SBJ/February 5 - 11, 2007/This Weeks News

Man in Black still brings in green

Dale Earnhardt’s death nearly six years ago robbed stock car racing of its everyman icon, but as marketers of the film “Dale” are learning, Earnhardt’s image and the No. 3 race car remain powerfully attractive to sponsors.

Chevrolet, the brand of car formerly driven by Earnhardt, and GM Goodwrench, Earnhardt’s longtime team sponsor, are the co-presenting sponsors of the movie’s tour. Anheuser-Busch, Tissot and Checkers/Rally’s also have purchased sponsorships at a lesser level.

Industry insiders say that sponsorships have been selling for about $500,000 and could extend to the $750,000 range, based on assets. The presenting sponsors are spending a combined seven figures.

“Dale,” a co-production by CMT Films and NASCAR Images, will tour much of the country from February through August, following the Nextel Cup schedule, and more dates might be added.

The documentary, which cost a little more than $2 million to create, generally will debut in a market about two to three weeks before the race. The first public showing was last week in Tampa, where about 1,200 viewers attended. More showings throughout Florida are scheduled for the weeks leading up to the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

In all, the film will show in more than 100 theaters and creators hope to reach between 5 million and 7 million viewers, including those who see it in private showings.

Whereas motion pictures typically offer product placement in exchange for promotional rights, “Dale” is a biography using race scenes, photos, present-day interviews, old family videos and outtakes, making product placement impossible.

So “Dale” partners were sold exclusivity in their category and promotional rights, including the use of Earnhardt’s name, likeness and the No. 3 Goodwrench car. They also have the ability to purchase ad time in the “pre-show,” which is a collection of interviews and highlights before the film starts.

The Synergy Group, Boulder, Colo., which is managing and marketing the film’s release, also has been in discussions with Cingular, Wrangler, banks and financial-service companies, among others. Synergy normally handles the marketing of touring movies and concerts.

“It’s just a great way to drive excitement in the market in the weeks leading up to the race,” said Kurt Miller, president of the Synergy Group. “It’s a nine-month tour and you can jump in one particular market or do the whole thing.”

Miller said that with the pre-show and the movie itself, which lasts an hour and 40 minutes, sponsors can expect viewers to be in the theater for two-and-a-half to three hours.

For their millions, Chevy and Goodwrench will enjoy exposure both in the “Dale” pre-show and in the trailer that will run in theaters across the country, as well as display space in the theaters. Chevy has created spots for the pre-show that will tie into the look and feel of the movie.

Additionally, their marks will appear on all associated merchandise, from posters and handouts at the track to T-shirts and hats, as well as advertising and the DVD, which will launch in October.

When the movie goes to television in September on CMT, Chevy and Goodwrench will get ad time on the network as part of their deals.

Chevy dealers also have jumped on board, especially in the Southeast, where 34 of the 41 local dealership groups have signed on to support the activation. Nationally, more than 100 local groups are activating.

Checkers, the official burger and drive-through restaurant of NASCAR, became involved primarily to use Earnhardt’s likeness and the No. 3 car on its 42-ounce collectible cups. Individual restaurants also will feature the No. 3 show car on site, as well as partner with local radio stations for remote broadcasts.

Jason Wonderly, Checkers’ sports marketing manager, said about 5 million collectible cups will be distributed.

Tissot’s involvement came about just as the watchmaker was considering a limited-edition Earnhardt time piece. Anthony Migliazzo, Tissot’s sponsorship manager, said the Earnhardt watch is on hold for now, but the official timekeeper of NASCAR has bought time in the pre-show. Tissot will run a countdown clock as the beginning of the movie nears.

“Compared to what you pay for traditional TV, this made good sense to us,” Migliazzo said.

Chevy and Goodwrench are leaving the activation at the local level up to the dealers and service shops. Typically, they’ll offer movie tickets (which sell for $10 each) to consumers who take a test drive, and they’ll use Earnhardt’s No. 3 show car to lure customers onto their lot, in addition to the media that will run in the local market, from TV and radio to print and direct mail.

In what’s considered an extremely rare move, some racetracks such as Atlanta Motor Speedway are sharing the mailing list for their season-ticket holders with Chevy and Goodwrench for the direct-mail piece. Many tracks will cross-promote the movie while the movie promotes the upcoming race.

Chevy and Goodwrench also are holding private screenings of the movie for their employees, while other companies are purchasing private screenings for customers and vendors for between $10 and $13.50 a person.

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