimate pit crew. With Jarrett moving from Robert Yates Racing to Michael Waltrip Racing this year, UPS spokesperson Steve Holmes said the change is “heavily integrated” into the campaign. Holmes: “It is a new team and a new car. We will be focusing on [Waltrip] building that team for Dale.” The ads, via the Martin Agency, Richmond, will air only during racing coverage, as Holmes said the company consciously decided “to keep our overall brand advertising very separate from the NASCAR advertising.”

    ALLSTATE: Allstate is expanding on its popular “Girls Day Out” campaign with two new spots via Leo Burnett, Chicago. Allstate Marketing Manager Stacey Zipse said, “We wanted to keep the momentum of our successful campaign going, and the Daytona 500 just seemed like the perfect timing to launch everything.” Kasey Kahne is again cast as the object of affection in the ads, and Zipse said he is especially appealing to the company because he is “young, energetic and vibrant.” The campaign will appear throughout the NASCAR season during Nextel Cup and Busch Series races.

    COCA-COLA: Coca-Cola will break a new spot promoting its “My Coke Rewards” Web site. The ad features animated versions of NASCAR drivers traveling cross-country to give Coke drinkers NASCAR rewards. Coca-Cola North America Dir of Communications Susan McDermott said, “We typically create a new NASCAR-themed Coca-Cola ad that breaks during the Daytona 500 and runs throughout the racing season.” McDermott said the commercial will air primarily on NASCAR broadcasts, but also “in some other sports programming.”

    DIRECTV: DirecTV will promote its “NASCAR HotPass” service with a spot via Deutsch, L.A., featuring Dale Earnhardt Jr. explaining the product while doing doughnuts on a racetrack. DirecTV Senior VP/Advertising & PR Jon Gieselman said of Daytona, “It’s the kick-off and biggest race of the season, it reaches nearly all NASCAR fans and provides us the opportunity to reach a tremendous general sports audience as well.” The spot will run during NASCAR-related and cable sports programming in the coming weeks.

    OTHER NEW CREATIVES: Several other companies are unveiling new creatives during the telecast. Budweiser will debut a 60-second spot via DDB Worldwide, Chicago, with Earnhardt Jr. called “Apocalypse,” while Greg Biffle will appear in the first NASCAR-themed ad from Oreos. Tony Stewart stars in a spot for The Home Depot, and he will appear along with Dale Earnhardt Sr. in a spot for Chevrolet similar to its Super Bowl XLI ad that uses a video montage of past and present footage. Stewart and Kahne will star in separate Sunoco commercials. Sprint Nextel will debut a pair of ads featuring several drivers, including ’06 Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson. Toyota and Gillette also are scheduled to air new commercials.

    Print | Tags: Anheuser Busch, Coca-Cola, DDB Worldwide, DirecTV, General Motors, Home Depot, NASCAR, Sprint, Toyota, UPS
  • Daytona 500 TV Ad Revenue Continues To Rise

    Over the past five years, TV ad revenue for the Daytona 500 has increased 17% per year on average, while the cost of a 30-second spot has increased by an average of 11% per year. The following presents a five-year ad revenue trend for the Daytona 500, as well as a five-year trend on top advertisers during the race (Nielsen Monitor-Plus).

    ^ = Race shortened due to rain delay.

    Sprint Nextel
    ^ = Race shortened due to rain delay.

  • Red Bull Planning Subtle Approach To First Nextel Cup Season

    By Brad Pinkerton, Staff Writer

    Red Bull Not Planning Any High-Energy
    Promotions Around Nextel Cup Debut

    In its first season in NASCAR’s top circuit, Team Red Bull is planning to take an unexpectedly low-key approach to marketing its two Nextel Cup teams. Although the company has a penchant for elaborate events to promote its energy drink, Team Red Bull spokesperson Steve Pegram said there is “really nothing of significance planned” around its Nextel Cup debut. Instead, Red Bull will look to make its Toyota teams competitive before rolling out the in-your-face marketing initiatives. “It’s first and foremost about competition, so we’re looking to put a competitive product on the racetrack,” Pegram said. “There will be some things that we bring into NASCAR that may not be big and spendy like other sponsors, but they’ll be progressive, unique and a different approach.” He indicated there will be an at-track presence across different NASCAR markets, but would not divulge any specifics.

