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Nascar Gives Star Roles To Busch, Truck Racers

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The rising popularity of stock-car racing has made household names of top Nextel Cup drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. In an effort to build recognition for lesser-known drivers such as Martin Truex Jr. and Rick Crawford, Nascar has launched an estimated $5-10 million campaign from Boone/ Oakley to back its Busch and Craftsman Truck racing series.

Six TV spots that broke during the weekend focus on the tough, aggressive styles of the drivers. The work for the Busch series, which is for teams seeking to move from Nascar's local and regional levels to the Nextel Cup, showcases the circuit's young guns and its veterans. In one of three spots, longtime racer Ron Hornaday and newcomer Truex Jr. tell their stories.

"They say I'm too old, that I should be in the stands," Hornaday says. "They say I'm too young, that I should be in college," Truex Jr. retorts. Both drivers say that the place to prove their critics wrong is the Busch Series. The tagline is, "Something to prove."

Three spots for the Craftsman Truck series focus on the "beatin' and bangin' " of truck racing. Interviews with the drivers are interspersed with footage of trucks slamming into one another, making turns and spinning out. In one spot, driver Carl Edwards takes fans on a tour of his battered truck, pairing each mark with the offending driver. The spots are tagged, "Tough trucks. Tough racing."

The work is Boone/Oakley's first for Nascar, whose TV viewership rose from 5.2 million viewers in 1998 to 7.3 million viewers in 2003, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus—an increase of about 35 percent. (By comparison, the NBA drew about 6 million viewers last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.) The Charlotte, N.C., independent won the business in early October, becoming Nascar's first shop to work exclusively on the Busch and Craftsman Truck races. (Nascar's general-market work shifted to Interpublic Group's The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., last July.)

The ads are quite different from the humorous and metaphorical ads Boone/Oakley originally pitched. "It all came back to what's real about these series once we got to know the drivers and hear some of their stories," said principal and creative director John Boone. "People in general are not going to follow a race series, but they will follow the drivers."

The spots will air on Fox and FX, which cover the first half of the Busch season, and on NBC and TNT, which televise the second half. The work also will run on the Speed Channel, which airs the Craftsman Truck races.

The client's most recent ads for the Busch series, by St. Louis-based The Jump Company, focused on the unpredictable nature of the race.

Total Nascar ad spending from January-October 2003 was about $10 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

"[The new work] really allowed us to introduce the drivers and to tempt additional Nascar fans to come over and watch [the Busch] series as well," said Roger VanDerSnick, managing director of brand and consumer marketing at Nascar.