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Volume 24 No. 156

Events and Attractions

Fox Sports on Monday said that the overhead camera cable that snapped during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday had "been in use less than a year and had been inspected by the contractor operating the TV rig when it was delivered in June 2012," according to a front-page piece by Scott, Washburn & Sheldon of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The incident at Charlotte Motor Speedway "injured at least 10 race fans." Fox in a statement said that the malfunction was the "first of its kind at a major sporting event." One of the three cables attached to a TV camera suspended over the start-finish stretch between Turns 4 and 1 "fell and landed on the track and the bottom rows of spectators." Cars on the track then "snagged the cable." Fox said that the rope is "used to pull the camera along two guide wires at speeds up to 45 mph." The net also said that the camera system "would not be used again until a technical review was completed, and results would be shared" with NASCAR and CMS. Overhead cameras are "commonly used during football games to track plays on the field." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said that he "knew of no history of malfunctions with such rigs" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/28). In Charlotte, Jones & Bonnell noted the falling rope caused damage to the cars of race leader Kyle Busch and Marcos Ambrose and delayed the race "about 26 minutes." The May 18 Sprint All-Star Race and Sunday's race were the "first time the system has been used" at CMS. NASCAR took a "rare step" during the red flag delay, allowing a "15-minute grace period for each crew to inspect its car and try and fix any damage." NASCAR then decided to "allow cars to regain their track position from before the rope's fall" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/27).

INSPECTING THE DAMAGE: In Charlotte, Scott Fowler wrote under the header, "Odd Incident With Camera Taints 600" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/27). Also in Charlotte, Jim Utter wrote, "Kudos to NASCAR for being able to find a workable solution when confronted with a difficult situation." NASCAR's grace period gave everyone "ample time to make the necessary repairs" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/27).'s David Newton noted Busch during the delay "got out of his car, borrowed a cellphone camera and took pictures of the damage" caused by the rope (, 5/27).

TOUGH SELL: NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France said of potentially moving the Bank of America 500 to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, "My preference would be to keep the event here in Charlotte. That’s always been my preference." France said that SMI Chair & CEO Bruton Smith "hasn't raised the subject with NASCAR." He added that he is "predisposed to leaving the major events on the Sprint Cup schedule in their current locations." France also said that NASCAR has "no plans to expand the schedule or add new tracks." In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell noted CMS is "one of 13 tracks with multiple race weekends." Las Vegas currently hosts a Sprint Cup race in March and is "looking for another date in the fall." Smith can request a "race relocation, but ultimately it's NASCAR's call" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/26). The CHARLOTTE OBSERVER's Utter wrote NASCAR so far has "approved every realignment request since it instituted the policy but always has said it reserved the right to say no based on the best interests of the sport." Now that the NASCAR HOF is "up and running in Charlotte," its most-visited weeks of the year "are the three race weeks at CMS." Take one race away and the HOF will "lose a significant amount of revenue and attention." NASCAR has a "vested interest in making sure the Hall remains self-sufficient" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/26).

ESPN officials visiting possible X Games venues around downtown Detroit yesterday said that they were "impressed by the city's bid," according to Josh Katzenstein of the DETROIT NEWS. Local bid organizers Kevin Krease and Garret Koehler "tried to make a strong impression with their grassroots campaign," and held a "raucous party" at Campus Martius Park in downtown to cap the night. After more meetings today, ESPN officials will visit the other finalist cities: Chicago, Charlotte and Austin. The network next month will announce the host cities for '14-16 (DETROIT NEWS, 5/29). In Detroit, Katzenstein noted Krease and Koehler started looking into the possibility of hosting last August, they "thought they were working on a bid [only] for the 2016 games, thinking Detroit would be a good destination for the games as they expanded internationally." Krease said, "We were convinced from Day 1 that the brand alignment for the X Games is perfect for Detroit at this point in time. The Detroit that we know and love sort of (has) a gritty sense of identity. Then we were convinced by the impact the event could make economically, and then also just helping us sell the city." Krease said that he "began building a relationship with ESPN in August, and when the network announced an official bid process in October, everything kicked into high gear." Krease and Koehler have treated the bid "like a learning experience and have tried to talk to someone at ESPN weekly throughout the process." Krease thinks that they have "worked harder than the groups in the other cities that regularly bid on events" (DETROIT NEWS, 5/28).

