Why NASCAR is Turning to VaynerMedia to Help its Drivers Build Their Digital Brands

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Mickey Cloud, SVP and head of VaynerMedia’s Chattanooga office (on the left) and Rob Mickinney, Director, Driver & Series Marketing at NASCAR (on the right) chatting before the Homestead-Miami 2017 Championship in November. (Photo via VaynerMedia)

When it comes to building brands, no one might know how to do that better than entrepreneur and CEO of VaynerMedia, Gary Vaynerchuk.  

Now, NASCAR is tapping the company that bears his namesake to help their drivers capitalize on a digital landscape that is turning famous YouTubers into millionaires and every mom with a food blog and a few thousand Instagram followers into a Betty Crocker brand endorser.

Although VaynerMedia went through the standard RFP process with NASCAR, their experience working with Anheuser-Busch on NASCAR related deliverables gave the association even more belief in what the agency could bring to the table.

“We were interested in bringing in a fresh set of eyes to look under the hood and help us see things maybe we weren’t seeing. Sometimes brands like ours need a different perspective to help us understand what we’re doing well, and where we should perhaps make some tweaks to our approach,” said Patrick Rogers, Managing Director of Driver Marketing for NASCAR. “VaynerMedia had a great feel for what we’re looking to accomplish and introduced some really creative ideas on how we can dial in our strategy. Plus, they have experience with our sport having done incredible work with Anheuser-Busch.”

“It’s important that we increase the visibility of our young stars. They are the future of the sport and they’re going to be highly successful, so let’s not wait until they’re winning consistently. Let’s build that visibility and their personal brands now, so that when they start winning more often on Sundays, people know who they are and already have a connection.” – Patrick Rogers, Managing Director of Driver Marketing for NASCAR

At the start of the 2018 NASCAR season, pundits were worried about the popularity of the sport given the fact that some of its most visible stars had either retired or were planning on it. For NASCAR, the influx of youth talent on the track provided the association with a unique opportunity to capitalize on the digital native drivers and the millions of engaged followers many of them already have.  

Unlike NBA, NHL, and even MLB players, NASCAR drivers are most visible on the track only once a week. Being able to leverage all the other time that the drivers are doing something, whether it’s traveling, being at practice, or even just hanging out became a massive potential opportunity for not only NASCAR as an association, but for its drivers, and its brands.  

It was this opportunity that turned into one of the driving forces behind the investment in bringing on VaynerMedia.

“It’s really about all three. Drivers represent the face of NASCAR as well our biggest asset in terms of cultivating new fans,” said Rogers. “If we can create even more meaningful connections between drivers and fans, it not only elevates the drivers’ profiles, it generates added value for the brands their associated with and the sport as a whole. A high tide raises all ships.”

On the VaynerMedia side, the company saw the opportunity with NASCAR to integrate not only the media side of the business, but the talent side too, while building out a program that reached every aspect of the association.

At VaynerMedia, we have best-in-class strategy, research, creative and media services that could help NASCAR frame up the opportunity,” said Mickey Cloud, SVP and Head of VaynerMedia’s Chattanooga, TN office. Those core strategic offerings, combined with VaynerTalent’s experience in helping high performing people develop social & digital content, own their narrative, build an engaged following online, and leverage that digital presence for whatever business objective they may have, became the heart of our pitch.”

The talent aspect might be the biggest advantage NASCAR now has for its drivers as they will be able to leverage the skills and people that VaynerTalent employs to help grow the social followings of the more established drivers, while also providing drivers with smaller followings the tools to build awareness and equity around their personal passions and stories. For Lindsay Blum, VP of VaynerTalent, this is where the drivers will get the most value out of the partnership.

“This is about reverse engineering success for each driver,” said Blum. “For those drivers who already have a passionate social community, we will provide the tools and tactics to accelerate engagement, growth and brand affinity.”

When it comes to the drivers and how they will help them, no stone will go unturned for Blum and her team.

“We will not only help less known drivers build awareness and equity around their passions, stories, and skills in a way that elevates the demand and size of future business opportunities for both themselves and their teams, we will help all drivers maximize existing opportunities like PR appearances, events and partnerships by documenting and amplifying their experiences throughout.”

“Something new and different is truly happening at NASCAR right now, they see an opportunity to leverage content as a vehicle to open doors and opportunities. It’s a mindset shift across the entire ecosystem that is signaling that they are now marketing at the speed of culture.”- Mickey Cloud, SVP and head of VaynerMedia’s Chattanooga, TN office

As for goals, the two entities have one thing in mind: Grow the popularity of the sport by elevating the profile and personalities of the drivers.

“Our collective goals are to grow the popularity of the sport, especially with new fans and broader audiences,” said Cloud. “VaynerMedia will be building a program that supports the entire NASCAR ecosystem: drivers, teams, tracks, anyone who shows the willingness to participate.”

Rogers echoed Cloud saying, “Elevating the profile of drivers and personalities throughout the industry is a key part of our overall marketing strategy. We want to give fans a true sense of what really makes our drivers tick by peeling back layers of the fire suit, so you begin to really understand what drivers are like, on and off the track.”

Whether it is through unique storytelling, a cohesive brand approach, or leveraging the talents VaynerMedia brings to the table, it is clear that this partnership is a win for everyone from the drivers to the brands and NASCAR itself.