Race Weekend Central

Fans & Nationwide Reap the Benefits of Series Sponsorship

If you think the Easter holiday weekend means no NASCAR to satisfy your competitive juices, think again.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series will take center stage when the sport’s version of the “minor leagues” will travel to Tennessee for the Nashville 300, their first “standalone” race of the season without a Cup Series race the following day. However, Nationwide Insurance does not just wait for their Sprint Cup brethren to take a weekend off to make its presence known among NASCAR fans. Nationwide Insurance has enacted several initiatives meant to reach lofty marketing goals set forth when they became the title sponsor of the series in 2008.

The opportunities to reach a large, passionate fanbase while gaining exposure to several new business partners drove Nationwide’s decision to become involved with NASCAR over three years ago. “It is often said that NASCAR is more than a sport; it’s a lifestyle or way of life,” explained Jim McCoy, director of strategic partnerships for Nationwide Insurance. “NASCAR is an American institution, and its fans take great pride in the sport’s tradition and heritage.”

To connect to those fans, the company is pulling out all the stops, giving to everyone around them in hopes their efforts will be rewarded with loyalty and thousands of new paying customers. Step one involves reaching out: when not energizing its existing clients, Nationwide specializes in creating synergy by teaming up with other partners in the sport.

“[Primary sponsorship of a series] provides more opportunities to talk to their (participating teams and drivers) sponsors from a B2B perspective and leverage other NASCAR properties such as the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck series,” continued McCoy. To ensure these efforts are successful, adding new connections the organization can’t be passive; McCoy states that they must go above and beyond simply displaying the Nationwide name and logo at the track.

“We are focused on elevating the NASCAR Nationwide Series on and off the track each season for the fans, and that’s important when your company’s name is affiliated with a property.”

One such partnership effort to make the company stand out is the CodeSpotter Sweepstakes, which returns this season after a successful 2010 campaign. Nationwide has partnered with JR Motorsports, Kevin Harvick Inc., Joe Gibbs Racing, ESPN and the eventual 2011 championship team to provide fans with the chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime VIP experience or other daily prizes. To enter, fans can visit codespotter.com, create an account and enter special codes anytime they spot one.

Where, exactly, can you find them? By following almost any outlet that is associated with NASCAR Nationwide Series racing including the race broadcast, trackside displays, the websites of participating teams and by following the NASCAR Nationwide Series on Facebook and Twitter, just to name a few. In fact, just by reading this story fans can use the rewards code SPOTTER.

It was almost a no brainer to bring back the CodeSpotter program after more than one million codes were redeemed during the 2010 season. Past success, however, wasn’t the only motivation for continuing the contest as it’s a chance for the company to reward its most loyal supporters. “Fans who follow our series on a regular basis, either in person or through their favorite media outlet, will have the best chance to win,” explains McCoy. “It’s a small way for Nationwide to thank the fans who are the heart and soul of the NASCAR Nationwide Series.”

The contest isn’t just any ordinary display of gratitude, either. Grand prizes include the opportunity to meet Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick and Aric Almirola at the Nationwide race in July. Or, one lucky winner will get to serve as an honorary crew member for KHI at Bristol in August. Another will get to accompany the champion to a Columbus Blue Jackets NHL game in December. If those opportunities are missed, still another winner can participate in a behind-the-scenes ESPN experience at the 2012 Las Vegas event.

The CodeSpotter program isn’t the only way to get involved with the series title sponsor. The 2011 Nationwide Insurance “Family Fun Zone” is a 75’ by 60’ interactive display that provides fans with a fun way to pass the time while at the track. Activities such as skeeball, a prize wheel and racing simulators provide hours of quality entertainment for kids and adults alike. And for those who have always wanted to try out Plinko (and who hasn’t?) but feel that they will never get the chance to compete on “The Price is Right,” the Family Fun Zone has its very own Plinko board!

And the icing on the cake, fans hoping to live out a different fantasy – daydreaming their whole lives about what it would be like to be a NASCAR champion – can get one step closer by getting their photo taken with the Nationwide Series championship trophy. There are even “Whack a Driver” games available, as certainly every fan at one time or another has felt like they wanted to clunk a driver with a foam mallet. See the schedule below for when the Nationwide Insurance Family Fan Zone is coming to a track near you.

McCoy has said that Nationwide’s motorsports program is considered a success if fans walk away from their experience at the track saying, “Wow, Nationwide is adding a lot to the sport and my experience.” By providing those fans with the opportunity to partake in games and compete for VIP prizes, it is hard to believe that they are saying anything other than “wow.” However, McCoy does not have to rely solely on fan reactions to know his program is thriving. He has the numbers to prove it.

“We’ve increased unaided awareness by 50% in two years of sponsorship,” he said of a company whose outreach is clearly paying off in kind. “In 2010, we doubled the number of leads and amount of data collected from fans. We have also formed affinity and strategic partnerships with Richard Petty Driving Experience, The Official NASCAR Members Club, JR Nation (Dale Jr. Fan Club), sponsors employees groups, Camping World and Cintas.”

Fans may have been somewhat uneasy in 2007, when longtime sponsor Anheuser-Busch ended its relationship with the sport they love after decades of support. However, Nationwide Insurance has eased those fears by going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that the series remains highly visible in NASCAR Nation. There is no question that when it comes to providing VIP NASCAR access, generating a buzz around the sport, and taking care of race fans around the country Nationwide is clearly on your (the fans) side.

Remainder of 2011 “Family Fun Zone” Display Schedule
Richmond International Raceway – April 29-30
Darlington Raceway – May 6-7
Iowa Speedway – May 21-22 (Show Car Display Setup)
Charlotte Motor Speedway – May 20-21, 26, 28-29
Kentucky Speedway – July 8-9
New Hampshire Motor Speedway – July 15-17
Nashville Superspeedway – July 23 (Show Car Display Setup)
Iowa Speedway – Aug. 5-6
Bristol Motor Speedway – Aug. 26-27
Richmond International Raceway – Sept. 9-10
Charlotte Motor Speedway – Oct. 13-15
Phoenix International Raceway – Nov. 11-13

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About the author

Tony Lumbis has headed the Marketing Department for Frontstretch since 2008. Responsible for managing our advertising portfolio, he deals with our clients directly, closing deals while helping promote the site’s continued growth both inside and outside the racing community through social media and traditional outlets. Tony is based outside Philadelphia.

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