SBJ/November 28-December 4, 2011/Research and Ratings

Official brands get a good ride with NASCAR

NASCAR’s sponsors beat the competition in nearly every category measured in the fifth annual Turnkey Intelligence sponsor loyalty survey for the sport, conducted exclusively for SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily. In addition, the level of recognition by NASCAR’s fans increased or held steady for three-quarters of the official sponsor brands compared with last year’s survey.

Ford saw an 8.5 percentage point increase in recognition from 2010 by fans for it being a NASCAR sponsor, the biggest such movement for any official NASCAR partner. The automaker’s Fusion brand was driven by 2011 points runner-up Carl Edwards and fourth-place points finisher Matt Kenseth. Together, the two drivers posted 31 top-five finishes this season.

GM, driven by champion Tony Stewart, got the highest response rate in the auto category.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Twenty-three percent of fans correctly identified Ford as a NASCAR sponsor. Ford also again this year was title sponsor for the season finale race weekend in Miami.

General Motors saw the highest response rate in the auto category, though its marks were down among both avid and casual fans. GM’s Chevrolet brand does count 2011 Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart among its drivers. It also has in its stable Jimmie Johnson, who saw his five-year championship run come to an end this year with a season that found him in victory lane only twice (compared with 53 times in the prior nine years).

NASCAR has four official automotive partners. In the polling, fans were asked to select just one company in each category as the brand they thought was the official NASCAR sponsor in that business sector.

Ford’s recognition rate among fans increased 8.5 percentage points over the 2010 numbers.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
While primary sponsors Office Depot and Mobil 1 rode Stewart’s on-track success to high visibility, their business categories were not measured in the survey, so response rates for those companies are not available.

Another official sponsor that saw an increase this year was Nationwide. The insurance company title sponsors NASCAR’s second-tier circuit, which typically races the day before a Sprint Cup Series race. Discussion of that race during Sprint Cup coverage brings Nationwide on-air exposure. Nationwide saw its response rate increase 5.3 percentage points compared with 2010, no small feat in a category shared with Aflac, Edwards’ co-primary sponsor.

“They are doing a pretty darn good job diversifying their partnership this year,” said Brian Moyer, NASCAR’s managing director of market and media research, “from their series entitlement, to integrating with Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. and Danica [Patrick], and their two big national promotions — the Code Spotter promotion and their Dash 4 Cash. And, they have a pretty good relationship with [NASCAR TV partner] ESPN and seem to have a presence all year long on their networks.”

Lead series title sponsor Sprint, despite a drop of 8.8 percentage points since 2009, is still five times more likely to be selected by NASCAR fans as the official wireless communications company than Verizon, its closest competitor in the study. That ratio is a stark contrast to the wireless market at large: One-third of the country’s wireless customers subscribe to Verizon, more than double Sprint’s market share.

Coca-Cola, Visa, Chevrolet, Bank of America, UPS and Nationwide were the other brands (along with Sprint) that were more likely than any other in their respective categories to be correctly identified as an official sponsor of NASCAR by the sport’s fans. Powerade and Coors Light were the only official sponsors in the study to finish behind rivals, although each brand saw an increase in its awareness level among avid fans compared with 2010.

Among the brands that associate with NASCAR but do not have the official NASCAR sponsor label, Subway surged past Gatorade in fan recognition marks in their respective categories.

For the third consecutive year, Subway was a part-time primary sponsor of Edwards, and the 31.3 percent of avid fans who said they believed Subway was the official quick-service restaurant of NASCAR was the highest response received by any QSR in the history of our NASCAR study.

For Gatorade, motorsports was once again its most activated sports property in retail this year, said Gatorade spokeswoman Lauren Burns. The brand’s G-Series point-of-sale campaign featuring Johnson and his No. 48 car was used in more than 3,000 stores in 2011. Nearly 30 retailer-specific programs using racing assets were also executed in 2011, and for the third straight year, Gatorade partnered with Kroger for a Daytona 500 retail program creating custom labels on three flavors that highlighted the race and Johnson.