In Charlotte, Jonathan Jones in a front-page piece reported Charlotte Motor Speedway and city officials are prepping their X Games bid and "hope to impress the network’s decision-makers" on their June 4-5 visit to zMax Dragway, "which is a finalist to host the event for three years beginning in 2014." A win for Charlotte "would mean topping Detroit’s strong fan support, Chicago’s large media market and the younger demographic of Austin, Texas." But both CMS and Cabarrus County tourism officials "see a practical advantage to hosting" the X Games. The facilities "are in place, and the speedway has experience operating big events." While some X Games events, such as BMX racing and motocross, will "require construction," the "infrastructure is in place." NASCAR driver and X Games participant Travis Pastrana said that "going to a new area" is "part of what makes the Charlotte area a great fit" to be host (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/25).

Crowne Plaza Invitational Chair Bobby Patton said that moving the tournament from its typical May date will be a "topic of discussion in the coming months" between Colonial Country Club officials and PGA Tour execs, according to Jimmy Burch of the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM. Club reps are seeking to "improve the star quality of a field that did not feature any of the top 10 players from the world golf rankings this year, primarily because the 2013 Colonial was played on dates that conflicted with the BMW PGA Championship, one of the highest-profile events on the European Tour." Patton wants to be "proactive in making sure the conflict does not become a trend for Fort Worth’s annual tour stop in an era when many of the world’s top players are Europeans." Patton's "personal choice" would be the week before the U.S. Open," currently held by the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis. PGA Tour officials have the "final say on tournament dates and typically finalize those dates one year in advance." Tourney officials "already know next year’s event will follow the HP Byron Nelson Championship" from May 12-18. Crowne Plaza Invitational Tournament Dir Michael Tothe said that "ample alternatives now are available for park-and-shuttle locations if the event moves out of May." In previous years, the event faced issues with access to TCU parking lots "between the end of the spring semester and the start of summer school." Both Patton and Tothe "stressed that holding the event on Memorial Day weekend is a very desirable date, in terms of course conditions and tournament logistics." But the potential for "recurring conflicts with the BMW event is a challenge in attracting elite European talent" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/28).

Newly appointed Taco Bell President Brian Niccol kicked off the '13 Intersport Activation Summit in Chicago today by talking about the company’s approach to brand marketing and sponsorship. His appointment coincides with the creation of a corporate goal to double Taco Bell’s revenue in the next 10 years, as well as to diversify its menu with healthier options. Niccol addressed the company’s partnerships with MLB, the NBA and the BCS National Championship Game. Specifically with MLB, the company activates through its “Big Hitter Box” as well as its Steal A Base, Steal A Taco promotion during the World Series. Its Big Hitter Box includes a downloadable Home Run Derby game where consumers can play against current MLBers. Niccol said the promotion is about utilizing digital and creating an experience. “If you go back a while ago we were trying to figure out how we activate the mark; now I think we’re trying to figure how we activate the experience.” The Steal A Base, Steal A Taco campaign was in action again this past postseason when Giants CF Angel Pagan during Game 2 stole a base. Niccol said the campaign needed to be timely. “We literally had the ad on the air the next morning. The reason is it has to be topical. At the same time we’re trying to activate this on television, we’re activating it on digital, social, mobile, radio. We literally tried to activate everything simultaneous to when the event actually occurred. It was powerful because instantly we amplified the idea.” The company used its NBA Big Box to relaunch the beefy crunch burrito, syncing the NBA’s tagline this season of BIG and its burrito. The company also utilized its NBA All-Star Taco Bell Skills Challenge to tout its philanthropic efforts in combination with Taco Bell’s foundation that awards students a four-year college scholarship.

MISSING THE POINT: Niccol talked about how a lot of marketing in the industry is not on point. “I actually think that a lot of the marketing that is going on right now is just flat-out bad -- bad and antiquated. We have a real tendency to take a pendulum and swing it one way or the other,” Niccol said. “Very rarely do we operate in the space where we say, ‘You know what, I’m going to treat this like a fan member. I’m going to treat this in such a way that people want to talk about it again and again and again.’ As opposed to just logo slapping or making a bad ad and bad marketing that people will not want to see again.”

* On brands remaining true to their consumers: “Authenticity is now the absolute minimum cost of entry. If you’re not authentic, you’re going to hear about it on Twitter, Facebook. You’re going to hear about it because consumers are tired of the shill. If you keep the authenticity, people will engage with your brand in a very big way.”
* On an ideal partnership with teams and leagues: “Sometimes you like to get into the nitty gritty of the pennies and dollars of what it’s going to cost. But I think if you can start the conversation around how am I going to build sales and how are we going to build the brand over time, you’ll find that usually you can come up with much more powerful ideas than working through the Excel spreadsheet.”
* On activating through sports: “We uniquely have the power of sports or these platforms or brands to truly influence the way people talk and connect.”