TNT Throttles Up Nascar Biz

Turner Sports is revving up the sponsorship dollars with its six-week slate of Nascar Sprint Cup Series events, closing out nearly 85 percent of its available racing inventory, while boosting dollar volume by as much as 15 percent versus the 2009 season.
 
The second half of Nascar’s 2010 schedule roars to life at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, June 6, as the TNT drops the green flag on the co-branded Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 Presented by Target.  
 
Following TNT’s opening telecast, the network will carry two additional afternoon races from Michigan International Speedway (June 13) and New Hampshire Motor Speedway (June 27); an early-fringe race from Infineon Raceway (June 20) and two prime-time Saturday contests in Daytona (July 3) and Chicago (July 10).
 
Of particular interest to clients is the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, which marks the return of TNT’s “Wide Open Coverage” of the event. Presented in letterbox widescreen format, the Wide Open construct cedes the lower third of the screen to advertisers, allowing TNT to limit the number of ad interruptions during the race. The stretched-out aspect ratio also provides a more unobstructed view of the action.
 
In place of the standard spot load, TNT’s Daytona 400 showcase places animated sponsor messages in the lower third, rotating them throughout the race. Clients also receive long-form branded content, 60- and 90-second vignettes that are, in many cases, developed in-house by Turner’s Creative Sports Services Unit.
 
Avails for the Daytona are limited to a roster of eight to 10 sponsors. Thus far, TNT has lined up commitments from title sponsor Coca-Cola, as well as Dimension Films’ Piranha 3D, Sprint, Nationwide, Home Depot and Toyota.

In a sense, the “Wide Open” premiums are bait for luring clients to season-long commitments across Turner and Nascar’s digital platforms. For example, Home Depot is building off its Daytona entitlement with a series of on-air billboards to run during TNT’s race coverage and a corresponding media schedule across Nascar.com. (Turner Sports manages inventory for the site.)

Moreover, should driver Joey “Sliced Bread” Logano win one of the six TNT races, Home Depot will be the beneficiary of a custom homepage “win” ad on Nascar.com. The branded message will offer congratulations to the 20-year-old phenom on his victory. (Logano won his first and only Sprint Cup race last year at Loudon, in an outing that was seen by 5.56 million viewers on June 28.)

Nationwide also has lined up for a number of enhancements. For example, during each pre-race show, the insurance company will sponsor the Nascar Nationwide recap segment. Nationwide also will be featured in a custom branded area at Nascar.com, appearing alongside a weekly online preview show.


Also stepping up its entitlements is Gillette, which will continue reaching out to racing fans after the June 6 race that bears its name via a sponsorship of Nascar.com’s “Racebuddy,” an app that offers fans the opportunity to customize their viewing experience via in-car cameras and alternate trackside vantage points. TNT’s on-air crew will tease the online elements throughout each broadcast.
 
Last year, TNT averaged 5.39 million viewers over the course of its six Nascar telecasts, with the June 21 Sonoma race drawing the largest crowd (5.79 million). Turner’s four June races were the most-watched sports telecasts on cable for the month.
 
“There just aren’t a lot of ways to reach significant ratings or a big audience in the summer, and since the season is an important time for so many marketers, our Nascar lineup is particularly valuable,” said Jon Diament, executive vp, sales and marketing, Turner Sports.
 
In July, TNT’s racing coverage was topped only by ESPN’s coverage of the MLB All-Star Game Home Run Derby (8.25 million viewers) and Bristol’s July 26 presentation of the Allstate 400 (6.49 million).
 
Diament said TNT’s Nascar business has been lifted the automotive category, which has rebounded significantly since the year began. Per Kantar Media analysis, auto dollars soared 18.6 percent in the first quarter of 2010, as manufacturers and dealers spent some $3.02 billion on measured media, thereby ending a streak of 18 consecutive quarterly declines.
 
Also on the upshift are Nascar-friendly categories like beer, telco and movies.
 
This summer marks Turner’s 27th consecutive year as a Nascar broadcast partner.