Client: Mistic Electronic Cigarettes (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Agency: PondelWilkinson (Los Angeles)
Mistic Electronic Cigarettes and PondelWilkinson, its PR AOR, maximized the company’s co-primary sponsorship of KVSH Racing’s number 11 IndyCar to drive brand awareness, product trials, and sales during this year’s IndyCar Series, which was held from March 30 to August 30.
"Convenience store Circle K and the race team brought the sponsorship opportunity to us," says Justin Wiesehan, VP, marketing, Mistic Electronic Cigarettes. "Tobacco companies were big players in IndyCar until the FDA banned sports ads for tobacco companies, so we saw an opportunity to capitalize on that demographic of adult smokers. Electronic cigarettes are not restricted and we do not expect restrictions in the near future."
Trained brand representatives, a Mistic-branded booth, and a race simulator, which housed an interactive racing video game inside an IndyCar body shell, were set up in the fan village sections of select races
"Customers need to see the product, try it, and talk to someone about it," Wiesehan notes. "You don’t convert people with this product until face-to-face interaction happens."
Circle K and Sébastien Bourdais, the number 11 car driver, helped deliver campaign messaging at a pep rally launch event, at races, and on social media channels. A social media competition, a Mistic Challenge offer, and media relations also drove messaging.
The pep rally event was held on March 27 at a Circle K store in St. Petersburg, Florida, the site of the IndyCar season opening race and Bourdais’ home, for media and the general public. Invitations were issued via a press release and on Circle K’s and Mistic’s social media channels. The number 11 car was at the store. Bourdais posed for fan photos and talked about racing and the campaign.
Mistic’s Big Weekend Dream contest, held from April 16 to May 11, called for submissions to the brand’s Facebook page or website about switching to Mistic with #switch2mistic. The contest was promoted via a press release, on social media, and at races. Mistic staff chose three winners who got an all-expenses paid, VIP trip to the Indy 500, a year’s supply of Mistic e-cigarettes, and more.
Race simulators and brand representatives in Mistic’s pit crew uniforms were at nine of 18 races. Brand representatives talked about the product, demonstrated use, and collected contact details.
Additional materials were provided, including coupons and information about the Mistic Challenge, a program for current adult smokers who agree to use Mistic e-cigs for 60 days and make social media posts about their experience.
Videos of contest winners at the Indy 500 and a fan beating Bourdais on the race simulator were promoted on the brand’s social media channels.
Local news outlets in each race city and national general consumer, business, and sports outlets were pitched throughout the initiative.
"One national media angle positioned Mistic as an innovator in the electronic cigarette category in terms of leveraging the IndyCar sponsorship," says agency SVP George Medici.
Racing and e-cig blogs were also pitched. Bourdais and Mistic customers gave interviews in local markets.
Wiesehan reports that 2014 sales are on track to double those from 2013, adding that the campaign and the sponsorship "absolutely contributed to increased sales."
Wiesehan says the campaign generated more than 10,000 direct sales leads, surpassing expectations. Between March 1 and early August, Twitter followers jumped 615% and Facebook engagement increased by 144%. More than 86 earned stories had run as of early August in outlets such as Time and The Wall Street Journal.
Mistic’s IndyCar sponsorship runs through the 2015 race season. Plans for late 2014 include product sampling at various events, including golf tournaments, NFL tailgate parties, and select NASCAR races.
This team did a fantastic job of maximizing Mistic’s IndyCar sponsorship across multiple channels. The e-cigarette company executed a superb and sophisticated marcomms campaign. Bourdais and Circle K’s involvement undoubtedly boosted reach. And the personal interaction with consumers at races was really smart and likely built a strong foundation for ongoing positive word of mouth and for drawing bigger crowds during the 2015 IndyCar Series.