July 5, 2012

What NASCAR Taught Me About Branding

Now I'm no NASCAR expert but I do think they present an interesting case study to those in the marketing field. Whether we want to admit it or are aware - we are walking billboards. Look at the outfit you wore today: did you carry a coffee cup from a popular retail chain? are you wearing a pair of running shoes? carrying a purse from a luxury brand? did you have on a pair of jeans? If you answered yes, to any of these then you probably were advertising some brand without realizing it.

Brands are not only just their names but they also encompass images associated with that brand like Ronald McDonald, colors like Dunkin' Donuts' pink and brown, along with slogans like Nike's "Just Do It." Many of their logos have become synonymous with the brand i.e. the Nike swish, the Chanel C's, the Starbucks mermaid, the Gatorade G. These logos are recognizable to almost everyone without needing the company's name. 

NASCAR has followed this model for years, renting out space on not only the car but on the driver to brands to advertise. While we customers do the opposite by paying to wear certain brands. The brands we wear say something about who we are as a customer. We like coffee grown from certain parts of the country, or we prefer air cushion running shoes, or we prefer premium European denim. The drivers of NASCAR may seem like they accept advertisement from anyone but they have to be careful not to cannibalize other companies like say having two liquor sponsors. This is more appealing to company's who want to control their brand image because customers while they do pay the brands, brands have no control of their image. A great example is Snooki (bear with me...). It was rumored (and I would believe it) that Gucci didn't want Snooki carrying their purses because she wasn't a good image for the brand so they would send her competitor bags to wear. It may sound deceitful but it shows you how valuable a brand's image is to them and they don't want someone tarnishing it even if they are a paying customer.

Recently, NASCAR teamed up with Twitter to have Twitter's first ever TV commercial air during a race featuring a NASCAR driver. Being an NFL and MLB fan, I was a little disheartened Twitter didn't decide to coordinate with another sport. However, I understand that the culture of NASCAR fits well with Twitter. Companies use (or should use) Twitter to tell their brand's story, show off their personality and engage with customers. Twitter's TV ad shows how the hashtag #NASCAR adds a whole new level of engagement to capture behind the scenes moments that you don't get to see on TV. 

I really like this concept and would love to see it adapted by other sports associations. Twitter is a powerful tool - its not a fad going away anytime soon - and companies should tap into it's potential. Or they could just put stickers on us so we look like this:
Image via

Are you aware of what logos you wear?

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