CHARLOTTE, NC: Last weekend's Daytona 500 followed a year-long push aimed at tuning up racing's reputation and painting some new stripes on the event's image.
The International Speedway Corporation (ISC) – owner of the Daytona 500 – decided to use Daytona's milestone 50th anniversary to place it among the elite car races of the world. For the effort, it worked with Taylor, which embarked upon a series of high-profile events, timed from the season kickoff down to the last milestone before race day.
“For race fans, Daytona is hallowed ground,” said Brett Jewkes, the managing partner of Taylor's Charlotte office. “But we wanted Daytona to be known worldwide as the hallowed ground of stock car racing, just as Augusta is known as the hallowed ground of golf.”
The media push began in February 2006 with the running of the 49th, followed by a four-month contest, in which celebrities from Jeff Foxworthy to Kelly Ripa competed to design the official ticket for the 50th. A hard launch took place during the Pepsi 400 (now the Coke Zero 400), for which ISC brought all of the 24 living Daytona champions, including Mario Andretti and Dale Earnhardt Jr., for press conferences and photo ops.
Throughout the year, the firm created other initiatives to keep the interest at a steady pace. A Mother's Day program advocated for NASCAR tickets as gifts, instead of chocolates, and an online chat series sponsored by UPS brought together race fans and veteran drivers for car conversation.
All garnered significant interest across the board, including from foreign and celebrity media.
“The 50th anniversary gives you the opportunity to raise the profile of the property – you can't really get [as] excited about the 47th or the 48th,” Jewkes said.
The day of the race, all 24 living champions again converged for fan and corporate appearances, Q&A sessions, and an honorary pre-race ceremony broadcast by Fox. Richard Petty served as the honorary starter for the race.