NASCAR confessions

I have a confession to make: In 2007 thus far, I have watched two NASCAR races-on TV, from the couch-and attended a Monster Jam truck rally-in person, at the Pepsi Center in Denver. These are new experiences for me, but as the mom of a 7-year-old boy who is fascinated with anything with wheels, I think it’s just the beginning.
(And let me just say to everyone who doesn’t live in the South: Reserve your judgment about NASCAR until after you watch video of the No. 7 Jack Daniels car crossing the finish line at the Daytona 500 UPSIDE DOWN AND ON FIRE! The NFL just doesn’t offer that.)
What’s this got to do with wireless, you ask? Surprisingly, quite a bit. NASCAR was an early adopter of wireless technology, enabling drivers to talk to pit crews. Nextel in 2003 committed an estimated $700 million through the life of a 10-year contract to become NASCAR’s title sponsor.
Today the combined Sprint Nextel holds that honor, but there is a battle going on with AT&T because AT&T wants to change its car currently sporting the Cingular logo to incorporate the blue AT&T ball. Separately, AT&T and Fox Sports have an agreement where Fox broadcasters are trying to help Cingular transition to the name AT&T. Meanwhile, Alltel also sponsors a NASCAR driver and sells a cool flip phone that looks like a Hot Wheels car and sounds like a revving car when you open it. Amp’d Mobile, true to its mission of sponsoring “emerging” sporting events (for lack of a better word), was all over the Monster Jam event in Denver. Wireless carriers are spending millions marketing themselves to fans.
Is this a smart way to attract and keep customers? It appears so. Wireless carriers have been savvy marketers for years, and whether it’s “American Idol” or NASCAR, reaching out to touch those customers is a good way to get your message across. The message is subtle: It’s not about the network, the pricing, the data options or the devices. It’s about the fan base. “Hey, we’re like you, NASCAR fan. We like the same things,” the carrier whispers. And when wireless carriers start to compete more like Coke vs. Pepsi or Budweiser vs. Miller-when the marketing message is more intangible-we can be assured network quality is a given and dropped calls a thing of the past.

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