SBJ/Sept. 2-8, 2013/Media

NASCAR, ESPN partner for Chase campaign

NASCAR and ESPN this week will launch their first unified advertising campaign around the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Each company will use the tag line “12 Drivers. 1 Champion” in advertisements. The spots, which were developed independently, are similar in style and tone. They will run across ESPN and its family of networks during and outside of race broadcasts over the next three months. A joint social media campaign and local advertisements in race markets will complement the TV creative.

It’s the first time NASCAR and a broadcaster have worked together on a campaign and only the second time ESPN has collaborated with a property on a campaign. ESPN is doing it despite being in the second to last year of its NASCAR rights agreement. Executives at both NASCAR and ESPN hope that doing so will raise the profile of NASCAR’s postseason Chase and boost viewership for the final 10 races of the season.

“The focus is to try and create as much buzz and momentum as possible going into the Chase from a marketing perspective,” said Emeka Ofodile, ESPN vice president of marketing.

To pull off the joint effort, NASCAR and ESPN brought their respective — and competing — advertising agencies, Ogilvy and Wieden & Kennedy, together in New York for a brainstorming session. The companies agreed to use the “12 Drivers. 1 Champion” tag line developed by ESPN and Wieden and committed to sharing their work with each other to make sure it had a consistent look and tone. ESPN also agreed to run spots NASCAR developed outside of race broadcasts, marking the first time the broadcaster has made that possible for the sport.

In a spot titled “Generations,” Jimmie Johnson crosses paths with NASCAR legends.
Photo by: PHIL ELLSWORTH / ESPN IMAGES
“We had to show the work we were doing was together and the work was unified first,” said Kim Brink, NASCAR vice president of marketing. “Then they agreed to that out-of-race inventory, which was critical for us.”

ESPN will debut today during the 9 a.m. “SportsCenter” the first spot it developed for the campaign, titled “Generations.” The spot shows Jimmie Johnson at a racetrack walking down the starting grid toward his car. He passes Richard Petty leaning against his famous light-blue, No. 43 STP car, and Dale Earnhardt leaning against his black, No. 3 Goodwrench car. A voice-over says, “Winning a sixth championship might add to your legacy, but is it enough to make you a legend? Because there’s a big difference between being the best driver of your generation and being the best driver ever.”

NASCAR will debut the first of two spots it developed for the campaign this Saturday during the Richmond Sprint Cup race. The ad, titled “Perfect,” shows tight shots of cars circling the track, close-ups of drivers looking intense, a brawl on pit road and a series of collisions. The voice-over says, “To win the Chase, being perfect isn’t good enough. … It’s 10 grueling weeks on asphalt and concrete. It’s heartbreak and madness times a thousand. To win here, you need luck and chaos on your side because being perfect only gives you a chance.”

In addition to the television spots, ESPN will have digital ads on NASCAR.com and NASCAR will have digital ads on ESPN.com. There also will be radio advertising across ESPN Radio Networks, Sirius and the Motor Racing Network, which is owned by International Speedway Corp.

NASCAR developed a marketing toolkit with the “12 Drivers. 1 Champion” tag line for the 10 tracks hosting Chase races. The marketing materials, which tracks can use if they choose, include posters, bus wraps and local TV spots that the tracks can customize by adding in specific information about their race. All 10 tracks have committed to use some of the materials in their local market.

ESPN and NASCAR also collaborated on a social media campaign called #Fandorsements. The campaign encourages fans to Instagram or tweet a photo of their driver’s number. ESPN and NASCAR’s social media teams will pick the best photo submitted for each of the 12 drivers in the Chase weekly, and the people who submitted those photos will have a decal of their Twitter or Instagram handle pasted above the passenger side window of that driver’s car for the next race.

ESPN developed the campaign and began promoting it in August. NASCAR.com is hosting it.

“We wanted to get fans engaged in social media during this part of the season,” Ofodile said. “Fans always support their driver. Now they have a chance to have the driver say, ‘I’m driving for you.’”

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