Are you more or less likely to consider trying a product/service if that product/service is an official sponsor of NASCAR?
  AVID   CASUAL
  2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
More likely 69.7% 65.2% 55.3%   45.6% 39.6% 51.4%
Unaffected / less likely 29.3% 34.8% 44.7%   54.4% 60.4% 48.6%
 
 
Are you more or less likely to regularly consume a product/service if that product/ service is an official sponsor of NASCAR?
  AVID   CASUAL
  2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
More likely 71.6% 63.3% 50.0%   44.1% 38.7% 44.9%
Unaffected / less likely 28.4% 36.7% 50.0%   55.9% 61.3% 55.1%
 
 
Are you more or less likely to recommend a product/service to a friend or family member if that product/service is an official sponsor of NASCAR?
  AVID   CASUAL
  2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
More likely 71.7% 63.8% 46.6%   46.7% 38.7% 46.8%
Unaffected / less likely 28.3% 36.2% 53.4%   53.3% 61.3% 53.2%
 
Are you more or less likely to consciously support a company by purchasing its products/ services if the company is an official sponsor of NASCAR?
  AVID   CASUAL
  2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
More likely 74.1% 66.2% NA   50.3% 44.2% NA
Unaffected / less likely 25.9% 33.8% NA   49.7% 55.8% NA

NA: Not applicable; question was not asked in annual survey.

Methodology

For this project, Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, through its Turnkey Intelligence operation, conducted national consumer research surveys among a sample of more than 400 members of the Toluna Omnibus panel who were at least 18 years old.

This year’s survey was conducted Nov. 4-13, a period ending one week before the final race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Last year’s survey was similarly conducted over the final weeks of the season, during the period of Nov. 8-16.

Respondents were screened and analyzed based on their general avidity levels. Fans categorized as “avid” were those who responded “4” or “5” to the question “How big a fan are you of NASCAR?”, claimed to “look up news, scores and standings several times a week or more often,” “watch/listen/attend at least 21 races per season” and “have a favorite driver.” Fans categorized as “casual” responded “3” to the same initial question, then claimed to “look up news, scores and standings several times a month or more often,” “watch/listen/attend at least five races per season” and “have a favorite driver.”

When asked to identify official sponsors, respondents selected from a field of companies and brands that was provided to them for each business sector.

The percentage responses listed have been rounded. The margin of error for each survey is +/- 4.9 percent. Ad spending totals are from Nielsen and represent estimated spending on NASCAR broadcasts on Fox, ABC, ESPN/ESPN2, TNT and Speed based on network-provided rate cards.

Turnkey performs research and consulting work for more than 70 North American major league teams as well as numerous league offices and sports brands. NASCAR and several of its teams are among the company’s clients.

  AVID   CASUAL
SOFT DRINK 2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
Coca-Cola* 50.3% 52.7% 60.5%   37.4% 39.7% 47.9%
Pepsi 21.4% 16.4% 19.5%   25.1% 16.6% 17.1%
Mountain Dew 7.5% 3.8% 3.7%   9.7% 7.0% 10.1%
I’m not sure 10.0% 16.9% 14.0%   16.9% 27.1% 18.9%

Coca-Cola has been NASCAR’s official soda since 1998 and its agreement is set through 2017. It once again sponsored the Coca-Cola 600 and Coke Zero 400 and it had partnerships with 10 Sprint Cup drivers. Still, its recognition level among both avid and casual fans, while tops in the category, was the lowest it’s been in the five-year history of our study. Consider what its competing brands did, given that those other numbers went up. PepsiCo’s Pepsi Max label got a lot of visibility through the sponsorship of driver Jeff Gordon. As for Mountain Dew, in September, PepsiCo announced that Diet Mountain Dew will replace Amp Energy as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s primary sponsor for 16 races in 2012, generating buzz and early visibility.

  AVID   CASUAL
SPORTS/ENERGY DRINK 2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
Gatorade 29.9% 23.2% 27.4%   30.8% 23.1% 27.2%
Red Bull 18.9% 11.6% 5.6%   13.3% 14.6% 9.7%
Amp 15.9% 19.8% 27.9%   8.7% 9.1% 15.2%
Powerade* 10.0% 7.3% 5.6%   10.3% 11.6% 12.0%
I’m not sure 15.9% 32.4% 27.9%   26.7% 31.7% 27.7%

Powerade has been an official Sprint Cup sponsor since 2003, but the Coca-Cola brand has minimal on-site activation among drivers and tracks. It’s seen its awareness numbers fall among casual fans each year since we began fielding the survey in 2007. Among its competitors, Gatorade had endorsement deals with drivers Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth this year. Red Bull, which is exiting NASCAR as a team owner and sponsor, departs with the highest scores among avid fans it has seen in the survey’s history, despite its logo appearing only once in victory lane this year. As for Amp, after four years as primary sponsor of Dale Earnhardt Jr. — and seeing diminishing numbers in the survey all four years — Amp Energy will phase its brand off the driver’s car in 2012 and instead will serve as an associate sponsor.

