SBJ/April 30 - May 6, 2007/This Weeks News

All-star race gets new marketing with format change

Dean Kessel and his Sprint Nextel team began revamping the May 19 Nextel All-Star Challenge last fall by changing the format of the race. All the while, they were working on an enhanced marketing plan as well.

Central to the campaign is a multicultural effort that will involve Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith, who will be grand marshal of the midweek Pit Crew Challenge, and Spanish-language components to its handset all-star voting and in-store promotions.

“That’s a growing market and it’s very significant to our business,” said Kessel, director of NASCAR marketing, who is working on an evolving promotional campaign with driver Juan Pablo Montoya for this summer.

Sprint Nextel also has forged a deep partnership with the race’s first-year broadcast partner, Speed, to create “Decision ’07,” a co-branded feature that will be integrated into Speed’s “Trackside” show. “Decision ’07” will tie into Sprint Nextel’s fan vote for one driver to make the All-Star Challenge who’s not already in. During the segment, a driver will politic for the fans’ votes in a comical political skit.

The all-star event also will provide a platform for Budweiser, which hasn’t had a visible position in the past because of Miller’s official beer status at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. But Miller’s deal expired and both the track and Bud are capitalizing.

LMS benefits by putting Bud driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. on all of its promotional materials, while Bud now enjoys rights to tickets and event marks, which will tie into its own promotions.

“That week is one of the best NASCAR environments of the season and now we’ve got some flexibility,” said Tim Schoen, vice president of sports and entertainment marketing at Anheuser-Busch. “You’ll see a combination of marketing efforts (from Bud and LMS) that you haven’t seen before.”

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