In this age of technology overload, kids have a million different options where they can spend their free time. From Facebook to Farmville, the crowded market to get their attention leaves a new set of challenges for the sporting world.
How has NASCAR chosen to tackle it? Simple: the best way to keep kids’ (and their parents’) commitment towards racing is to ask other young adults how to do it. In the process, that sort of “first person fan feedback” can create something more organic, more long-lasting and ultimately more impactful to keep the sport one of the most popular in the nation.
That’s where the _NASCAR Kinetics: Marketing in Motion_ program comes in, built to hook and build upon the new, younger generation. First rolled out on a national scale in January 2009, the mission of this unique program is exposing and educating college students, throughout the country, to the NASCAR brand. Additionally, it provides the students with potential future opportunities within the motorsports industry: a real win-win situation for all the participants regardless of their ultimate career ambitions.
This enriching program provides college students with a hands-on learning experience from professionals in the world of motorsports. Students draw on lessons taught in the classroom to complete case studies and projects based on challenges and opportunities currently facing NASCAR, its official partners, tracks, and other relevant businesses operating in the industry.
“This really puts the students in the life of a NASCAR executive,” said Steve Sweeney, NASCAR’s Director of Consumer Marketing. “We try to engage as many students as possible. This is both fun and challenging.”
The key, of course is to get these kids thinking of new, exciting ideas to grow the sport, and the best part is they do it all on their own: no NASCAR influence or ideas required.
“We try not to get too involved because part of this program is seeing how creative they can be,” continued Sweeney. “We give them the space to be creative, so we try not to paint them [the participants] in a corner.”
_NASCAR Kinetics: Marketing in Motion_ is available each fall and spring semester and a maximum of five students are chosen from each participating school. This past semester 12 universities, the length and breadth of the country, took part in the program and that number is set to swell to 18 (and counting) for the next semester. Among the schools participating are Howard University, Florida, and Miami all coming together to push the program towards national recognition while enticing the best and brightest to join them.
The selected students work together, under the direction of one assigned leader, to produce a submission for each of three specific case studies. In this semester, those three were as follows:
*Case Study 1: Growth Energy Sponsorship Activation*
Students will be asked to deliver one creative idea for each marketing channel (at-track, retail, digital) to support the campaign launch for American Ethanol in NASCAR following the sport’s switch to Sunoco Green E15, a cleaner burning fuel made with an ethanol blend from American-grown corn.
*Case Study 2: NASCAR Nationwide Series Dash 4 Cash Program*
Students will be asked to deliver creative ideas that will support NASCAR Nationwide and Series Marketing in their efforts to now include a fan element in the Dash 4 Cash Program.
*Case Study 3: NASCAR Viewing Party with Presenting Partner M&M’S*
Choosing between the Martinsville (4/3) or Texas (4/9) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekends, students will be hosting a viewing party to promote the NASCAR and M&M’S brands.
The special projects will change, semester on semester. By way of an example, in the Fall 2010 students worked on idea generation for recycling scrap Goodyear Tires. Each participating school will be competing against each other for the grand prize of an all-expense paid trip to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race weekend in Charlotte in May: a fitting prize for a semester’s worth of hard work.
It’s not just a program that resonates with the participants. Scott Bukstein, the group advisor and adjunct instructor at UCF’s DeVos Sports Business Management Program (one of the participating schools) is fulsome in his praise for the initiative. “It is an outstanding program that allows our students to apply what we teach in the classroom to the challenges and opportunities they will face when they graduate,” said Bukstein. “It is an extremely creative and effective way to educate our students.”
But the last word should, of course, go to one of the students currently in the program. Gaylan Towle II is a sports marketing major and one of five students at Oklahoma State University enrolled in NASCAR Kinetics. “Being that I want to work in the sports industry after I graduate, a big part of that is getting experience,” said Towle. “We’re learning different marketing techniques, building on teamwork skills and being put into real, live situations. The experience we get with this [program] is completely invaluable.”
*Learn more by checking out current participating institutions in the program:*
Central Michigan University
Coastal Carolina University
East Tennessee State University
Indiana State University
Oklahoma State University
University of Central Florida
University of Florida
University of Miami
University of North Texas
Virginia State University
Winston-Salem State University
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