As ‘Daytona Day’ arrives, NASCAR pleased by Fox’s push

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Happy Daytona Day.

Actually, the official celebration won’t begin until Sunday with the 58th running of the Daytona 500, but anyone who has watched Fox Sports programming over the past month is well aware of the network’s attempt to brand the Great American Race as a national party.

In a commercial produced by Pereira & O’Dell and directed by Joseph Kahn, “Daytona Day” features dozens of youth having fun, whether it’s by racing turtles, splashing in a pool or walking through a Mardi Gras wonderland.

“Not unlike the phenomenon surrounding events like the Super Bowl and the Kentucky Derby, the Daytona 500 and its fans have their own set of rituals and traditions for the opening race of the NASCAR season,” Fox Sports executive vice president of marketing Robert Gottlieb said in a release announcing the campaign. “We saw this as an opportunity to amplify that atmosphere to a whole new level.”

Virtually absent from the advertising, though (aside from a few glimpses of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson on big-screen TVs and a couple of diecast cars tossed through space by a pair of astronauts), are depictions of NASCAR stars, teams or tracks.

NASCAR Senior Vice President of Marketing Steve Phelps conceded the concept has prompted some discussions about the merits of not including more NASCAR-centric imagery.

“There’s been a lot of dialogue around it,” Phelps said. “Much of it has been good. Some of it hasn’t. But it certainly is creating some buzz in the marketplace, which is something we’re certainly happy about. And certainly we thank them for their interest in trying to promote the season and promote that race specifically.”

The “Daytona Day” commercial has been in heavy rotation since its debut in the NFC Championship game, the part of a concerted effort by Fox to push its NASCAR coverage, particularly around new addition Jeff Gordon. A “Police Chase” spot with the four-time champion-turned-analyst spoofs a Los Angeles freeway pursuit, and the network also has used “The Simpsons” as part of a “Daytona Day” promo.

Phelps said NASCAR is pleased with Fox’s multiplatform promotional approach to Daytona, which also has included using its NFL coverage, celebrity giveaways and a campaign with Uber (putting NASCAR-themed cars on the streets of Miami for free rides and offering promo codes Sunday in several markets).

“Fox has been, as NBC has been, fantastic in terms of really trying to work with us,” Phelps said. “Their concept of ‘Daytona Day’ was taken out of a day of celebration like the Super Bowl. It’s about getting together, it’s about family, it’s about fun. It’s about this party atmosphere.

“I think it’s not the direction that we would have gone in, but they have permission to go there. We’re thrilled they’re putting the weight of Fox behind it. They’re pushing it hard in the channels they have to try to expose the Great American Race to as many people as they can. They haven’t done that in a while. They spent some significant money clearly on producing this spot and the ancillary things they’re doing. It’s a different take for them. Usually, it’d be something of having some images and pulling clips and putting them together. They’re gearing up for it.”