So, you’ve either decided to jump into a NASCAR sponsorship, or you’re still weighing out the pros and cons of doing so. Either way, you’re going to want to make sure that you get media coverage in doing so, right? We’ve talked in several other blog posts so far about what sets a sponsorship in NASCAR apart from other ways companies spend their marketing dollars, and of course, the way that you promote a sponsorship is going to be different than what you may be used to as well.
The challenge becomes figuring out what attributes set your brand and sponsorship apart from the other companies that also participate as sponsors in this wide-reaching sport. The goal is to always come up with creative ways to tie your brand into your sponsorship of a team and their driver in the most organic ways possible ultimately. NASCAR fans have a long history of being brand loyal to the companies who support the sport they love, so the goal is to capitalize on that with a captive audience who is constantly looking for anything affiliated with their driver.
Having worked with several corporate partners over the years in this sport, everyone has different agendas and goals for what they want to get out of their sponsorship. The challenge that PR folks often have is helping to advise companies of the most effective ways to get messaging out to both the media and the fan base.
NASCAR has a vast corps of motorsports media reporters who generally travel to the majority of the races throughout the season. When you travel with the same group of people every weekend for 38 weeks a year, it’s easy to develop a rapport - if you put in the time to get to know your media. Learning early on in my career within NASCAR, developing those relationships was not only beneficial, but the most important part of the media pitching process. It's always a lot easier to casually talk through ideas if you’ve already developed a relationship with them.
When it comes to media coverage for your brand or product, you want to make sure you are pitching a unique angle or hook. Too often, sponsors will have the expectations of getting their brand name plastered everywhere in stories every single day. Unfortunately, that’s a very difficult expectation to have. Media pitching and public relations are an important part of the brand strategy that you’ll evolve throughout your sponsorship, but it’s also important to remember the difference in expectations between advertising and media pitching.
Paid Versus Earned Media
Advertising is when you spend money with various media outlets in order to get guaranteed brand placements in whatever outlets you’ve chosen to spend on. For example, if your brand chooses to pay money to be a sponsor of an in-car camera for the weekend, that means that you paid to get your company’s marks on camera logos within the race car, as well as logo usage with the television broadcast partner during the race broadcast whenever they may show the views from that race car. The flip side of this with media pitching is that effective PR will help to inform the media of any special storylines that may give the broadcasters something to talk about during the race organically, where then the TV cameras will show your sponsored race car on air as the broadcasters are talking about your car or driver and that pitched storyline.
It’s important to remember the difference in expectations between advertising (paid) and media pitching (earned) exposure.
A challenge within NASCAR is helping to get content and story ideas to the media partners which are newsworthy to give them a reason to talk about your driver and team. Let’s be honest, some weekends may be challenging ones performance-wise on the track, but if you have a compelling story about something that you did as a brand, or a successful consumer program, or appearance you did with your driver or team, those still can be wins with the media as long as you can effectively get the messaging out about them leading into the race weekend.
One of the most effective media elements that we do each week leading into a race weekend is a team media advance. These are best used to showcase the performance statistics of our driver at the track we’re heading to, as well as a chance to share quotes from the driver and the team’s crew chief as they look ahead to what is important for that particular race weekend. We also use our weekly advance as an opportunity to briefly promote any upcoming events our driver or team may have, anything that our partners would like for us to highlight, as well as any other useful tidbits that might be interesting for the media to create stories from. Since the NASCAR season’s media coverage truly is year-long (there’s not much of a true off-season per say due to production schedules for the next season) the motorsports media is hungry for compelling storylines all year long.
Stand out, Be Different
Always remember though that you can’t simply say, for example, that you’re opening a new store and expect media to cover it. You need to be able to create a compelling story as to why opening this new store is important enough for someone to write about it. No offense, but companies open new locations every single day, and most likely, other sponsors in this sport are opening new stores, so how can we come up with some creative reasons why it’s newsworthy to someone other than just your company. What can we do to set your store opening apart from the rest?
The motorsports media ultimately understands the end goals that we all have in everyone hoping to get media coverage, but on the sponsor and team PR side, it’s important that we work together to make things easier for them since they’re pitched ideas constantly. Working together, by identifying your brand goals and strategies, we can help to give the media compelling story ideas, and in the end, it will help us to get some media story placements for your brand.