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Volume 24 No. 113
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Motorsports Forum: Brand Message Significant In Finding Right Driver Relationship

NASCAR Driver Brad Keselowski’s spontaneous celebration drinking Miller Lite after winning the Sprint Cup Series was one of the most talked about “moments” in motorsports during a sponsorship panel at the ’12 Motorsports Marketing Forum. MillerCoors Dir of Sports & Entertainment Marketing Adam Dettman, when asked if Miller Lite had any concerns about Keselowski drinking after driving the Homestead track, said, “He’s celebrating a championship. It’s a natural ‘Miller Time’ moment. We want him to be genuine.”

Dettman added this was one of the elements that made Keselowski a perfect driver for the brand. He said, “First and foremost is brand fit for Miller Lite. Authenticity is key to that brand fit. And Brad had that. We spotted that early. On-track performance is also going to be critical for us. And trying to identify with the millennial generation is also key to our brand, and we have that with Brad.”

Most of the panel felt Keselowski’s moment was a genuine brand fit, but that it might not work for all brands. Subway Dir of Sports Marketing, PR & Partnerships Paul Bamundo said, “It’s brand dependent. We’re a family brand, so it may not be a fit for us. But it’s going to depend on what you brand it.”

Clements said Mars wants to engage fans at home

FOCUSING ON THE DATA: When execs were asked how closely they are looking at the ratings and attendance numbers from the motorsports they sponsor, the answers varied. Mars VP/Sponsorship & Sports Marketing William Clements said, “For a consumer products company, we want to engage (fans) at home when watching TV, so I look very closely at viewership rather than the at-track attendance.” Bamundo noted that his boss, Subway CMO Tony Pace, is very focused on TV ratings. Bamundo: “He will e-mail me immediately asking what the overnights are. He won’t do that just for motorsports, but for all the sports we’re engaged in. The performance of the ratings does result in us making choices. That was one of the decisions when we decided to title sponsor the Phoenix NASCAR race, because it’s close on the schedule to the Daytona 500 and we think that helps viewership.”

Nationwide Insurance Strategic Sponsorship Dir Jim McCoy said, “TV ratings are important for the Nationwide Series. Our brand getting out there to as many folks as possible is important, so television viewership is a key indicator.” Nationwide is reviewing a renewal of its title sponsorship of the Nationwide Series, and McCoy said that no one data point will drive that decision. McCoy: “We will look at a lot of different factors, but the sport is a great fit for our brand and our customer.”


-- Bamundo, on targeting the right driver for the brand: “It starts, with us, to the driver being a true fan of the brand. But it also has to do with on-track performance, and then the ability to carry across the messaging. The ability to carry our messaging across all platforms is very important to us.”

-- Clements, asked if he would be insulted if a driver didn’t mention the M&M brand after getting out of the car, said, “Yes. It’s a personal thing. The great thing about NASCAR is the sport truly builds on relationships. So the acknowledgement is a thank you to the folks back home, if you will, the people who are putting the logos on the car and doing all the little work. Kyle Busch really does get this and truly understands that it’s a true 'thank you' to the brand and his fans.”