SBJ/September 25 - October 1, 2006/This Weeks News

AAA sees success with NASCAR

In Mark Martin’s new AAA commercial, the veteran racer says, “I never go anywhere without AAA.”

AAA plans to keep rolling in NASCAR
after driver Mark Martin exits.
Well, almost never. When the current Nextel Cup season ends in November, Martin will remove the red, white and blue colors for the last time. He might retire or he might not, but he won’t return to Roush Racing’s No. 6 Ford after a fruitful 19-year run.

Martin has been at the center of a landmark year for AAA, a federation of 62 regional clubs that never before collaborated on a national campaign. The auto club, which also offers insurance and travel-agency services, jumped in with both feet this year, spending more than $25 million on the team sponsorship and official-status track deals, most notably with International Speedway Corp.

AAA’s first racing-related commercial debuts this weekend during NBC’s telecast of the Banquet 400, and the federation also plans a farewell gala for Martin at the season-ending Ford 400 on Nov. 19.

So what happens when Martin exits and the AAA car is piloted by a rookie driver who doesn’t carry the same name value?

“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing,” said Kristin Warfield, AAA’s director of motorsports. “We’re sad to see Mark go, but we’ve got a model that will stand up.”

Certain aspects of AAA’s program will have to change. Martin, the father of a teenager who is nearing driving age, has been the face of AAA’s advocacy for safe-driving laws. He also participates in driver-education test drives.

“That’s been a great marriage for us,” Warfield said. “But soon we’re going to go from Mark talking as a father to a 20-something driver speaking from a different perspective, and we’ll work through that.”

With the commitment to racing this year, AAA recognized the need for someone to oversee its bustling new program. No one on the outside was more familiar with AAA’s goals than Warfield, a former ISC sales executive who sold AAA its track deals.

Warfield joined AAA in March with the task of herding the 62 regional clubs into a cohesive flock. That means communicating with a dozen or more regional chiefs, each of whom have their own budget for track activation. Some want to blow it out at the track with hospitality, a mobile marketing trailer and Martin appearances, while others simply want to sign up new members. Warfield worked with GMR Marketing, Charlotte, (AAA’s agency of record) to develop a 150-page activation manual for the clubs.

In addition to AAA’s investment in its sponsorships, Warfield estimates that the regional clubs have combined to spend at least a dollar in activation for each dollar in sponsorship, targeting its 48 million members with at-track events and services.

Gauging the return on that investment is difficult, Warfield said, because so many clubs are involved. She knows that the program has generated many thousands of new members and even more leads.

AAA at the track

  • 12 International Speedway Corp. tracks: Official auto club and official insurance (home and auto)
  • California Speedway: Title sponsor of the Auto Club 500 Nextel Cup race
  • Dover International Speedway: Title sponsor of the AAA Insurance 200 Craftsman Truck race
  • Pocono Raceway: Official auto club and insurance
  • Texas Motor Speedway: Official auto club
  • Watkins Glen International: Title sponsor of Pole Day and of the FanZone
  • Indianapolis 500: Official travel agency, auto club and insurance
  • Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Infi neon Raceway: Signage

Activation for AAA members:

  • Mark Martin Q&As at Daytona, Martinsville, Talladega and Watkins Glen
  • Mobile marketing unit
  • Giveaways (diecast cars, hats, shirts)
  • 10 percent discounts at Martin’s merchandise trailer
  • Roadside assistance available at select tracks
  • New member sign-ups at select tracks
Source: AAA

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