Sponsorship. It’s the one word most NASCAR fans loath on weekends from being commercialized on the track, at an event, and on television while watching a race. Everything from the official series name down to the official “insert sponsor product here” witness it’s inescapable reach to try and ignore it.
In this exclusive series, we will dig in to highlights of what goes into sponsoring something in not only NASCAR, but down to the weekly race tracks were a team might get enough to buy a set of tires or to the larger teams, who fund drivers like Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart.
While it’s easy to think that a company shows up writes a check and slaps their name on the car might be the easy part, in some cases that’s exactly what happens, especially with companies with limited marketing budgets that can’t compete with multi-million dollar companies that can show up with tents, displays, handing out product and more most usually spend multiple weeks planning out a marketing strategy.
At Daytona, I had the opportunity to shadow NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Cole Whitt and Front Row Motorsports along with his sponsor Speed Stick as they went through Speedweeks to make the Daytona 500.
What I found is it’s just not as easy as slapping your name to the car with some of the companies. Many of them use the race and drivers to promote their products on the track, and outside in approved displays, driver meet and greets, and product sampling.
But I am getting a little ahead of myself on this. Let’s go back and see how the process gets started.
Before a company puts their name on a car, official product of NASCAR or an event, marketing teams behind the scenes start with a budget and marketing plan on who their target demographic will be and who they are looking to target to sell their products to. The company will approach a team or driver - in this case young Cole Whitt - that fits into the Speed Stick marketing plan of selling and promoting products to millennials.
It’s at this time that a broader marketing plan will come into play. Companies will most importantly be looking for which the industry terms ROI or return on investment, meaning for every dollar they spend to market a product how in return this translate into sales increases to cover the costs and turns a profit in the future from the promotion.
Companies, especially those even with abundant marketing departments cannot do all of the work. Many of them don’t understand the dynamics of product marketing to race fans and will reach out to companies such as Cohn & Wolfe, Taylor Strategy, GMR Marketing or others who have researched, have relationships with NASCAR, and understand what it takes to bring their product to the track and market to fans who come to events, watch on television, follow through social media channels and other avenues within the NASCAR space.
Many times the selection of companies is based on past marketing and activation they have worked with in other spaces, including traditional marketing such as television advertising or product placements.
This is the first of a series on sponsorship and activation of products in NASCAR. Next time we will go in depth on activation and product distribution at events and finish up with an interview with the Speed Stick marketing manager.