SBJ/May 21-27, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Fans get chance to pick game’s cover driver

NASCAR and Activision are borrowing a promotion from EA Sports’ “Madden NFL” game and allowing fans to cast votes for the driver who will grace the cover of its newest video game.

The promotion, which launches Wednesday, pits 32 drivers against each other to identify who will be featured on the cover of “NASCAR The Game: Inside Line.” Consumers will be able to vote for their driver of choice through a Facebook application. There will be four rounds of voting, and the drivers with the most votes will advance to the next round until a head-to-head competition is held between two drivers in July.

Initially, Activision will rely on PR and social media to push the campaign. It will supplement that with traditional media, but the company has not finalized how much print, digital and TV time it will buy.

The consumer campaign is the first Activision has ever run to determine the cover for one of its games.

“When you think about the NASCAR fans and the enthusiasm they bring, this will drive awareness and engagement with the brand and game itself,” said Mindy Grantham, senior brand manager at Activision.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been voted NASCAR’s fan favorite for nine consecutive years, making him the early favorite to win the competition. But Blake Davidson, NASCAR vice president of licensing and consumer products, said that’s not guaranteed. The sanctioning body is working with its teams to turn this into a social initiative, and they hope that both drivers and their sponsors will latch onto the program and drive votes in ways they haven’t always done for the sport’s most popular driver competition.

“The topic came up [that] Dale Jr. is going to win this thing in a runaway, but the thing that makes this different that we can’t measure is the impact sponsors can have,” Davidson said. “If a sponsor has a good social media presence and can leverage that to promote their driver, or if a company with a large employee base gets behind it, that can change things. It’s more than popularity.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see upsets. Sometimes you get a groundswell of support for someone who is the underdog. All of a sudden, you have people say, ‘That would be really cool to see this person on the cover.’”

NASCAR hopes that the competition will drive enough interest in “NASCAR The Game: Inside Line” to boost sales in 2012. Activision sold 600,000 units of the game in 2011, and the goal is to increase sales for the new version of the game, which will be released in November, to approximately 1 million units.

“We have every expectation given the improvements and new features in the game that we will see an increase in sales this year,” Grantham said.
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