As part of the NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Cola campaign, driver Denny Hamlin interviews Jolynn Lee, AFI Marine Spouse of the Year. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR.)
Attend a NASCAR race and you’d be hard-pressed to not find a service member in attendance watching 40 of the world’s best drivers wheel a 3,300-pound stock car around the track.
Thanks to NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Cola, NASCAR and The Coca-Cola Company — two longtime partners — have collaborated to honor our nation’s military members and their spouses.
The NASCAR Salutes initiative began in 2012 and Coca-Cola, which has had a relationship with NASCAR for over 50 years and became an official sponsor in 1998, stepped in to sponsor the initiative just two years ago.
“I think there are two things that hit home for us with this campaign,” said Quinton Martin, Vice President of Community Marketing for Coca-Cola. “In the partnership with NASCAR, we both have a loyal fan base. The people who attend NASCAR races are core consumers of Coca-Cola. A passion point for both audiences is the military. We’ve had a relationship with the military through the USO (United Service Organizations) for over 70 years. We have an authentic voice in that space.”
Coca-Cola, which extended its partnership with NASCAR in January, utilized its marketing tools by bringing the Coca-Cola Kitchen to the racetrack as part of NASCAR Salutes.
The kitchen was present during the first week of the seven-week initiative at the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. At the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway in July, Coca-Cola and Daytona are hosting a military appreciation hospitality area for military members.
“With the Coca-Cola Kitchen, we were looking for another way to do something special for the service members who were attending the race,” Martin said. “At the Coca-Cola 600 in May, we partnered with some of the top military chefs. The chefs came to the track, and we wanted to figure out how we could have positive engagement and show the service members at the track an enjoyable time. By using the kitchen as a way to host military members at races, we’ve been able to add a unique element to the initiative.”
And of course, the Coca-Cola Racing Family of drivers — Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez, Kyle Larson and Ryan Newman — cannot be forgotten.
Over the course of the initiative, the Coca-Cola Racing Family drivers are helping to tell the stories of military spouses in partnership with the USO’s Salute to Spouses Campaign. The drivers interview a military spouse, and their story is shared on NASCAR.com and across social media.
Additionally, both Coca-Cola and NASCAR will make a donation on behalf of the spouse to the USO. The donation helps support different efforts that have a positive impact on military families.
“Coca-Cola has partnered with the USO for a long time, and we want to have tangible ways that people can relate to what we’re doing,” Martin said. “In this case, we’re trying it in with the USO’s Salute to Spouses program.”
While servicemen and women and their families are the key targets of the idea, NASCAR has seen its fans become passionate about it too.
“What we do with Coca-Cola to honor the military is a natural fit,” said Pete Jung, Vice President of Brand Marketing for NASCAR. “Our fans take pride in the fact that the sport as a whole tends to be patriotic and honors the military more than any other sport. Ninety-five percent of fans agree that NASCAR is more patriotic than other sports. NASCAR fans like to see that we support the military and be part of the conversation.”
Unique to the initiative this year is the fact that each of NASCAR’s three major series (the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series) have different activations planned.
In May, the Monster Energy Series drivers honored fallen soldiers at the Coca-Cola 600 by replacing the traditional Monster Energy windshield banner with the name of a fallen soldier for “600 Miles of Remembrance.”
“What we’ve wanted to do is have activations special to each series that are unique,” Jung said. “This is the first year where we’ve been able to do that.”
On June 29, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, along with Chicagoland Speedway and race entitlement sponsor Overton’s, will honor the families of active, fallen and retired military members with a VIP experience for the service members and their families.
The following week at Daytona International Speedway, the NASCAR Xfinity Series cars will adorn the names of active military installments and branches on the windshield banner in lieu of its traditional Xfinity branding.
“With each of these activations, we’re taking a different angle with who we’re recognizing, but they truly work well together,” mentioned Jung. “Our activation at Daytona with the Xfinity Series is similar to 600 Miles of Remembrance. We’re hosting representatives from different units, and it’s a great way to encourage conversation about the sport and teams and drivers and their engagement.”
As the two partners continue to grow the initiative, the goals for both Coca-Cola and NASCAR are the same: reach a broader audience.
Jung put it best, saying, “We want to get the conversation outside the NASCAR ecosystem. As the partnership grows, there will be more chances for service members and their families to experience both the on-track racing and just how close-knit the NASCAR community is. I think the service members are overwhelmed at the number of people who stop and thank them and shake their hands at-track. It’s a natural fit with us and Coca-Cola. It’s a true testament to our partnership and will certainly grow in the years to come.”