Web Site, Database, Fan Club Rev Up NASCAR Initiative

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NASCAR is preparing to serve auto racing fans into the next century through the development of three direct response initiatives with marketing partner Action Performance Companies Inc.


NASCAR, Charlotte, NC, and Action Performance, Phoenix, announced the agreement last month that will include the development of an e-commerce channel on the NASCAR Web site, the creation of a national fan club and a motorsports consumer database. The fan club will start its advertising campaign in August, while the updated Web site will be rolled out in February for the season-opening race, the Daytona 500. Action is looking for a database partner to start the third effort.


"As we looked into the future, it was very clear that NASCAR must embrace new technologies to better serve the sport and our fans,'' George Pyne, NASCAR vice president of marketing, said in a prepared statement. "Action Performance leads our industry in merchandise fulfillment and customer service so we are thrilled with this agreement and the benefits it brings to all of NASCAR's partners.''


Action has grown from a manufacturer and distributor of die-cast collectible race-car replicas into the industry leader in motorsports-related product licensing, merchandising, marketing and promotions. The company mails regularly to its 132,000-member collectibles club, which costs $30 to join and generated $32 million in revenue last year.


NASCAR has expanded it selling channels from the track to retail and now to the Web. While outlets at its 20 race sites still generate the bulk of merchandise sales -- Action, the leading track-side vendor, grossed $35 million last year -- NASCAR now operates a chain of 10 Thunder stores, which will grow to 50 over the next two to three years. Action also is working with NASCAR to open additional retail outlets that include Action garages with race-car simulators in malls throughout the United States.


Fred Wagenhals, Action's founder and CEO, said the sheer volume of hits on NASCAR's Web site -- 30 million a week -- indicates the medium's selling possibilities.


"The potential of ordering from the Web site is going to be huge,'' Wagenhals said. "It's going to dwarf anything we've ever done."


NASCAR Online is currently a content-based Web site for racing fans. Action will add to the site's offerings an online store that can sell any NASCAR-licensed product. Action will also develop some products available exclusively on the Web site or to members of the new NASCAR Pit Crew club.


Action will leverage its experience maintaining fan clubs for individual drivers like Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace in creating the national fan club. The membership campaign will include print ads in racing publications, TV spots on racing programs as well as an extensive direct mail campaign that will draw from lists with several million names. Members of its specific driver fan clubs will be targeted, as will NASCAR ticket holders and requesters.


"We're definitely going to go after everybody that has shoes on,'' Wagenhals said.


As NASCAR has grown so has its demographic and advertising base. According to Christopher Besing, Action's chief financial officer, women make up 38 percent of the fan base, which is becoming more affluent. Traditional alcohol, tobacco and auto parts advertisers have been joined by consumer-oriented companies. The motorsports database will be constructed to help advertisers, NASCAR partners and official licensees target offers as well as provide a universe for other direct marketing efforts.


Both the Web site and fan club will be used as channels to collect information for the database. NASCAR has its own database of close to a million names, while Action has a database of 200,000 names. Those sources will remain separate from the new database.


"There is no company out there that has such a specialized database that can offer not only direct marketing opportunities but also database analysis opportunities and customer profiles,'' Besing said.


Action plans to use the database to study its fan base and to sell those database services to other marketers.
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