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Sponsors Speed Up

Feb 14, 2007  •  Post A Comment

As with a NASCAR race car, there are ads for big sponsors all over Speed, the channel dedicated to racing.
Beyond 30-second spots, marketers are utilizing product placement, integration and program sponsorship on the network.
“We have a tad more leeway than your average entertainment network just because of the nature of NASCAR and the way the sport is run,” said Todd Siegel, senior VP of advertising sales.
The network recently completed branded entertainment deals with BF Goodrich Tires, Alltel Wireless and Sunoco and signed renewals with The Home Depot, Wrangler and Sprint Nextel. Microsoft and Toyota will be involved with specials on the network.
In addition to product placement, these sponsors also buy schedules of regular ads. Those ads can either be concentrated in the network’s race coverage or bulked up in its other programming.
But nontraditional sponsorships are generating a growing amount of money for Speed.
“Like most of the industry, we are gravitating to a much more integrated point of view, and I would say we’re probably on the higher end,” Mr. Siegel said. “Maybe as much as 40 to 60 percent of our business is tied to something fun and sexy.”
He said the network takes a two-tiered approach to integration and product placement.
In race coverage, some integrations work very naturally and seamlessly. “We’re going to cover pit stops, so why wouldn’t somebody present the pit stop,” Mr. Siegel said. “There are certain elements within the race that are just a natural part of the day-to-day coverage and it makes perfect sense to build sponsorships around them.”
Of course, that’s done within reason and the bounds of good taste and appropriateness, he said.
Sunoco, which is the official fuel of NASCAR, is sponsoring features on pit strategy during the network’s pre-race coverage.
The Home Depot returns as presenting sponsor of “NASCAR RaceDay—Built by The Home Depot,” the network’s pre-race show. The Home Depot is the official home improvement warehouse of NASCAR.
Mr. Siegel said renewals are a sign the network is doing something right. But he said each year he tries to improve the sponsorships and add more elements. That could make the sponsorships more effective for the sponsor, produce better programs and bring in more revenue for the network. “That’s the win-won-won,” he said.
Also returning is Sprint Nextel, which sponsors shows that cover the Nextel Cup racing series.
BF Goodrich Tires is the presenting sponsor of “The Speed Report,” which airs Sundays. The tire company also signed on to present the first edition of the “Speed Performance Awards,” which aired Feb. 8. On the Web, Goodrich is the sponsor of fan voting for the awards and will maintain a presence on the Speed home page throughout the year.
“Our association with these programming elements on Speed provides the perfect platform to convey our brand message to a dedicated and loyal audience,” said Tom Jupena, marketing communications manager for Goodrich.
Wrangler presents Speed’s “Trackside Live” program.
The network’s other programming—mostly how-to and reality-type shows—”take a little bit more effort and a little bit more energy to make it all work,” Mr. Siegel said.
NAPA is a sponsor of Speed’s show “Pinks,” in which contestants race cars for pink slips. The host is Rich Christensen, and this season he will be featured in a commercial for NAPA that will run during the show. “We found a way to make it work on a lot of levels,” Mr. Siegel said. “It works for the production value, it works for the sponsor, it works for the program.”
Alltel is the presenting sponsor of Speed’s talk show “Wind Tunnel,” which is hosted by Dave Despain.
The network is working with beer marketer Corona on its “Unique Whips” show, which focuses on celebrities who customize their rides. “Corona’s tagline is ‘out of the ordinary,’ and the cars we build on these shows are out of the ordinary. That’s how we tie it in,” Mr. Siegel said. And while Corona is not as big a part of the racing world as Budweiser, he said, “We found a way to work their concept into these one-of-a-kind vehicles we create on a week-to-week basis.”
For specials, Microsoft is co-sponsoring a four-part series “Forza Motorsport Showdown,” based on the Xbox 360 game but featuring real races and live drivers. Speed even landed a sponsor for this show, Valvoline.
Toyota vehicles are featured in the special “Two Roads to Baja,” which focuses on off-road endurance racing.

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