Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What Can NASCAR Teach Us About Packaging?

The first NASCAR race of 2006 ran recently at Daytona and I was surprised by the number of new product sponsors. For years NASCAR has been a “good ol boy" thing, however, marketers have finally realized that this is huge untapped and under marketed advertising segment.

We have to admit that there are loads of stereotypes about the typical NASCAR audience. Ever heard this description, "Red necked, long haired, tobacco chewing, cigarette smoking, good ol boy?” Well, that used to be true of NASCAR viewers but auto racing now is one of the few sports that are gaining in popularity among all demographic segments. Face it. Popularity equals advertising revenue and sales.

Two current market groups that NASCAR is chasing for increased viewer ship are the 50+ generation and women. Previously, little marketing was done to attract these viewers. They were outside the perceived target market. Sponsors typically were auto companies, auto parts and suppliers, beer, soda, cell phones, and generally services and companies that were in the male purview. But now there are a lot of avid NASCAR fans in the over 50 generation, myself included. Until now, sponsors haven't really sought them out as an audience.

When I did some marketing for an IROC driver, I was surprised to learn about the strength of the fans. One thing that really came home was the brand loyalty of those who supported NASCAR. When a NASCAR driver endorsed a product, it was used by an overwhelming proportion of NASCAR aficionados; a much higher average of brand loyalty than conventional markets.

An interesting campaign that I have been following is the Crown Royal endorsement of NASCAR. The company continues to sponsor the No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion driven by NASCAR NEXTEL Cup star Jamie McMurray. Crown Royal is collaterally branding their campaign with new packaging and launching the Speedway Collector's Series, a line of limited edition packages that is customized to highlight the 21 tracks that host races during the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season. The Crown Royal purple bag, bottle label and carton will display customized motor sports packaging, including logos for storied tracks like Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Super Speedway. Smart and unique marketing! Most product packaging efforts have been limited to cast iron models and replicas of the cars or typical car stuff.

So why am interested? It’s all in the packaging, of course. In addition to advertising and endorsing a driver, companies are integrating all facets of a marketing campaign and utilizing packaging as a branding tool. If I were a smart marketer, I would look for underserved segments of the viewers just like Crown Royal has done. Even though there have been several women drivers that have tried unsuccessfully to penetrate NASCAR as professional drivers, the women's market makes up 50% of the US population. In my opinion it really hasn't been sought out. I'd brand a campaign that really hits home with women no matter what their age. Look at the Dove Campaign For Real Beauty as an example. Its being endorsed and supported long after then initial advertising campaign introduction.

So we’ve come full circle. What does NASCAR have to do with packaging? It’s a hot, growing, untapped market for those who want consumers that demonstrate their brand loyalty. Does this ring any bells or blow any horns for you?


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