When I got an invitation to Adweek, in New York City, from NASCAR I was half-expecting Mad Men’s Don Draper to show up.
While there was a guy in a suit with narrow lapels he was neither smoking nor had he been drinking cocktails.
Instead of the conflicted, multi-personality, fictional, Madison Avenue advertising man; it was a very sober and smoke-free Michael Waltrip himself a man of a few personalities.
This was a toned down Waltrip but his exquisite sense of timing and humor came through anyway. Still a very different person than how he appears on television.
About 150 fresh-faced media buyers who had the power, and hopefully the budget, to influence readers and television viewers filled the auditorium.
Although it was a panel discussion moderated by Fox’s Mike Joy, consisting of driver, Ricky Carmichael, Nationwide Insurance’s John Aman, and Waltrip; it really felt like being at a sponsor pitch. Even better it was like a director’s cut with explanations.
At first, in Joy’s introduction, the broadcaster named various NASCAR sponsors. When he paused to catch his breath Waltrip interjected with his long-time sponsor NAPA showing his loyalty to the long-time sponsor.
One other nugget was revealed MWR annual budget for the three Cup cars and Nationwide effort, etc. was $87 million.
Long gone is a team owner expecting a big corporation to throw dollars at team then walk away.
Waltrip said that sponsors are more like “partners” and stressed that he and his organization were always on the look out to find ways to make their association, even among the sponsors work better. One example was a cross marketing promotion with Best Western hotels and Dominos pizza.
Nationwide’s Aman pointed out that his company’s association with NASCAR’s triple-A series was a least one year ahead of budget in terms of payback.
Waltrip made the point that race fans seek to be connected with their heroes and that his use of Twitter could be leveraged to help his sponsors seamlessly make a promotion while entertaining them with his updates.
Carmichael added that he reached his fans, previously unknown in NASCAR, through his brand of new-age sports.
I’ve been in many garages and race shops and learned a lot about NASCAR over the years. But during Adweek this writer got a glimpse of how the financial side of NASCAR sponsorship works.
Now if only Christina Hendricks (Joan Holloway on Mad Men) served coffee at the end could it have been a better experience.