You probably know her best for her star turn in the infamous GoDaddy TV spots (particularly during the SuperBowl).
But newly-adapted Sprint Cup Series driver Danica Patrick got known this past weekend for her need for speed, surpassing even longtime Nascar guru Jeff Gordon for the pole position in this weekend’s Daytona 500.
Danica’s No. 10 Chevrolet SS turned in a lap at 196.434 miles per hour, enough to put Patrick in the pole spot for Nascar’s most prestigious race. Considering that the U.S. television ratings for the Daytona 500 have been the highest for any auto race during the year since 1995, one might wonder if a marketing conspiracy was afoot.
Actually, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Nascar just changed its marketing firm, dumping Jump Company in St. Louis for the very same firm IBM hired to lead its marketing renaissance in 1993, Ogilvy and Mather.
New York Times advertising columnist Stuart Elliott explains it all in a column timestamped yesterday, the gist of which explains that Ogilvy and Mather is going to bring the drivers front and center in the new initiative.
First, they’ll be featured in a series of TV ads that “presents drivers in larger-than-life poses,” and also encourages drivers to aggressively contact fans and followers in the social media.
This is definitely not my redneck uncle’s tobacco-chewing, Budweiser-sipping Nascar.
Many moons ago, circa 1999, I tried to convince my own marketing amigos in IBM’s advertising organization that we should be all over Nascar. They laughed me out of the room — we go in more for golf and tennis, and to just keep things fresh and intellectually challenging, every once and again some chess and Jeopardy!
But I knew then, as so many do now, that Nascar races were excellent venues for CEOs to conduct business, many of whom would fly in and out for Nascar races, and that the sport of Nascar was poised for a significant uptick in popularity as its reach stretched beyond Bubba-dom.
Just as importantly, the amount of data that the cars and races generated was, to my view, a virtual feast for sponsorship by an information technology company, especially one like ours that specializes in database and business analytics technologies.
And so, it seems, the time for more technology in stock car racing is ripe.
Forget for a moment Danica Patrick’s partnership with domain registrar GoDaddy.
Nascar CEO Brian France just recently announced in a CNN interview that the organization is seeking sponsorship from tech companies like Apple or Facebook or Google, explaining that adding technology will help make Nascar more relevant to a new generation of fans.
And the technology angle apparently isn’t limited to only car sponsorships. In an awkward but fascinating demo at this year’s CES keynote address, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs explained how an app created by Omnigon Communications would offer Nascar fans customized viewing across multiple smartphones, tablets, and TVs powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.
He brought Nascar driver Brad Keselowski onstage to help demo the new app, and if you can get past their awkward presentation in the video below, you can actually start to see they might be onto something here in terms of what I would call “real-time sports customization.”
As for this coming Sunday’s Daytona 500, the smart money would suggest Danica Patrick doesn’t have good odds for pulling off a checkered flag, even with the pole position. She’s a Sprint Cup rookie and has some formidable competition (including “co-poler” and three-time Daytona victor, Jeff Gordon).
But as Patrick herself said in interviews earlier this week, her gender ought not be the issue.
“I was brought up to be the fastest driver,” Patrick explained, “not the fastest girl.”
That being said, Nascar, and Madison Avenue, may very well be the ones most cheering Patrick on at the finish line for Daytona this weekend.
Because a victory by a female rookie in the sport’s top annual competition might just be the thing that convinces a whole new generation of fans, both male and female, to pay more attention to Nascar throughout the rest of the year.