Wow. It’s 2009.
I hope you managed to get in some downtime over the holiday season. After that last quarter of 2008 I think we all needed a little break from the madness.
But it’s a new year, with a whole whack of exciting (and let’s face it, somewhat scary) possibilities. I don’t know what it is but the world seems to be starting 2009 at a crossroads.
So without any further ado, let’s get stuck in with a little something that closed out last year…
NASCAR. A bunch of cars whizzing around an oval track at high speeds…much like the chariot races of yore but without the excitement factor. Give me Formula 1 anyday…
For NASCAR, 2008 was bad news: the economic recession, the auto-manufacturer bail-out, mass lay-offs by the race teams and lowered general interest found the sport in a situation that one might call precarious at best. And with the loss of key sponsors (12 out of 42 full time drivers are unsponsored), decisive action was needed. So what to do?
Well, one might say that one thing to do would be to look for ways to ensure that sponsor-confidence received a major boost before the end of the year. Let’s face it, revenue from advertising on the cars and other collateral is a vital requirement for the teams and the sport as a whole.
At the end of last year at NASCAR’s annual Times Square marketing blowout, Mike Helton (the president of NASCAR) decided rather to beg followers of the sport to purchase sponsor products. And by beg I don’t mean “alluded” or “hinted obliquely”; I mean he came right out and said it: “…when you are out shopping […] consider the sponsors involved in the sport if you would […] so if you would at least give them a shot…”
Seriously, Mike? Why not just walk up to your sponsors and hand back their money with a note attached saying: “Look. NASCAR advertising sucks. I don’t believe it works. And it clearly doesn’t. We’re not capable of finding ways for you to maximise your investment at all. We can’t think beyond the $18 million dollar big-sticker-on-the-car idea. Please take your money elsewhere.”
And in a supreme case of head-in-the-sand syndrome, NASCAR’s Eastern Regional Marketing Manager Erin Labar decided to spout off about passionate fans instead of finding ways to justify the sponsor involvement in the sport. Her comment about “major coporations that don’t fully understand NASCAR” is quite telling. You see, the problem is the sponsor…not the sport. What were we thinking?
Here’s a crazy idea: why not take some of those sponsor dollars and really, sincerely try to find ways to make it work for your sponsors? Maybe give them more ways to expose the public directly to their products? You’ve got a captive audience – give them free samples or something. Give the sponsors more than a sticker. You can’t really see it anyway when the car’s moving, unless you’re watching on TV. It’s not rocket science. I’m just pitching off the top of my head here.
Mike Helton and NASCAR: epic fail.