  AVID   CASUAL
BEER 2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
Anheuser-Busch 37.3% 38.2% 53.0%   38.0% 33.7% 48.9%
Coors* 18.9% 17.9% 23.3%   24.1% 25.6% 24.9%
Miller 14.9% 12.6% 9.3%   12.8% 10.6% 6.9%
I’m not sure 11.4% 23.2% 14.0%   20.0% 23.1% 14.8%

While Coors trails Anheuser-Busch in recognition, awareness of the Colorado-based brand’s official status is still up almost fourfold since taking over as NASCAR’s beer partner in 2008. A-B, which was NASCAR’s official beer from 1987 through 2007, was NASCAR’s No. 10 ad spender this year, at $10.4 million. In addition, Budweiser-sponsored Kevin Harvick had four wins this season, nine top-five finishes, and finished No. 3 in the points standings. Meanwhile, Miller saw gains in recognition among avid and casual fans. Miller Litesponsored Brad Keselowski had three wins, 10 top-five finishes and finished fifth in the point standings.

  AVID   CASUAL
CREDIT CARD 2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
Visa* 46.8% 32.9% 36.3%   33.3% 33.2% 32.3%
MasterCard 12.9% 19.3% 13.0%   11.3% 11.6% 11.5%
Discover Card 10.0% 3.4% 7.0%   12.8% 7.0% 9.2%
American Express 9.0% 10.6% 12.1%   6.7% 7.0% 14.8%
I’m not sure 17.9% 30.0% 31.6%   32.8% 39.7% 32.3%

The AARP Visa card and Chase logos appeared on the hood of Jeff Gordon’s car during several races this season. AARP’s Drive to End Hunger campaign this year was the first cause-related primary sponsor of a major race team. Visa also is the exclusive credit and debit card issued by Bank of America, another NASCAR sponsor, and Visa teamed up with fellow NASCAR sponsors Mars, 3M and Nationwide and several tracks for various contests and sweepstakes.

  AVID   CASUAL
AUTOMOTIVE 2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
GM (Chevrolet)* 28.9% 31.9% 27.5%   24.1% 29.2% 25.6%
Ford* 22.4% 13.5% 24.3%   23.6% 15.6% 24.4%
Toyota* 14.4% 8.7% 19.4%   10.3% 7.5% 14.5%
Honda 8.0% 2.4% 2.2%   4.1% 3.0% 2.5%
Chrysler (Dodge)* 4.0% 6.8% 16.3%   6.7% 4.0% 15.5%
I’m not sure 19.4% 33.8% 8.3%   30.3% 38.7% 11.9%

Toyota was the No. 4 ad spender in NASCAR this season at $20.5 million, according to Nielsen. The company was followed by Ford at No. 5 ($17.5 million), Dodge’s parent company Fiat at No. 6 ($14.8 million) and GM at No. 7 ($14.3 million). Point standings runner-up Carl Edwards is a Ford driver and had 19 top-five finishes. Chevrolet won its ninth straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Manufacturers’ Cup, winning 18 races this season.

  AVID   CASUAL
INSURANCE 2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
Nationwide* 24.9% 21.3% 26.2%   22.6% 15.6% 11.6%
Geico 19.4% 11.6% 9.4%   14.9% 12.1% 16.9%
Allstate 16.4% 8.2% 10.7%   12.8% 8.5% 11.2%
Aflac 14.4% 19.8% 29.2%   10.3% 18.6% 23.1%
I’m not sure 14.4% 29.0% 18.5%   29.7% 35.7% 26.0%

Nationwide this year finished its fourth season of a seven-year deal as NASCAR’s official insurer and saw gains among both avid and casual fans. Ads featuring spokesman Dale Earnhardt Jr. appeared during national broadcasts of NASCAR and other sports as well as on NASCAR.com. Aflac, meanwhile, did not renew its NASCAR-level deal after the 2010 season, and this was the final season of its deal as co-primary sponsor of Carl Edwards, whose drive for the Sprint Cup title went down to the year’s last race in Miami against eventual champion Tony Stewart.

  AVID   CASUAL
WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS 2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
Sprint* 55.7% 58.0% 65.7%   51.8% 51.8% 59.5%
Verizon Wireless 11.4% 7.7% 6.7%   12.3% 9.1% 6.0%
AT&T Wireless 9.5% 9.2% 11.0%   6.7% 8.0% 10.6%
T-Mobile 5.5% 5.8% 1.9%   7.7% 6.5% 5.5%
I’m not sure 9.5% 14.5% 13.8%   19.5% 21.6% 15.7%

In year No. 8 of Sprint’s 10-year, $750 million title sponsorship of NASCAR’s top-level circuit, 53.8 percent of all fans surveyed correctly identified Sprint as an official NASCAR sponsor. That’s down, however, 13.4 percentage points, since we first asked the question in 2008. Sprint was NASCAR’s top ad spender for the year, at $25.2 million. Verizon’s numbers have increased three straight years despite cutting its NASCAR ad spend from $12 million to $5.6 million during that period and shifting its motorsports sponsorship efforts to IndyCar this year. AT&T had no team-level or track deals but was NASCAR’s No. 2 advertiser, at $22.5 million.

