Iconic Campaign Drives NASCAR

May 7, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Allstate has cornered the market on safety during NASCAR broadcasts on ESPN and ABC.
The insurance company is one of a handful of marketers to sign up for a new icon program that ESPN has been selling as it returns to the NASCAR fold this year under an eight-year pact worth $270 million annually.
NASCAR ratings were down last season, and the skid has continued in the first part of this season. The races remain hot properties among advertisers, however, and the icon program is part of ESPN’s multiplatform strategy to maximize the revenue it generates.
The co-branded icons pop up during race coverage when a subject is addressed by the network’s announcers. For instance, Allstate’s seat-belt icon is tied to features on auto safety. Viewers are directed to information online on pages sponsored by the marketer.
Also signed up for the multimillion-dollar packages are General Motors’ Chevrolet division, which has the icon linked to vehicle technology; Nextel, with the communications icon, and EchoStar, which sponsors the Dish Tech Center logo that highlights behind-the-scenes technologies involved in both racing and broadcasting a race.
“The icon is the kind of multimedia manifestation of how we are helping fans understand and better watch and consume the sport,” said Ed Erhardt, president of customer marketing and sales for ESPN. He said another sponsor was close to inking a deal for a fifth icon package.
As an advertising strategy, the icons give ESPN something more than traditional spots to offer advertisers looking for more bang for their buck. “It improves our ability to create premium pricing because anyone that has this kind of exposure and this kind of integration is able to stand out, we believe,” Mr. Erhardt said.
Allstate is the official insurance company for NASCAR and the title sponsor of ESPN’s first Nextel Cup race, the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard on July 29.
In addition to the icon, Allstate’s package with ESPN includes traditional spots, an in-car camera, online and radio and magazine ads. Each race will include an Allstate “Good Hands Move of the Race” feature and safety segments will appear on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike” before races on Fridays or after on Mondays.
“I think ESPN was very smart about the icons they developed. Not only does it make sense to the sport, but it made sense to us as a company. It is what our brand stands for,” said Pam Hollander, Allstate’s director of integrated marketing communications. The program also could be used in Allstate promotions such as teen driving safety, she said.
“What’s great about the platforms and assets that we secured for Allstate is they are assets that we feel are going to be engaging, informative and interactive to the fan,” said Sam Sussman, senior VP and media director at Starcom, Allstate’s media agency.
“We are a big believer in trying new and different things,” Mr. Sussman said. He expects the icons to be a valuable part of NASCAR telecasts this year, “and in the long term, it’s going to get better.”
Another part of Allstate’s deal with ESPN is a co-branded watch-and-win sweepstakes designed to get viewers to tune into the Allstate 400.
Ms. Hollander said she’s noticed the slip in NASCAR’s ratings. “That should put a little pressure on ABC/ESPN when they pick up the back end of the season,” she said. “I think all sponsors are keeping an eye on that, not only from a broadcast standpoint, but are the stands being filled.”
Mr. Erhardt said ESPN’s promotional reach was one reason NASCAR chose to return to the cable networks. With both Busch and Cup races on ESPN and ABC, plus college football and NFL “Monday Night Football” on tap, “We think we can cross-promote the sport in a very aggressive way,” he said.


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