|CHRIS GRAYTHEN / GETTY IMAGES|
Fox Sports executives have been frustrated because of an early bye week on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule that comes only a few weeks after the Daytona 500.
Fox executives have been frustrated for years with the early bye week in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup schedule. This season opened with Daytona, features West Coast races the two subsequent weekends, and then has no race during the fourth weekend of the schedule.
Fox Chairman David Hill described that off weekend as an “ongoing problem” that curbs interest in the season. Hill said, “All momentum comes to a crashing halt (that weekend).”
Fox executives had been working with NASCAR to find a solution to that issue this year. One of the ideas being bandied about was broadcasting a made-for-TV truck race March 13 on Fox, the day after the Camping World Truck Series race in Darlington.
“We looked at a host of programming options for the off week but ultimately turned our attention to 2012 and are thrilled to have been able to push back the Daytona 500 one weekend starting next season,” said Paul Brooks, NASCAR senior vice president. “We believe this continuity at the start of the season will help us build momentum throughout the year.”
MOTORSPORTS IMAGES AND ARCHIVES
A member of the “Social Squad” gets a spectator to become a Facebook fan.
Known as the “Social Squad,” the young men and women wore blue, branded T-shirts and carried Sprint Galaxy tablets. They patrolled the infield, midway and grandstands, where they regularly stopped spectators.
“Have you checked in on Facebook?” Lisa Miano, ISC interactive marketing analyst, asked a spectator.
When the spectator said no, Miano handed him a tablet and helped him sign in to his Facebook page from Daytona International Speedway. By logging in from the speedway, he simultaneously became a fan of the track.
The “Social Squad” added roughly 1,000 fans during the weekend, and the speedway added 25,000 fans to its Facebook page during February. Some became fans by logging in on the tablets. Others did so by using their phone to scan a two-dimensional bar code, known as a QR code, on the left sleeve of a “Social Squad” member’s T-shirt.
ISC has said on earnings calls that it plans to get more engaged in social media, and Miano said that the company is considering having “Social Squads” at other races at its 12 Sprint Cup tracks this year.
■ SEEING TRIPLE: After nearly 20 years of working with NASCAR drivers, Oakley plans to become more active in the sport this season. The apparel and sunglass maker had an activation pavilion in the infield during the Daytona 500. It also signed agreements with speedways in Charlotte, Las Vegas and Texas that will allow it to have billboards in turn one of each track and allow it to activate during races.
“We always relied on athletes to give us exposure,” said Todd Hayes, Oakley’s motorsports marketing manager. “Everyone in action sports loves motorsports, as well, and it’s a way for us to reach a broader audience.”
Hayes said that internal changes at Oakley gave the motorsports team access to marketing funds it previously didn’t have. He acknowledged that it would be difficult to track a return on the investments at tracks but said that the infield and stands were filled with Oakley product. Billboards at tracks typically cost $100,000, putting the four-track investment in the mid-six figures.
“We’re looking to expand that quickly,” Hayes said.
Oakley announced during the Daytona 500 that it will work with five drivers this year: Juan Pablo Montoya, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. and Tony Stewart. All five drivers are signed with the company through 2012.
■ DAYTONA UPGRADES: Daytona International Speedway last week not only unveiled a repaved track, it also showed off more than $2 million in additional capital expenses. The speedway invested in a series of upgrades ranging from improved tunnels to new, flat-screen TVs in suites and the media center. The tunnels in turns one and four received brighter lighting and new concrete walkways for pedestrians. In the infield, the grass was replanted with two types of grass to create a pattern. The speedway also added family bathrooms, benches, signage and other improvements.
For the first time since 2004, the speedway erected a multi-partner corporate display in the infield that showcased brands ranging from Oakley to Geico to Unilever. A total of 43 companies activated during the race weekend. A total of 41 companies activated in 2010.
■ FANVIEW STILL ALIVE: An offseason deal between NASCAR, FanVision and Racing Electronics meant fans attending the Daytona 500 were still able to rent the same, yellow FanVision scanners that have been available at trackside for four years.
A four-year partnership between Sprint, NASCAR, ISC and Kangaroo.tv ended after the 2010 season, throwing the FanView rental program into jeopardy. NASCAR signed a one-year agreement with FanVision, the Stephen Ross company that bought Kangaroo.tv, and Racing Electronics.
Fans attending races this year will be able to rent the hand-held scanners for $49.99, just as they have in years past.
The parties signed a short-term deal because FanVision has a new version of the same product that NASCAR hopes to transition to in 2012. The third-generation device will allow the sport to offer high-definition video.
■ VIDEO EXPANSION: Hendrick Motorsports and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Nationwide Series team, JR Motorsports, are expanding their online video offerings this year and plan to produce weekly behind-the-scenes videos. The effort positions the teams as digital leaders among NASCAR teams.
While video production on team websites is common in stick-and-ball sports, it remains rare in NASCAR. Many drivers have their own sites that fans frequent. As a result, many teams use their websites as placeholders for basic biographical and historical information about their drivers, front office and sponsors.
Hendrick Motorsports rolled out a new website shortly before Daytona and began posting short video clips that offer behind-the-scenes access. A recent video showed the team’s director of engine operations explaining how engines are assigned. The new site also features more photos, blogs and other fresh content.
|TaxSlayer.com sponsored a series that appeared on JRMracing.com.|
JR Motorsports has developed an in-house studio and helped underwrite the creation of Hammerhead Productions in order to produce more than 100 videos in 2011. The effort began with a seven-week, “Countdown to Daytona” series on JRMracing.com that was presented by TaxSlayer.com.
Joe Mattes, JR Motorsports vice president of marketing and licensing, said the effort is designed to build the team’s young fan base and offer additional value to existing sponsors and attract new advertisers.
“It’s doing what we need to do to build that next generation of fan,” Mattes said. “If you’re the core fan, you’ll enjoy it, too.”
■ NASCAR HALL RENEWAL: The NASCAR Hall of Fame is working on a renewal with Just Marketing International that would see the Indianapolis-based agency continue to manage national sponsorship sales.
Just Marketing has worked with the Hall on national sales since 2007. Its deal elapsed at the end of last year and the parties have been working on a renewal, said Winston Kelley, the Hall of Fame’s executive director.
Kelley said the Hall still has room for additional national partners. The Hall currently has partnerships with Bank of America, Wachovia, Lowe’s, Sunoco, NASCAR Performance, Belk, M&M’s, Coca-Cola, Panasonic, Presbyterian Healthcare and Food Lion.
Just Marketing International CEO Zak Brown said that sponsorship sales at the Hall of Fame had been disappointing and suffered during the recession. The Hall, which opened in May 2010, hoped to sell $10 million in sponsorships but has announced more than $5 million to date. It’s also fallen short of its projected attendance of 800,000 in its first year, attracting 198,000 visitors in 2010.
“It faced the strongest headwinds because of the economy,” Brown said. “There aren’t a lot of national deals, but there is some ownable space and good opportunities.”