Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2000   by Auto Service World

MOTORSPORT MARKETING: Summer Speed: Selling the Sizzle

Many companies use motorsports to showcase their promotional efforts and their technical expertise. They also use it as a reward for customers and even as a prize for contests.

Castrol’s use of the Grand Prix du Canada Formula 1 event covers all these bases, providing nearly 200 people with an opportunity to see first-hand the pinnacle of motorsport, with an additional push for the company as a result of its association with the BMW Williams F1 team. The fact that it is one of the few recognizable brands in North America with such an association is an important reason they have made it a key part of their promotional efforts. According to the company, one point worth considering for anyone looking to create a promotion is the question of uniqueness and access.

As mentioned, many companies are involved in motorsport, but not all fully leverage their involvement with customers.

Ticket packages are great, but the offer becomes even better if you can get your customers some type of special access, whether that be through a dinner event including the driver and team, special technical presentations, a pit tour, or even a “pit crew for a day” type promotion possible at a CASCAR event.

The key is to offer something unique to your customers that will get them to your event and keep them there. At some events, you will find many companies vying for the attention of your customers. You’ve probably experienced it. Competition takes place off the track, too.

Here are three key points in running a strong motorsports-related promotion–whether big or small:

Capitalize on your association with a team, whether direct or through a supplier.

Try to include some type of special off-track event or presentation.

Offer something unique in the way of access or information, particularly technical since this is likely to be of interest.

The goal is to give your customers the feeling that they are special to you and to show them what sets you apart from your competition. It can also give you a good opportunity for discussion with the customers. The right promotion should do all those things.

When the CART FedEx Championship hits Canada, the same rules apply. The difference is that it is one of the few events featuring a high-profile Canadian series that also features a strong contingent of Canadian automotive aftermarket companies as sponsors.

Exide, which has parlayed its CASCAR Castrol Super Series team association with Brad Jacques into an event sponsorship, is a prime example. Because the company wanted to make the most out of its title sponsorship of the CASCAR supporting event, dubbed The Exide Street Fight, it secured a hospitality suite overlooking the pits.

While not for everyone due to cost, it is not unusual for companies to partner up to split the costs of a hospitality suite.

Again, the same rules apply: off track activities are a strong addition to on-track attractions.

Having said all that, though, lack of a title sponsorship with a team or event should not preclude thoughts of getting involved. Though Pennzoil-Quaker State first staked its claim to Turn 3 at the Toronto Molson Indy when it was a key sponsor, it has continued to secure the area for hospitality though it is no longer a sponsor. And according to the company, that has not dampened its effectiveness as a reward for customers.

Regardless of the approach, providing comfortable surroundings for key customers is also a key draw for the non-racing fan who may not be so thrilled at the prospect of tramping around a racing circuit.

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