Brad Keselowski wasn't the only one getting his picture taken with the Nationwide Series trophy this year. Fans got their chance at the insurer's at-track display, and it may be part of the reason why Nationwide attracted extra business leads. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
By Tripp Mickle
Special to Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
Track attendance may have been down in 2010, but two of NASCAR's biggest partners, Sprint and Nationwide, hardly noticed.
Sprint, the title sponsor of NASCAR's top series, and Nationwide, title sponsor of its secondary series, both posted record attendance at their at-track displays. Sprint reported more than a 10 percent increase in attendance from 2009, and Nationwide captured twice as much contact information from visitors as it did a year ago.
Those increases came despite International Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports Inc., the two biggest track promoters, reporting declines in ticket revenue of 18 percent and 15.6 percent this year, respectively.
Executives at Sprint and Nationwide pointed to improved activation and fewer partners activating at tracks as the primary drivers in the increases.
Sprint erected a 14,400-square-foot display in the midway area at all 37 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in 2010. The Sprint Experience, as the area was known, offered driver appearances, interactive games and giveaways for Sprint customers. More than 550,000 fans visited in 2010, bringing the total number of visitors to more than 2.5 million since 2004.
"We faced two headwinds this year," said Tim Considine, Sprint's director of sports marketing. "The earlier start times created 15 percent fewer hours (to engage with fans), and obviously, attendance was down, so we're thrilled, and we think it's a testament to the entertainment we're offering."
Nationwide cut the total number of races it activated at from 17 to 15 for the 2010 season, reduced the size of its display and shifted a portion of its savings into a media buy with Turner on NASCAR.com. Its display included photo opportunities with the Nationwide Series trophy, a customized Nationwide motorcycle and a race simulator.
Despite reducing the number of tracks and size of display, the insurer increased not only the number of visitors to its display but also the percentage of leads for new business from 25 to 34 percent in 2010. Jim McCoy, Nationwide's director of strategic sponsorships, said activating at night races in Charlotte and Bristol played a major role in those increases.
"We had more hours to be open and the lead percentages were particularly high," he said. "There's a little less competition in the midway, and that helps, too."
McCoy said Nationwide plans to increase its spend modestly in 2011 in order to activate at Talladega for the first time and increase the number of races it visits from 15 back to 17.
Tripp Mickle is a reporter with SportsBusiness Journal.