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Y&R Gets in Gear for NASCAR

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Agency Produces Series of Teaser Spots to Entice Client
CHICAGO--NASCAR's roots are in the South, but the popularity of the sport nationally may be reflected in its choice of a new ad agency here: Young & Rubicam.
Y&R pitched with its direct and promotions arm, Impiric, which does work for the NASCAR Craftsman truck racing series. Craftsman is part of Y&R client Sears Roebuck & Co.
Y&R is trying to polish its creative image, and toward that end creative director Jon Wyville crafted a series of short videos that were sent to NASCAR executives in the days leading up to the agency's pitch.
Intended to show the agency's commitment to stock car racing, one shows a Y&R employee operating the flush lever on a urinal as if it's a stick shift while making motor noises; another has a Y&R worker getting out of a taxi through the window, as NASCAR drivers do; a third has a guy in a helmet and driver's jumpsuit elbowing his way out of a crowded agency elevator.
"We wanted to let them know right up front that we're a creatively driven company," chief creative officer Mark Figliulo said.
Y&R bested two Southern shops to win the account--the Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., and the Richards Group in Dallas--as well as D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis. Spending was pegged by sources at $25-35 million, which includes deals the circuit has with its sponsors and with networks.
How the money will be spent has yet to be determined, Figliulo said, although a stronger commercial presence on network TV can be expected.
While rooted in the South, NASCAR, Daytona Beach, Fla., has expanded its fan base northward and claims to be the nation's fastest-growing spectator sport.
"Our target will be their core fans, but we also want to bring new fans," Figliulo said.
Figliulo compared NASCAR to the NBA, which had the image of an urban, African-American organization in the 1970s before exploding in popularity in the '80s.
Figliulo said NASCAR presents exciting creative possibilities. "It's the kind of brand we're looking for," he said. "I have very high expectations." K