By Barry Janoff
September 3, 2013: ESPN is gearing up for what is scheduled to be its next to last season of broadcasting Nascar races with a multimedia campaign, “12 Drivers. 1 Champion.” The effort will encompass TV, print, radio, mobile, digital and a social media program under the hash tag, #Fandorsements.
ESPN said this is the first time it has worked with Nascar to launch a joint-marketing campaign.
It may also be the last.
The effort will cover the final ten races of the 2013 Chase for the Nascar Sprint Cup event, during which 12 drivers will seek to compile points to crown the season-ending champion. Nine of the races are on ESPN, with the other on sibling ABC.
ABC had been a Nascar broadcast partner from the early 1960s through 1981; ESPN then took over telecasts through 2002, and then again in 2007 via a deal that currently is scheduled to expire after the 2014 season. Industry analyst said that both ESPN and Turner might try to end their deals with Nascar a year early.
Nascar recently signed a deal under which NBC takes over the ESPN portion of the racing season beginning in 2015. Nascar also extended its broadcast deal with Fox, which encompasses races that have been aired by Turner Sports, also beginning in 2015.
“With this campaign, we want to create as much buzz and momentum going into the ten races – if you’re a fan, you feel what it means to be a part of it,” Emeka Ofodile, senior director of marketing at ESPN, said in a statement. “The Chase is big – it’s the playoffs – our goal is to make it feel that way.”
ESPN unveiled the campaign's anchor TV spot, "Generations," on Labor Day. It shows current Nascar star Jimmie Johnson walking down Pit Row past previous driving icons including Cale Yarborough, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr.
In the spot, a camera tracks Johnson, as five-time Chase Cup champ, as a voiceover says, "Winning a sixth championship might add to your legacy. But is it enough to make you a legend? Because there is a difference between being the best driver of your generation and being the best driver ever."
(See the full spot here.)
Three more TV spots will support the effort.
#Fandorsements was described as a social photo contest "that allows fans to 'endorse' their favorite Chase driver by submitting an original picture of their drivers’ number through Instagram or Twitter." Each week during the Chase, a new winner will be selected and will have their social media handle appear above their favorite Chase driver’s passenger window in that week’s race. (Full details are here).
“ESPN has played an integral role in our efforts to reach new fans,” Kim Brink, vp-marketing for Nascar, said in a statement. “'12 Drivers, 1 Champion.’ uses a pivotal time in the Nascar season to articulate the intensity and complexity of the sport of stock car racing."
According to Brink, "We hope that the vivid imagery will convey to consumers the diligence and skill that it takes to rise to the top, demonstrating the unpredictable and dramatic nature of The Chase, the hardest championship in all of sports to win.”