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Verizon commits to strong presence in NASCAR
Verizon Wireless went to the Daytona 500 last week knowing the speedway was off limits, so it set out to capture the rest of the town.

Sprint’s title sponsorship of NASCAR’s top series doesn’t leave a lot of room for its competitors, but Verizon, which is assuming Alltel’s sponsorship at Penske Racing, was intent on putting its marks in NASCAR for the first time, both around Daytona Beach and through the Fox broadcast.

A dozen branded Smart cars, wrapped like Verizon’s Nationwide Series car, toured Daytona Beach’s hot spots, distributing flyers and carrying street teams into crowded areas to mingle with fans. A popular oceanfront night spot, the Ocean Deck, was rebranded into the V Lounge for four days. There, the goal was to put Verizon products in the hands of consumers to experience mobile content on V-Cast.

Verizon’s retail store, conveniently located across the street from the speedway, was the site for driver autograph signings and show cars. “Lots of interaction,” explained Lou Rossi, director of media and sponsorships for Verizon Wireless.

Verizon combined these about-town activities with a heavy ad spend on Fox and Speed, including an in-car camera buy that showed the Verizon mark whenever Penske Racing's Sprint Cup driver, David Stremme, was featured in a shot during the non-points Budweiser Shootout.

“Our goal is to make sure everyone knows that we’re involved with NASCAR and that we’re here to support the sport,” Rossi said. “Daytona is about establishing ourselves and making sure the fans know what Verizon brings to the table.”

Because of Sprint’s exclusivity in the Cup series, the only way for Verizon to rebrand the Alltel car was to drop down from the Sprint Cup to the Nationwide Series. Verizon closed its $28 billion acquisition of Alltel last month and it will begin to phase out the Alltel brand this year.

But a sponsorship in NASCAR’s second tier didn’t mean Verizon would throw second-tier resources against it, especially in a wireless category known for its deep pockets. Some analysts said Verizon might be wrapped on a Nationwide Series car, but its marketing and advertising have the feel of a Cup sponsorship.

Industry analysts say that Nationwide Series sponsorships typically go for $4 million to $5 million a year and Verizon’s activation is expected to be two to three times more, giving it the big splash it sought as a newcomer in the sport.

“You can have big, Cup-like awareness out of the Nationwide Series. It’s a matter of combining clever with the appropriate spend,” said Zak Brown, CEO of motorsports marketing agency Just Marketing International, which is combining forces with Marketing Werks, Chicago, on Verizon’s NASCAR activation. “A lot of Nationwide sponsors don’t spend as much activating as they should. They see Saturday as their day to market and they shut it down Sunday.

“Verizon is saying, ‘We’re here.’ ”

When asked if Sprint’s title sponsorship made it tougher to activate, Rossi said, “No. Certainly with one of our main competitors in there, you’re going to have distractions, but we’ll stay our course.” More at Scenedaily.com
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