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Volume 24 No. 113

Marketing and Sponsorship

ESPN's ad sales for its '11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series coverage are "trending better than in recent years," according to Ourand & Mickle of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. ESPN said that ad sales around its Cup coverage, which begins Sunday with the Brickyard 400, "are pacing ahead of last year as a result of spending across the telecommunications, autos, insurance and medicinal categories." The network "saw increased interest from advertisers for its 'NASCAR Nonstop' offering, which allows a company to present a split-screen commercial break during the Chase for the Sprint Cup." Ad buyers contend that the NFL lockout "has had little to do with ESPN’s sales success in NASCAR." Buyers indicated that ESPN "has been helped by an increase in ratings for NASCAR programming over the first half of the season." Ourand & Mickle note ESPN "will look to extend that ratings momentum over the back half of the season and reverse the major ratings declines it saw" last season. Buyers have "confidence that ESPN will see improved NASCAR ratings," but they also "cautioned that the sport has room to grow" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/25 issue).

ANIMATED DISCUSSION: today is expected to announce that it will offer animation video coverage of three Nationwide Series races beginning with this weekend's Kroger 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway. The coverage will be available on the site's TrackPass RaceView application, which will offer six virtual camera angles for every car, in-car audio, position tracker, live telemetry and real-time race statistics for the entire race. Saturday's race will feature the Nationwide Series debut of Travis Pastrana. The other two Nationwide races TrackPass will cover will be the Aug. 13 Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen Int'l and the Sept. 9 Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond Int'l Raceway. today also launched a new homepage for the Nationwide Series, which offers live chat features and incorporates a social media feed (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal).

: In Orlando, Beth Kassab reported ISC Vice Chair & CEO Lesa France Kennedy lately "has taken on a higher profile as the tracks she runs try to reconnect with fans." As part of her "more public role, she now always leads the company's quarterly earnings call with investors, analysts and the media instead of tapping her top lieutenants to do so." France Kennedy's "biggest imprint so far is the construction of a casino at Kansas Speedway that is scheduled to open early next year." She said, "That's one of the most exciting projects we have right now on the board. This is going to be a really interesting model to take a look at land surrounding our tracks." Kassab noted a "retail development across the street from Daytona International Speedway and next to the headquarters of ISC and NASCAR remains on hold until the economy improves." France Kennedy: "That's really prime real estate. When we land on something it needs to be the right situation for the very long term." Another top focus for ISC is "making inroads with new, younger fans" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 7/25).

Speedo is “taking a rather radical approach in expanding” its brand beyond competitive swimmers, according to Natalie Zmuda of AD AGE. Speedo is rolling out a new social media platform called "Pace Club," along with a newly redesigned website, catalog and tagline. Pace Club includes “a mobile app that allows swimmers to sign up for training programs, log workouts, view professional athletes demonstrating proper technique and share their progress with friends through Pace Club's virtual ‘Swim Team,’ as well as on Facebook or Twitter.” There is also “a blog featuring content from a dozen Speedo athletes and a product widget highlighting relevant Speedo products.” Syrup CEO & Managing Dir Omino Gardezi, whose N.Y.-based digital firm is working with Speedo on the campaign, said, "We went in with a digital strategy and came out with a whole new business endeavor. We're hoping to make Speedo the pioneering brand in swimming, as far as online. It's all quite radical to swimming. It's been a very traditional sport." The goal is “to expand the brand's user base and make it more inclusive.” The target audience for Pace Club “is still relatively niche; Speedo has pegged the competitive and fitness swimming market at about 8.8 million people.” But Pace Club “could have broader implications moving forward.” Speedo Marketing Dir Katie Tyrrell cited an industry survey that said that “there are 83 million active purchasers of swimwear in the market and swimming is emerging as an aspirational sport.” Pace Club is “rolling out this month and will be promoted” at the FINA World Championships, which is taking place in Shanghai through Sunday. Tyrrell said that there “will be a digital and social-media campaign, as well as point-of-sale promotion.” But Pace Club for now “will rely primarily on grassroots marketing efforts and word-of-mouth” (, 7/24).

Johnson & Johnson today announced its Bengay brand signed Olympic swimmer Dara Torres to promote its Bengay Cool Therapy. Torres will promote the brand's new gel product. The deal gives Torres her second endorsement announcement in a week. McDonald's last week announced that she would be the company's brand ambassador for the '12 London Games. Her other sponsors are: Hewlett-Packard, Sleep Innovations, Got Milk?, Susta and Fitness Brand's AbChamp. Torres is represented by Premier Management Group President Evan Morgenstein, who said that he is in negotiations with several other companies on behalf of Torres.