SBJ/October 9 - 15, 2006/This Weeks News

BofA puts ‘grand’ into grandstand

A rendering shows part of the space, under
Turn 4 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

Bank of America is breaking the mold on NASCAR hospitality by creating a VIP feel in the grandstand at Lowe’s Motor Speedway this weekend.

The title sponsor of Saturday’s Nextel Cup race near Charlotte has reserved 800 of the best seats in Turn 4 to entertain employees, clients and promotional contest winners in a club-seat atmosphere, a first in NASCAR.

Lowe’s Motor Speedway, owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc., said a sponsor has never before branded a section of the grandstand with unique signage and special food and beverage service, complete with servers. Officials at rival International Speedway Corp. confirmed that title sponsors typically receive a couple hundred grandstand tickets, but they’re unaware of a branding effort on this scale.

“We wanted to do something different,” said Jill Gregory, Bank of America’s NASCAR marketing executive. “Hospitality is a pretty crowded space and it’s a challenge to create a differentiated experience.”

Bank of America purchased the 800 seats in the 4th Turn Terrace at $49 and $59 a ticket, an expense on top of the undisclosed amount the bank paid for the race title. Bank of America’s title sponsorship already provided for suite-level seating, signage and other assets.

This is the first year of Bank of America’s five-year title agreement with Lowe’s Motor Speedway and it highlights the bank’s first year in NASCAR after a lengthy absence. Bank of America also is in its first year as the official bank at nine other ISC and SMI tracks.

“Hospitality is something we’ve done with great success in our other sports (the PGA Tour, Olympics and Major League Baseball), and we wanted to continue that with NASCAR,” Gregory said. “This is our first entitled race and we wanted activation plans that would be impactful.”

It was during a tour of the track in June that Bank of America executives first thought about creating a branded section that would offer its guests a high-end experience. They chose the 4th Turn Terrace because of the action and the view, Gregory said.

While other sponsors have talked about branding a section at the racetrack, Bank of America is the first to pull it off, said Dan Farrell, senior vice president of corporate sales at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

“The others eventually shied away from attempting something like this because of all the details,” Farrell said. “Bank of America is actually going to do it. What they’re doing is going to blow people away. They’re going to provide something in the grandstand that people have never experienced before.”

Only Bank of America’s 800 invited guests
will have access to the branded section.

Pulling this together wasn’t without its logistical headaches. First, the 100 or so fans who had already bought tickets in the section had to be contacted and relocated. Those customers were moved to a section closer to the start/finish line where tickets cost $119, at the racetrack’s expense.

Once the path was cleared to transform Turn 4 into Bank of America’s private playground, Gregory and her team worked with the track and its food service provider, Levy Restaurants, to develop a high-end experience.

It starts with exclusivity — only the 800 invited guests will have access to this section, which is being called the Bank of America Turn 4.

Two concession areas are being added strictly to serve Bank of America’s group, including a food court with nontraditional offerings such as wraps and veggie burgers, in addition to the traditional fare. At the top of the stands, a second concession area will offer drinks and typical snack fare. Food and beverage within the section are complimentary; guests who wander out of the section will be given Speedway Dollars to spend elsewhere as part of a gift bag when they arrive.

“We wanted to offer the fans in this section a complete experience,” Gregory said. “We pooled some of the assets we already had with the entitlement — signage, hospitality — and added to that. ‘Higher standards’ is what our brand is all about and we wanted to bring that to the fan experience at the track.”

Bank of America has even arranged for bathroom attendants to constantly monitor the men’s and women’s rest room closest to the section. The bank also is bringing in three additional large video boards, one of which will be placed in front of the Turn 4 section with the race feed. Lowe’s Motor Speedway provides three video boards, as well, giving this race a total of six.

Bank of America’s expenses for the project included the 800 tickets and the purchase of Speedway Dollars, but the footprint for the food court and the food service from Levy was not an extra expense.

“We’re glad to provide that at no extra charge because they’re bringing such a unique experience to the fan,” Farrell said. “We wanted to work with them on this.”

The greatest challenge fell on Levy, Farrell said. Levy is flying in an additional supervisor, a chef dedicated to this section and 30 extra workers.

While Bank of America has worked with three agencies for this race — GMR Marketing, SportsMark Management and Ketchum Sports — GMR has been the lead agency on the Turn 4 project, Gregory said.

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