  AVID   CASUAL
SHIPPING 2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
UPS* 41.80% 40.60% 54.80%   34.90% 36.20% 33.60%
FedEx 29.40% 29.50% 21.90%   34.40% 30.20% 37.80%
U.S. Postal Service 6.00% 3.40% 0.50%   2.60% 3.50% 0.00%
I’m not sure 14.40% 21.70% 17.60%   24.10% 26.60% 22.10%

Fan recognition of UPS’s official NASCAR sponsorship remained stable in 2011, and the $7.1 million spent by the brand during NASCAR races in 2011 was just below its 2010 expenditure. UPS sponsored driver David Ragan. Denny Hamlin drove the FedEx Express car into the winner’s circle once and had five top-five finishes, giving FedEx significant exposure.

  AVID   CASUAL
BANK 2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
Bank of America* 28.4% 27.5% 42.1%   25.6% 27.1% 35.0%
Citibank 9.5% 8.7% 10.1%   9.2% 9.1% 10.1%
JP Morgan Chase 9.5% 6.8% 1.9%   11.3% 5.5% 4.6%
Wells Fargo 14.4% 6.8% 4.3%   9.2% 5.5% 4.2%
I’m not sure 22.9% 42.0% 38.8%   37.4% 47.7% 41.0%

Recognition numbers for financial institutions rose across the board among avid fans this year, led by Bank of America, NASCAR’s official bank since 2007. Earlier this year, the Charlotte-based bank renewed its NASCAR sponsorship and also signed a four-year renewal with Speedway Motorsports Inc., parent company of Charlotte Motor Speedway, to remain title sponsor of the Bank of America 500. Chase’s logo received exposure on Jeff Gordon’s car through a partnership with Visa and Gordon’s primary sponsor, AARP

  AVID   CASUAL
QUICK-SERVICE RESTAURANT 2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
Subway 31.3% 26.1% 16.7%   30.3% 18.1% 13.4%
McDonald’s 16.9% 12.1% 7.0%   10.8% 8.5% 3.7%
Chick-fil-A 6.0% 3.9% 2.8%   6.7% 5.0% 4.2%
Wendy’s 6.5% 1.0% 0.0%   5.6% 1.5% 1.4%
Burger King 5.0% 12.6% 20.0%   5.1% 13.1% 18.4%
I’m not sure 23.9% 34.8% 39.5%   34.4% 46.7% 35.0%

In this open category, Subway and McDonald’s each spent approximately $7.1 million on NASCAR advertising this year. Subway was a part-time primary sponsor of Carl Edwards, runner-up in the point standings, as well as title sponsor of the Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500 in Phoenix. McDonald’s, NASCAR’s official QSR from 1993 to 2004, was for the second straight year a part-time primary sponsor of Jamie McMurray’s car. Meanwhile, Yum! Brands in 2011 spent $21 million on NASCAR TV advertising, trailing only AT&T and Sprint among the sport’s top ad spenders.

  AVID   CASUAL
HOTEL 2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
Holiday Inn 17.4% 14.5% 20.6%   15.9% 11.1% 18.4%
Marriott 14.4% 11.1% 3.4%   9.2% 9.1% 6.9%
Best Western 11.0% 8.7% 18.7%   9.7% 6.5% 18.9%
Hilton 9.0% 7.3% 5.3%   6.2% 5.5% 5.1%
I’m not sure 37.8% 50.7% 47.9%   50.8% 61.8% 45.6%

Best Western served as NASCAR’s official hotel from 2004 to 2009, but NASCAR has been without an official hotel since then. Best Western did in February extend its associate sponsorship deal with Michael Waltrip Racing for 2011, the eighth season of the partnership, and it also served as a primary car sponsor for one race.

  AVID   CASUAL
AIRLINE 2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
American Airlines 11.9% 14.0% 12.9%   10.8% 14.1% 19.4%
Southwest 18.9% 13.0% 6.2%   17.4% 12.6% 6.0%
Delta 12.9% 9.7% 4.8%   10.8% 7.0% 7.4%
JetBlue 5.0% 5.8% 1.9%   3.6% 6.0% 2.8%
United 6.5% 5.3% 2.4%   6.2% 6.0% 4.6%
I’m not sure 32.8% 44.9% 63.6%   44.1% 49.8% 48.4%

In a category without an official NASCAR sponsor, recognition numbers continued to rise among most airlines. Southwest, Delta and United all received their highest marks from avid and casual fans since our first survey in 2007.

* Official league sponsor

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