    CHANGE IN STRATEGY? Millsport Senior VP/Motorsports Mike Bartelli noted Red Bull’s other sports interests, including an F1 team and MLS franchise, and said, “Perhaps they’ve reevaluated how the approach that they’ve used in other markets and sports might be received in NASCAR. Or maybe they’ve come to the conclusion that they should focus on the team’s performance on track first.” Just Marketing CMO Justin Johnson, a former NASCAR marketing exec, said, “In my estimation, they will use this year to research trends, view NASCAR consumption and then strike with a major campaign against this initiative.” But Johnson added, “I also wouldn’t rule out a very calculated hot market opportunity if their drivers get off to a fast start.” However, Pegram indicated there would be no special promotions around Brian Vickers or A.J. Allmendinger even if either were to experience early-season success, saying, “We don’t need to make a big deal of guys winning races, it’s kind of what’s expected.”

    CROSS PROMOTIONS: Team Red Bull provided a glimpse of cross-promotional opportunities between its various sports properties last November when it placed the MLS Red Bulls logo on Allmendinger’s No. 84 car during qualifying for the Dickies 500. Red Bull has no plans for cross promotions this season, but Johnson suggested it could use its other sports properties to attract incremental sponsorship revenue. “Bundling assets together and providing value-added inventory outside the NASCAR community might serve as a key differentiator for a potential suitor,” he said. “In addition, the ability to use specialized paint schemes affords Red Bull the ability to promote regional efforts.”

    Print | Tags: Formula One, MLS, NASCAR, New York Red Bulls, Toyota
  • Two Prominent Motorsports Writers Continue Talk On NASCAR

    Facing a NASCAR season with numerous changes and challenges, longtime motorsports writers David Poole of the Charlotte Observer and NASCAR Scene’s Steve Waid spoke recently with Senior Staff Writer Jon Show.  Following is the conclusion that discussion.  See Thursday’s issue of THE DAILY for part one.

    Q: What affect will the new tweaks have on the Chase this season?

    Waid: Minimal.  I don’t see a whole lot of change based on the conversations that I’ve had with drivers.  In the first 26 races they don’t see themselves doing much of anything different.  However, maybe some of them will have in the back of their heads that they need to win as many races as they can because of the seeding for the Chase.  If nothing else it makes it a little more intriguing and drives more interest, but otherwise I just don’t see any major changes in strategy.

    Poole: I think the 12 drivers in the Chase is the interesting thing because it broadens the playing field and at least, theoretically, opens up more chance for an unexpected team to make the Chase.  But I don’t think that will happen because changes to the cars this year mean the best teams will flourish.

    Q: All things considered -- fan interest, TV ratings, attendance, etc. -- has the Chase been a success?

    Waid: I do believe fans had their interest piqued by the Chase.  I think they try to keep up with it even though some absolutely hate it and want to go back to the old way.  But I don’t believe you can call it an unqualified success when the (ratings) numbers aren’t what they should be and, in fact, have been falling.  The idea behind the Chase was to increase NASCAR’s ratings in comparison to the NFL.  That hasn’t happened and it’s gone the other direction.  Based on those figures I don’t see how you can call it a success.

    Poole: The thing you don’t know is where the ratings would be if there wasn’t a Chase.  The last three years we’ve had runaways by Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart.  Would we have had even lower ratings?  I don’t think the Chase has been a resounding success with the fans that NASCAR hoped it would be.  I know for a fact that it has raised the sport’s profile among the American sports media.  More reporters come to the season’s final eleven races than ever did before.  If that’s a measure of success -- that NASCAR’s getting ink and television -- then to that degree it has been a success. But it has not been a homerun with fans as they hoped it would be.

