SBJ/January 2-8, 2012/Events and Attractions

Speed among partners gearing up for 50th Rolex 24

Speed will stream video from the overnight hours of Rolex 24 on SpeedTV.com for the first time, supplementing its live broadcast programming.

The additional coverage is just one in a series of initiatives that partners are undertaking to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Grand Am event Jan. 28.

Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said hospitality sales are up 10 percent, pre-sale tickets are double what they were this time last year, and there will be twice as many corporate displays as previous years.

“Right now, we’re looking at what else we can fit in the infield,” Chitwood said.

Manufacturer support has been key to the buzz around the event. Chevrolet announced Corvette will make its competitive debut at the event, Ferrari plans to put cars in the field and Audi also is participating.

The speedway leveraged those three manufacturers’ participation into business opportunities. General Motors and Audi will both have displays in the infield, and the Ferrari Club of Florida bought a four-day hospitality package that culminates with the chance to drive the speedway’s road course.

Title sponsor Rolex is increasing its participation. The company signed on as the presenting sponsor of a charity fundraiser that Daytona will host this month to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 race. The event will be held at the Daytona Beach convention center and will feature as many as 35 winning cars from the past 50 Rolex 24 races. Several of the 106 living drivers are expected to attend as well, including Bobby Rahal and Mario Andretti. The speedway hopes to raise $30,000 to $50,000 for the Halifax Health Foundation, the area’s largest health care provider.

Additionally, Rolex paid for special advertorials celebrating the 50th anniversary in key motorsports magazines such as Vintage Motorsport and Autoweek.

For race week, Rolex plans to double the size of its grand marshal dinner. More than 300 guests are expected to attend the event.

“We’re trying to make it a very special gala this year,” said Colette Bennett, Rolex’s national sports marketing manager.

InterContinental Hotels Group, Allstate Roadside Services and Paul Reed Smith Guitars signed on as new official partners for 2012, the last moving up from promotional partner.

Chitwood said the challenge for the speedway will be to maintain the same level of interest in the event among manufacturers, sponsors and fans next year.

“Everything is working right now, but we don’t want this to be a one-year anniversary spike,” Chitwood said.
“We have to maintain that year-over-year lift.”

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