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Volume 22 No. 15
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Details emerge on Monster’s NASCAR plans

With a month left before the Daytona 500, activation plans for new NASCAR Cup Series title sponsor Monster Energy are coming into view.

Monster plans to have in-market retail promos as soon as Daytona, and an at-track sampling presence at every race on NASCAR’s 36-race schedule, according to Mitch Covington, vice president of sports marketing for Monster.

“I’m pretty happy with where we’re at in the process,” Covington said. “Especially on such short notice and with the holidays mixed in with it, I’m really pleased at the progress we’re making.”

Monster landed the title sponsorship in December, about two and a half months before NASCAR’s season starts, with what sources say is a two-year deal with a two-year option worth about $20 million in annual rights fees. Monster’s activation plans are still being finalized, but its spend is expected to be smaller than Sprint’s.

Monster plans to take about a dozen Monster Girls to races, up from two to four when it was purely a team sponsor.
Though declining to name which convenience stores it is targeting, Covington said Monster will leverage its rights at retail. For example, Monster, which often uses merchandise giveaways to build brand awareness, has a long-running retail promotion where people who buy Monster beverages get a free Monster sticker. Monster is considering running that promo around Daytona but with stickers that feature the new Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series logo.

At the track, Monster has expressed interest in having signage on all four turns of many oval tracks, sources said. However, Covington was not able to confirm that and said plans could vary by track. Sources added that Monster has shown less interest in non-track-facing signage than Sprint, which had a presence throughout many tracks’ footprints.

“I don’t think it’s going to be as big as what Sprint had in some ways,” Covington said. “But the way we market and the way they market are a little different; we’re probably a little more subtle.”

At track, Monster has had a hospitality presence for years with a custom infield structure where it did sampling with guests, and plans to offer hospitality guest sampling at every NASCAR race this year. Monster also now intends to do consumer sampling at a number of races on midway fan zones to reach all fans at the track.

Monster typically gives away full cans for sampling rather than pouring drinks in containers because it believes consumers should sample its beverages the same way they’ll buy it, and because “a can in someone’s hand is the best advertising we can do,” Covington said. The company plans to continue doing so in NASCAR.

To that point, Covington said Monster plans to have its products strategically placed around tracks but “we’re not going to ask or force the drivers at all to drink a Monster Energy can because it looks staged, and we think today’s consumers are smarter than that; we really don’t want it to look like they’re being sold.”

Monster plans to take about a dozen Monster Girls to races. The models serve alongside celebrity endorsers as Monster’s most visible ambassadors. Monster took only two to four Monster Girls in prior years, when it was solely a team sponsor of Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 41 Chevy driven by Kurt Busch.

Monster handles its sports marketing in house, though it works with North Carolina-based Hirschfeld Marketing Solutions in NASCAR for on-site hospitality assets.

Covington said there is a good chance Monster will have a presence in victory lane, but he was not ready to release further details.

The company benefited by having a digital sweepstakes promotion tied to NASCAR for the first quarter of this year that it had planned before it landed the title rights. The winner gets a trip to Talladega Superspeedway to hang out with Busch.

Monster continues to work out its media plans as well. Mike Petruzzi, Fox Sports’ senior vice president of ad sales and sports management, said Fox is in discussions with Monster and anticipates “a partnership that is more in line with a custom-content opportunity that will amplify what they’re doing day in and day out with the sport.”

Beyond activation, Covington touched on how Monster will measure its return on investment in NASCAR. At the 2016 Motorsports Marketing Forum, during a discussion about Monster Energy Supercross, Covington said he doesn’t rely a great deal on data to judge sponsorship success. But he now acknowledges that NASCAR will have much more data to review than some of the smaller properties and grassroots events that Monster has been involved with in the past.

“So we’re not going to turn a blind eye to the data,” Covington said. “But at the same time, we want to see smiles on people’s faces, people interacting with the brand and how they accept the brand being a part of their sport, so it’s a mix of both.”

Steve Phelps, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief global sales and marketing officer, said he was content with the progress Monster has made in planning its activation, but that work will continue right up to Daytona.

“They’re trying to finalize what Daytona looks like, what Atlanta the next week looks like, then NASCAR goes west with the three tracks out west,” said Phelps. “The first five races are important for NASCAR overall, but I think they’re important for Monster Energy as well.”