    Writer Says NASCAR Should
    Promote Jimmie Johnson More

    Q: On which drivers should NASCAR be putting more of a marketing emphasis?

    Waid: Most of these promotional TV vehicles utilize drivers who are established stars, for the most part.  You don’t see the younger generation getting out there as a promotional vehicle for NASCAR. ... One of the things NASCAR has been trying to do is appeal to a different demographic; they want a younger audience and they pretty much ignore guys like me that have been around forever.  I’m no marketer, but wouldn’t it be somewhat reasonable to take one of these younger drivers and put him in some of these promotions that encourage younger people to take a look?

    Poole: I don’t think NASCAR needs to market drivers, and by that I mean pick out two or three guys.  I think NASCAR needs to let competition identify the drivers that need to be marketed and then market those drivers.  I think Jimmie Johnson should have a lot more emphasis than Jeff Gordon right now because Jimmie Johnson’s team is what Jeff Gordon’s team used to be -- the standard by which other teams measure themselves.  Jimmie Johnson may not have the personality or charisma of Jeff Gordon, but he can certainly hold his own in the marketplace.  In the same way the NBA keeps trying to jam LeBron James down my throat, NASCAR keeps trying to feed me Dale Earnhardt Jr.

    Q: What affect is Toyota going to have on NASCAR?

    Waid: In the long run it’s going to have a positive affect.  I know you hear fans saying it’s an American sport and should have American cars, but this is the No. 1 car in the country and that means a heck of a lot of Americans are driving it.  That means they are very successful company and they came into the sport with every intent of winning and doing well and becoming an even more meaningful part of the American motorsports scene.  By doing well they will cultivate their own group of fans and cause these other fans to forget about the fact that it’s a foreign car and accept it.

    Poole: What’s wrong with people picking sides?  If Toyota creates fans that pull for them and against them that’s fine with NASCAR.  Notre Dame football has fans that pull for them and people watching that hope they get their butts kicked.  If Toyota develops that kind of following where the fans come to the racetrack to pull for their drivers and against them that’s another reason to give a crap about NASCAR.

    Q: What will ESPN’s return to NASCAR do for the sport?

    Poole: The thing about ESPN is when they get hold of something they market the bejesus out of it.  They’ve got so many platforms and so many places to put NASCAR and -- like them or not -- they set the American sports agenda.  All you have to look at is hockey.  When ESPN had hockey and was promoting hockey, hockey became a cache sport.  It had positive momentum and people talked about how cool it was to be a hockey fan.  Now that the NHL is on Versus they ought to put hockey on milk cartons.  NASCAR will benefit from being spoken about in the mainstream of ESPN broadcasts.  Whether they’ll admit it or not, the news judgment ESPN employs on “SportsCenter” is affected by who they’re in business with.

    Waid: The other effect this has had is the other sports entities are ratcheting up what they are doing in NASCAR to try to keep pace.  You’re going to see a heck of a lot more promotion on Fox.  ESPN has greatly increased the content of NASCAR on its Web site, forcing Fox and the Speed Channel to do the same.  That cannot be bad for NASCAR and is also great for the fans.  Just look at the outlets they have to get information and entertainment about NASCAR that really weren’t present a year ago.  The affect that ESPN is going to have on NASCAR has already taken place to some degree by what it’s forced its rival networks to do.

    Q: Are movies like “Talladega Nights” good or bad for NASCAR’s image?

    Poole: I think “Talladega Nights” was an embarrassment.  I think NASCAR backed the wrong horse.  They should have pushed marketing money behind “Cars,” which was a beautiful animated movie that the family could have gone to see.  While it did well and will probably win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, NASCAR put its money behind a really silly movie that made fun of the very people that make the sport great.  It angered me.

    Waid: It angered the fans as well for several different reasons.  It played up the stereotypical redneck, which is a long dead slam at NASCAR fans.  And, let’s face it, how do I phrase this, a gay Frenchman driving in NASCAR?  That is about as improbable as it gets.

