SBJ/September 30 - October 6, 2002/This Weeks Issue

Gatorade stays in racing with deal for victory lanes at ISC's tracks

Some two months after Gatorade passed on renewing its 18-year-old NASCAR sponsorship because of cost considerations, Pepsi's isotonic brand has fashioned an alternative. It signed a deal with International Speedway Corp. tracks and added NASCAR rookie drivers Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman to a Gatorade Racing Team roster that already included Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth.

Central to Gatorade's new NASCAR activation strategy is the branding of victory lanes at the various ISC tracks. The ISC tracks will have Gatorade logos painted on and around victory lane, along with the usual assortment of branded coolers and cups found on NFL and NBA sidelines. So perhaps the traditional Gatorade bath given to winning NFL coaches will now become an integral part of winning a NASCAR race — at least those held at ISC tracks.

A computerized mock-up of the Gatorade Victory Lane that ISC's Kansas Speedway will get.

The branded victory lane gives Gatorade a distinct and highly leverageable marketing asset at some of the most important NASCAR tracks, including Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and nine others. Gatorade marketers were concerned about the value of their old NASCAR deal, so the question came down to what the NASCAR logo was worth.

"The Gatorade brand is now associated with the most visible part of NASCAR," said Tom Fox, vice president of sports marketing. "Fans' focus in this sport is with drivers and tracks, so that's where we are focusing our efforts now."

Gatorade was slated to unveil its new NASCAR marketing initiative at Sunday's Protection One 400 race at the Kansas Speedway.

The ISC deal also includes isotonic pouring rights to the ISC tracks at branded "Gatorade Refueling Stations." Also packaged with the deal is designation as the "official sports beverage" for all ISC tracks; TV ads on the Motor Racing Network, along with post-race coverage in the Gatorade Victory Lane; and five Pole Day sponsorship opportunities at tracks during the year (three Winston Cup and two IRL races), which may be passed through to Gatorade retailers. The tracks will provide Gatorade products to pit crews.

Gatorade's ISC ties are more than 10 years old, and the brand will continue to sponsor the Gatorade 125's — the qualifying races that determine starting positions for the Daytona 500.

Coke's PowerAde brand grabbed the NASCAR rights as soon as Pepsi failed to renew. Gatorade's new strategy of using tracks and driver sponsorships puts Gatorade more in line with the tactics of its parent PepsiCo. Since Coke is a huge NASCAR sponsor, Pepsi leverages through track deals and driver sponsorships, principally with Jeff Gordon.

HERE & THERE: A deal under which Dallas-based Marketing Arm was to have outsourced its athlete representation business to Assante has fallen through, sources said. There's been no decision on what The Marketing Arm will do with that business. The firm has been concentrating on corporate consulting for some time.

Reebok agency The Arnell Group filmed an encore to last season's ad with Allen Iverson and Jadakiss in Philadelphia earlier this month. Agency types said they were pleased to find that Iverson, recently cleared of all charges stemming from a domestic dispute this summer, showed up an hour early for the shoot. Of course, there was at least one cynic who suggested that Iverson got the date wrong and was actually tardy by 23 hours, but that suggestion was rejected by Reebok.

SFX Sports has signed two up-and-coming female athletes: skier Julie Mancuso and WUSA star Abby Wambach.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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