After getting its toe wet with Travis Pastrana’s On Pace with Pastrana webisode series, Roush Fenway Racing is making a bigger splash in the digital content waters.

Case in point: The NASCAR team has created a digital platform for The Walgreen Co. that does not include branding on any cars.

The partnership centers on Race Around America, a season-long digital campaign in which fans decide the outcome of a cross-country road trip by four RFR drivers.

The campaign resides on www.RaceAroundAmerica.com.

The focus on digital content stems in part from RFR’s strategic marketing group, a department the team created last year to develop turnkey activation programs for clients and prospects.

“The substantial broadcast exposure of our sport allows for great brand recognition and driver messaging. In addition to that, we are continuously developing our digital platforms to help our partners communicate their brand message and engage directly with consumer,” said Pete Thuresson, RFR senior vice president.

The Walgreens Race Around America program spans multiple team assets ranging from drivers to Roush Performance Products, Inc., an automotive aftermarket company owned by RFR founder and CEO Jack Roush.

The digital campaign features four drivers—NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Greg Biffle and Trevor Bayne and NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers Chris Buescher and Ryan Reed—who will pilot a Roush Ford Mustang between races over the course of the 10-month NASCAR season.

The drivers will upgrade the Mustang with Roush aftermarket parts (supercharger, suspension kit, etc.) over the course of the season, with the vehicle becoming a Roush Stage 3 Mustang by the end of the year.

The drug store chain will give the car to a lucky winner at the season-ending Ecoboost 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 16.

The program will feature six road trips throughout the season; the trips will be chronicled on eight webisodes on www.RaceAroundAmerica.com.

Consumers will play a critical role in the program. Fans will direct each webisode by voting on two questions: the route the driver will take from track to track and what upgrades they will pick for the Ford Mustang along the way.

“There will be something new to vote on each episode. We didn’t want to make it an infomercial--we wanted to create a race driven by fans,” said Zack Sugarman, vice president of social media & digital with Wasserman Media Group, which manages the Race Around America web site and the program’s social media push.  

Walgreens Uses Digital Platform To Promote New Prepaid Card
The Walgreen Co. is using Race Around America to promote the Balance Financial Prepaid Mastercard, a product it rolled out last year.  

The prepaid card is targeted at consumers without a traditional bank account or those who want an alternative to debit cards and checking accounts. Customers can reload the cards at more than 8,100 Walgreens and Duane Reade stores.

The Balance Financial card serves as the presenting sponsor of the Walgreens Race Around America program.

In addition to building awareness for Balance Financial, Walgreens is using Race Around America to incent card  transactions and reloads. Consumers earn automatic entries in the car giveaway promotion every time they reload or make a signature-based purchase with the card.

RFR in August 2013 approached the drug store chain about a partnership after learning about the national launch of the Balance Financial card.

While RFR initially broached the idea of a more traditional partnership, the team switched gears after learning more about the product and the drug store chain’s marketing needs. That included a marketing platform that supports Walgreen’s “At the Corner of Happy and Healthy” campaign.

Using the On Pace with Pastrana webisode series as inspiration, the team pitched the idea of a digital marketing platform. The Pastrana webisode series features short-form videos of the former RFR driver’s life outside of NASCAR. The series also integrates Red Bull, one of the driver’s sponsors.

“We said ‘Let’s look at a digital content series that ties in a family of drivers who go on a road trip to upgrade a Ford Mustang,” said Thuresson.

The drivers will host walks at motorsports tracks and participate in other activities that support Walgreen’s health and wellness positioning, he said.

Ryan Reed may participate in events with the American Diabetes Assn., the driver’s primary sponsor. The nonprofit sponsors the driver—who has type 1 diabetes—under the Drive to Stop Diabetes campaign.  

RFR is promoting the program through team and driver communication channels as well as the Roush Performance and Ford Racing communities. Walgreen is touting the campaign through Balance Financial kiosks and in-store collateral.  

To drive participation, Walgreens will track votes, conversations via the RaceAroundAmerica hashtag, Facebook likes and Balance Financial purchases and reloads to help drivers qualify for the Mustang upgrades.  

Consumers can watch the progress of the promotion via the “Roush-O-Meter” on the program’s web site.

“We have to have enough hashtags and votes to push the program from zero to achieve. It will keep fans engaged throughout the program,” said Sugarman.

While the Balance Financial card will gain exposure on Race Around America videos, the NASCAR team is taking care to balance the need for a commercial message with content that is relevant to fans.

“The BS meter is high with younger audiences. There needs to be a balance by giving them great content and not making it into a commercial,” said Thuresson.

RFR plans to create digital platforms for other clients, he said.  

“You can’t take one step on our race campus without seeing content opportunities. We build 250 race cars a year and we have Jack Roush’s hanger with World War II planes. We have content at our fingertips.”

John Schmidtke, The Walgreen Co.’s manager of loyalty marketing, spearheaded the partnership on behalf of the drug store chain.