    Q: Who is the most innovative executive in or around NASCAR?

    France Gets Credit For Innovative
    Ideas In Growing NASCAR

    Poole: David Hill from Fox. He’s moved the ball from what NASCAR telecasts used to be back in the day when ESPN left.  He’s brought a lot of the things that fans will tell you they hate but they couldn’t live without.  Fox changed the way that NASCAR was shown on television for the better.

    Waid: He doesn’t always hit a homerun but he’s always up there swinging, and that’s Brian France.  You’ve got to give him credit for trying.  We sometimes call him crazy and nuts and things of that nature but if he doesn’t find ways to help propel NASCAR well into the 21st century -- and it stayed pretty much how it was before he got a firm hold on the reins -- there’s no question that it would not be in the situation it is today.

    Q: Will Dale Earnhardt Jr. get his stake in DEI?

    Poole: What choice does Teresa have?

    Waid: He’s got both guns, he has them fully loaded and he got them aimed at her head.

    Open-wheel drivers going to NASCAR?
    Waid: Future.
    Poole: Future.
    Later race start times?
    Waid: Future.
    Poole: Fad.
    Partnerships with musicians like Kelly Clarkson?
    Waid: Fad.
    Poole: Fad.
    Better booth -- ESPN, Fox or TNT?
    Poole: Fox.
    Waid: Haven’t seen ESPN so I have to go with Fox.
    Most media friendly owner?
    Waid: Felix Sabates.
    Poole: Rick Hendrick.
    Least media friendly owner?
    Poole: Teresa Earnhardt.
    Waid: Teresa Earnhardt.

    Print | Tags: ESPN, NASCAR, NBA, NFL, NHL, Turner Sports, Toyota, Walt Disney
  • Juan Pablo Montoya Begins Foray Into NASCAR

    All Eyes On Montoya As He Makes
    Nextel Cup Debut At Daytona
    Juan Pablo Montoya’s switch from F1 racing to NASCAR “dovetails with two major initiatives” for the sport’s growth –- “finding an international foothold and diversifying its drivers and fan base — and his impact might not end there,” according to Nate Ryan in a front-page Cover Story in USA TODAY. Driver Kyle Petty said, “If [Montoya is] competitive like he can be and some of the other stars align, this could be a major event in the history of the sport.” Driver Jeff Burton added, “We have a great opportunity for NASCAR fans to understand that, ‘Man those guys who turn left and right over there in Europe, they’re pretty damn good.’ And I think we also have a great opportunity for F1 fans to understand that this is really hard and that we’re not just a bunch of dumb rednecks with cherry pickers taking engines out of trees. I think it’s going to be an eye-opener for everybody.” Montoya, who is the “only auto racing driver” represented by William Morris Agency (WMA), will have his rookie year documented by the company for a movie or TV series. WMA agent Philip Button said that Montoya is also “drawing interest for endorsements from many companies particularly from the beverage and consumer electronics industries” (USA TODAY, 2/16). Montoya is also profiled in this week’s issue of SI (THE DAILY).

    Print | Tags: Formula One, NASCAR
  • Wheels & Deals

    UPS Re-Ups NASCAR Deal Through 2011
    UPS signed a new five-year deal with NASCAR to continue as the sport’s official express delivery company through the 2011 season. UPS will continue providing its Trackside Services at all Nextel Cup Series races, as well as logistics, freight and supply chain services (UPS)....Yard-Man announced a three-year sponsorship agreement with NASCAR making the company NASCAR’s official lawn mowers. Yard-Man, which gains category exclusivity, also extended its primary sponsorship of Brewco Motorsports’ Busch Series No. 37 Ford driven by Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray (Yard-Man).

