NASCAR returns to Rockingham, NC

Walker Marketing mounted a campaign for The Richmond County Tourism Development Authority to promote tourism and partner with stakeholders to help win back NASCAR.

Client: The Richmond County Tourism Development Authority (Rockingham, NC)
Agency: Walker Marketing (Concord, NC)
Campaign: Revitalizing Richmond County tourism
Duration: January 1 - Sept. 7, 2011
Budget: about $45,000

Mayor of Rockingham, NC, Gene McLaurin describes Richmond County as a rural area rich in outdoor activities with deep connections to auto racing through the Rockingham Speedway, aka “The Rock.”

The Rock hosted its last NASCAR event in 2004 (after being on the schedule for nearly 40 years), losing what AOR Walker Marketing calls one of the county's “most lucrative tourism assets.”

Former NASCAR driver Andy Hillenburg bought the speedway at auction in 2007, and he wanted NASCAR racing to return.

Walker Marketing mounted a campaign this year for The Richmond County Tourism Development Authority to promote tourism and partner with stakeholders to help win back NASCAR.

Strategy
“We had to regain tourism without racing… so we started building this campaign around the quality of tourism,” explains agency CEO and president Gary Walker.

An economic impact study commissioned from a University of North Caroline at Charlotte professor illustrated the benefit of NASCAR racing and helped the team rally stakeholder support.

RichmondCountyOutdoors.com, media relations, social media outreach, and ads helped drive awareness.

Tactics
RichmondCountyOutdoors.com was developed to promote tourism offerings. It also highlights the county's heritage, including its racing history. Local, regional, and national media were pitched tourism stories.

The agency helped facilitate concurrent meetings with the speedway, NASCAR, and city, county, and state officials to determine how to regain a NASCAR-sanctioned race.

By July, McLaurin says NASCAR agreed to return if the speedway made more than $1 million in improvements. The agency helped find and secure two anonymous donors, who each contributed $450,000. The county and The Rock committed $500,000 in total.

North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue announced at a September 7 press conference that The Rock would host a NASCAR Camping World Truck series race in April 2012.

Numbers from the study were released to media.

Announcement news and information was posted on the county's website and Facebook page, and on the speedway's social media properties.

Results
The team estimates the April race, which is expected to sell out, will generate nearly $6.9 million and create 132 jobs.

More than 130 stories ran in outlets such as USA Today, AP, The Washington Post, ESPN, and Speed Channel.

Walker says a technical glitch made the county's website traffic unavailable.

After the September 7 announcement, average weekly visitors to the speedway's website increased from 6,000 to 24,000, which the agency reports is now the ongoing average.

Future
The team is enhancing RichmondCountyOutdoors.com and working on promotions with Rockingham hotels. Walker notes NASCAR plans an early spring PR blitz.

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