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Volume 21 No. 2
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COPD group extends racing deals

The COPD Foundation, which supports the research and early diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, has signed two-year extensions with NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway.

The deals keep COPD as the official health initiative of the sport, and its Drive4COPD marketing program will remain the title sponsor of Daytona’s Nationwide Series race in February. Financial terms of the agreement with NASCAR were unavailable. The agreement with Daytona is valued in the middle to high six figures.

The COPD Foundation will keep its deals with NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway.
Sara Latham, campaign director for Drive4COPD, said the organization extended the partnership because NASCAR was a great platform to reach a large audience and raise awareness of COPD. The sport’s fan base is more likely than the average, non-NASCAR fan to be a past or present smoker and more susceptible to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Tying itself to the sport gives the foundation a way to reach those fans and allows it to develop relationships with sponsors in the industry so that the foundation can build ties to corporate health and wellness coordinators.

The foundation is already making inroads in the sport. This summer, Daytona’s grandstands will be smokeless for the first time, which is a major change at the marquee speedway in a sport that was built with the marketing dollars of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Daytona President Joie Chitwood III said the decision was made after he sat in the grandstands at the speedway’s Nationwide Series race last July. While watching close to 40 laps in the stands, a fan approached him and asked him how the speedway could have COPD as a sponsor and still allow smoking in its grandstands.

“I said, ‘That’s a good question. I don’t really have an answer,’” Chitwood said. He pulled together his executive team at the speedway and analyzed the potential repercussions of making the grandstands smoke-free. Speedway surveys showed it wasn’t a major issue for fans, and this July, the speedway will stop allowing smoking and offer smoking areas outside the grandstands. “At the end of the day, it’s 2012,” Chitwood said. “It’s what we should be thinking about as a company.”

COPD is in talks with NASCAR about making its role as the official health initiative of the sport a cause that the entire industry supports. Latham said she’d like to see it become as much an area of emphasis for NASCAR as the sport’s green initiative. She said she will be working with NASCAR’s senior leadership to develop a plan for achieving that in the future.