    PROMOS: Fathead has added Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to its ’07 NASCAR product line. Earnhardt will be part of the Legends Series, while Earnhardt Jr. will be one of five active drivers produced (Fathead)....A cutout of driver Kevin Harvick featuring his voice recording appears in select Shell stores to promote the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil car’s merchandise, including apparel exclusive to Shell locations. POP materials include a Limited Edition Shell Racing Gift Card, which features an image of the No. 29 car (Shell)....Alltel is running the “My Circle 500” sweepstakes a text-to-win promo that will give ten finalists the chance to take ten friends on an all-expenses-paid trip to Charlotte on May 24-27 where they will meet the No. 12 Alltel team, visit Penske Racing’s shop and compete in a go-kart and pit crew challenge (THE DAILY)....Daytonabrands Inc. launched several new automotive products this week and will air ads on Sirius’ NASCAR and ESPN Radio channels during Sunday’s Daytona 500 (Daytonabrands).

    NOTES: Michael Waltrip Racing has partnered with PPI Motorsports Owner Cal Wells for ownership of the No. 00 Nextel Cup car driven by David Reutimann. The team will be called Waltrip-PPI Racing, with Waltrip serving as Managing Partner (NASCAR SCENE, 2/15 issue)....Chip Ganassi Racing is looking to replace sponsor Lone Star on the No. 40 Nextel Cup car driven by David Stremme. Team co-Owner Felix Sabates said that the arrangement “ended following a buyout of Lone Star” by another company (NASCAR SCENE, 2/15 issue)....Front Row Motorsports has reached deals with primary sponsor Detoxify and associate sponsor Makoto Ginger Dressing for the No. 34 Dodge driven by Kevin Lepage in Sunday’s Daytona 500 (Front Row)....Garmin Int’l will be an associate sponsor of Haas CNC Racing’s No. 66 Best Buy car driven by Jeff Green in the ’07 Nextel Cup Series. The Best Buy Fun Zone Technology truck, which appears on-site at races, will feature an interactive Garmin kiosk (Garmin)....Klondike will be an official sponsor of Evernham Motorsports’ No. 9 Dodge during the ’07 Busch season. The brand will release a “NASCAR bar” featuring Kasey Kahne on the package and will run an on-pack sweepstakes, as well as NASCAR-themed TV ads (Klondike).

    Print | Tags: Anheuser Busch, NASCAR, Pennzoil, UPS
  • Blog Hound: NASCAR’s Cheating Scandal Dominating Blog Banter

    In the wake of NASCAR handing down penalties for cheating this week in Daytona, bloggers are talking about the ramifications it may have on the league, teams and sponsors.

    Inside Track
    Posted By: Greg M.
    “No one likes to be associated with a cheater. After this incident, would anyone risk having their sponsors and partners look at them the way that Toyota and the media are looking at Michael Waltrip right now?”
    Karen’s Public Relations Blog
    Posted By: Karen
    “NASCAR has their hands full in this situation, but what they need to do now is get all of the facts, do a thorough investigation, and communicate it effectively to their fans, media, and sponsors in a timely manner.”
    Fan IQ Blog
    Posted By: CriticalFanatic
    “Surely there were an equal amount of drivers or more sliding past the rules last year. Is NASCAR cracking down because the sport in now under the grand stage and microscrope?”
    Wogan on Sports
    Posted By:Jim Wogan
    “While most professional sports shy away from controversy, NASCAR has created some during the biggest week of the season. Their PR brilliance is unmatched. They look like saints, and they’re getting gobs of attention for it.”
    rogerd’s notebook
    Posted By:Roger Dooley
    “Toyota is finding out a lot can go wrong. In some ways, this scandal is actually worse than a typical after hours night club altercation - it directly involves the sponsor’s products.”
    The Frontstretch
    Posted By:Amy Henderson
    “Only time will tell if the punishments will serve as the deterrent they’re meant to be. In the meantime, the teams involved this week are now at a distinct disadvantage.”

    Do you have a blog post that our readers would find interesting? Please forward your submission to



    Print | Tags: NASCAR, Toyota
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