I’ve written previously about Barack Obama and how he has created a Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe that has allowed people from a variety of demographic groups to build upon his personel story. Reports now floating around the web say that the Obama campaign is considering a NASCAR sponsorship.
On the surface, this seems to make a lot of sense as conventional wisdom says that Obama needs to introduce himself to the average NASCAR fan, who may not be familiar with him, or who traditional vote Republican. But NASCAR is a world unto itself, and any potential sponsor, whether they be a product or a political candidate, needs to be very careful before jumping in to the sport. Brand loyalty is one of the aspects of the sport that NASCAR sells to its corporate partners. Jeff Gordon fans drink Pepsi, buy Tag Heuer watches and put Quaker State in their cars. But that sort of brand affinity isn’t created overnight. If Obama wants to use NASCAR as a marketing vehicle he needs to think about making a real commitment, not just doing one race, which will be seen by the NASCAR faithful for what it is, an attempt to pander to NASCAR fans.
Rather than sponsor one car/driver, the Obama campaign should consider tying in with the 10-race Chase For The Cup which runs from mid-September through mid-November. That would allow him to have visibility at important races during the campaign stretch. He could hold town hall-style rallies in the in-field at the tracks, do the whole ‘Gentlemen, start your engines’ thing and generally show that he ‘gets’ the NASCAR nation.
The Obama campaign would do well to look at some of the most successful NASCAR sponsorships and take a page from the books of Sprint, Coke Zero, Alltel and Budweiser.
Full disclosure: I work for Taylor, a PR agency that works with several brands on their NASCAR sponsorships. I personally don’t work on any of those accounts, but have worked with brands like Johnnie Walker, RBS and MasterCard on their Formula One sponsorships.