A new sales approach is paying off for Roush Fenway Racing.

Moving beyond selling exposure on cars and an affiliation with drivers, the NASCAR team has taken a consultative approach to sponsorship by offering turnkey activation platforms that move the marketing needle.

And the strategy is gaining traction: RFR last week announced a three-race deal with Pillow Pets, a marketer of plush toys. The company will title Trevor Bayne’s No. 6 car at the May 25th History 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway followed by races in Indianapolis and Dover, Del.

While the deal is small in NASCAR standards, the partnership highlights the team’s new sales approach. Pillow Pets had not previously considered NASCAR and was skeptical if a sponsorship would work, said Steve Newmark, RFR president.

The team overcame those concerns by offering a handful of activation programs targeted at mothers, the company’s primary audience. 

Those platforms included access to military families. Pillow Pets will activate the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway by supporting the track’s Memorial Day activities. The company will distribute more than 2,000 toys to the families of military veterans who have recently returned home from active duty.

Pillow Pets also will sponsor a bus that will transport troops and their families to the race. The bus will take a parade lap around the track before dropping off the veterans at their seats.

“This partnership is indicative of the direction we’re going. We’re talking to companies who may not have been interested and showing them how they can achieve their marketing objectives,” said Newmark.

Reorganizes Marketing Operations
Roush Fenway Racing earlier this year restructured its marketing operations division to support the new sales strategy.

That includes the creation of the strategic marketing group, a team of employees charged with bridging the gap between RFR’s sales group and sponsor operations group, the latter of which manages the fulfillment of tickets, hospitality and other sponsorship deliverables.

The strategic marketing group serves as a de facto agency charged with developing activation programs for both current partners and new prospects, said Newmark.

“To help sponsors generate ROI, we need to offer turnkey activation programs based on a company’s specific marketing objectives.”

The group is managed by Kevin Thomas, vice president of strategic marketing and a former employee with GMR Marketing, an activation agency.

The strategic marketing group also has hired a dedicated staffer to develop and manage social media programs and behalf of the team and its sponsors.   

“When we looked at our strengths and weaknesses, one of our strengths is unlimited content. We need to do a better job educating partners how they can use content to advance their objectives.”

The strategic marketing group also is charged with helping sponsors cross-promote with assets outside of NASCAR. For example, United Parcel Service, Inc. earlier this month activated its RFR sponsorship with an event that featured driver Carl Edwards and pro golfer Lee Westwood.

The event brought the two athletes together under the theme of “driving,” with Edwards giving Westwood tips on driving a race car and Westwood offering advice on driving a golf ball. The event was held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway prior to the PGA Tour Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C.

RFR is exploring similar activation programs with Best Buy Co., Subway and other partners, said Newmark.

The motorsports team also helps partners implement programs.

“We recently talked about a quote in our management meeting from Thomas Edison: ‘Vision without execution is hallucination.’ It’s not sufficient to say ‘here are good ideas on how to use our assets.’ We have to help implement them.”