Revving Up Race Fans

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Turner Network Television has shifted the target of its NASCAR ad campaign this season, going after racing enthusiasts rather than general sports fans more likely to be interested baseball or basketball.

The drama network, which has also hatched some local ad-sales campaigns aimed at promoting the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing — and making money for cable affiliates — will televise its first race of its half of the 2004 season on July 25, the New England 300 in Loudon, N.H.

TNT’s consumer campaign, designed by Chicago ad agency Element 79 Partners, stars more than a dozen top drivers, including Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray and Mark Martin.

“I think last year we probably went after more casual fans, and this year we are really narrow targeting it to more of the hard-core [NASCAR] fan,” said Turner Sports senior vice president of program marketing Jeff Gregor.

Turner is also buying 90-second radio spots that will feature a recap of the previous week’s race, and a preview of the upcoming contest, Gregor said. TNT will run weekly races July 25 to Sept. 26.

AFFILIATE PROMOS

TNT is running several affiliate promotions tied to NASCAR, the largest of which is its “Ready to Race” promotion. Vice president of partnership marketing Lisa Richardson said 257 systems and 19 interconnects have signed on to participate in the promotion, which will require each system to run 350 cross-channel tune-in spots promoting NASCAR on TNT.

In exchange for running the 30-second spots, which contain a 10-second tag that operators can sell to local advertisers, Turner said it would give each affiliate the choice of either six tickets to a NASCAR race or a “TNT racing merchandise prize pack.”

Sister service Cartoon Network, meanwhile, is doing its part to push the promotional pedal to the medal for NASCAR. Cartoon has teamed with the racing organization to develop the 'NASCARtoon Racing’ brand, a customized on-air and online campaign that is sponsored by Kellogg’s and is aimed at raising the sport’s profile via the familiarity of the network’s characters.

Coming out of the gate on July 19, NASCARtoon Racing features a national sweepstakes in which kids can design their own Cartoon Network race car. Additionally, the on-air and online campaign, called NASCARtoon Racing Presents, will feature some of the network’s characters in fun situations and provide information about competition, teamwork and the chase for the Nextel Cup title. These efforts will carry through until the end of the racing year in November.

“The partnership unites the thrill of live NASCAR sporting events with the unexpected fun and surprise of Cartoon Network,” said Cartoon executive vice president sales and marketing Kim McQuillken. “Together with our sister network TNT, a NASCAR broadcasting partner, we’ve constructed a campaign to capture each child’s imagination.

“Cartoon stars such as Dexter, The Powerpuff Girls and Johnny Bravo will encourage kid viewers to take part in the sweepstakes, test their own creative abilities, and see how they, too, can enjoy NASCAR along with the rest of the family.”

HDTV TIE-INS

Elsewhere, Turner Sports also teamed up with corporate sister Time Warner Cable and Mitsubishi on an HDTV promotion that will run in several Time Warner systems during the third quarter.

For the promotion, which is similar to the “Only Cable Can” HDTV promotions that CTAM has run with Panasonic and Samsung, Mitsubishi will offer rebates to consumers that buy one of its HDTVs. People that buy an HDTV will also get a special offer from Time Warner Cable and a TNT premium.

TNT also cut a deal with Comcast Corp.’s Comcast Spotlight ad-sales unit to run a consumer sweepstakes promotion, that began July 9 and ends July 25. Thirty-nine Comcast systems are participating, selling sponsorships to local retailers that are handing out “Rip, Rev & Win” peel-and-reveal cards to consumers.

Turner offers most of its affiliates three minutes of local avails per hour during its NASCAR races.

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