TNT Uses Show Car To Rev Up Ad Sales

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In its largest and most expensive affiliate marketing campaign to date, Turner Network Television will leverage the popularity of the National Association for Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) to help cable operators attract local advertisers and new subscribers.

"We've never done anything of this size and magnitude before," Turner Network Sales senior vice president of marketing Coleman Breland said.

Late last month, the network sent its NASCAR show car on a 90-city tour, which runs through December 14. TNT signed up cable systems as co-sponsors for each stop along the way on a first-come, first-served basis. Those affiliates then sold the NASCAR tour stop to local advertisers, who can draw customers to their shops to visit the car.

According to Breland, it doesn't take a hard sell to get advertisers involved in the NASCAR promotion. Involvement in the tour has netted some cable systems incremental revenues of $30,000 to $50,000 and one market saw as much as $100,000 in ad sales from its tour stop.

TNT hasn't restricted the types of advertisers its affiliates may target for the tour. Clients with large parking lots — such as grocery stores, sporting-goods dealers and auto-parts shops — are good candidates because they do well in hosting the crowds, Breland noted.

Consumers who visit the local events can get their pictures taken in the NASCAR show car. TNT also outfits each stop with interactive racing games that visitors can play while they wait — and the network provides prizes for the winners. Local cable affiliates and their ad-sales clients can complement the booty with their own prizes as they see fit, Breland added.

Systems outside TNT's show-car tour stops can also take advantage of the NASCAR brand through a direct-mail subscriber acquisition campaign or additional ad sales opportunities.

TNT plans to provide operators with 4 million customizable direct-mail pieces to encourage non-subscribers to sign up for cable.

Because NASCAR races also air on broadcast television, there are plenty of fans familiar with the action.

The direct-mail campaign's message, according to Breland: "If you want to get complete NASCAR coverage, you need cable to get it."

A NASCAR-related subscriber acquisition promotion that TNT tested last year "scored incredibly high," Breland noted. "It told us there was a lot we could do with NASCAR."

More than 90 systems are taking part in TNT's direct-mail promotion, through which new subscribers can receive a limited edition six-pack sling cooler with the NASCAR logo.

Cable companies can send out the direct-mail pieces at any time until mid-December, Breland said. They're also free to tie the campaign to other offers, such as free installation or premium-channel previews.