Earnhardt Jr.’s selfie underscores NASCAR’s new promotional tack

The photo on Twitter captures key elements of NASCAR’s marketing strategy — Dale Earnhardt Jr. snapping a selfie in front of a statue of his famous stock car-racing daddy at the legendary Daytona International Speedway, home of the Daytona 500.

The photo exemplified the convergence of NASCAR’s emphasis this season on social media to promote its brand, especially to capture coveted young fans, while showcasing a promotion set for Father’s Day on June 15.

To get its more than 50 category sponsors on the same page with the sport’s legacy theme and brief them about the Father’s Day marketing hook, NASCAR showed the tweeted photo of “Junior” on Friday morning to its company sponsor representatives during NASCAR’s quarterly “Fuel for Business” networking session at the Cosmopolitan.

The sponsors, from 3M, Sprint and Goodyear to new ones such as Sherwin-Williams, HP and Flowmaster, are in Las Vegas for NASCAR weekend, which features the Nationwide series Boyd Gaming 300 on Saturday and the Sprint Cup series Kobalt 400 on Sunday.

No other major sport is built on father-son generational stars like NASCAR. The last names of the fathers and sons are stock car royalty — the Earnhardts, the Pettys and the Jarretts. There’s also the France family, which built NASCAR from a niche sport based in the North Carolina hills to a national multibillion-dollar powerhouse.

For Earnhardt Jr., the photo on Twitter was especially significant from a business perspective because Junior followed through on his promise of creating a Twitter handle if he won the Daytona 500. Race won. Twitter account, @DaleJr, launched. It had 579,000 followers as of Friday afternoon.

“With social media interest, it made sense. Father’s Day is a natural fit for us,” said Norris Scott, NASCAR vice president of sponsorship marketing. “This gives a platform for the sponsors. It allows them to join in.”

Besides tracking TV ratings and race attendance, NASCAR pays close attention to social media metrics to measure growth.

For example, for the 15 minutes following Earnhardt Jr.’s Daytona 500 win on Feb. 23, six of the top ten trending topics on Twitter were race-related. NASCAR also said that, according to Twitter, there were more than 380,000 mentions of Earnhardt Jr. through Wednesday after he won the circuit’s opening race.

In addition, there were more than 70,000 mentions of #DaleJr after he won the race, plus more than 82,000 mentions of #2XDaytona500champ.

At the Daytona 500 race, NASCAR also deployed a social media strategy well-known to Twitter-savvy teen-agers — invite a whole bunch of folks together and get them to collectively send out tweets on behalf of your brand. Case in point: NASCAR had 30 celebrities with a combined 18 million Twitter followers at the Daytona 500 firing off tweets.

NASCAR wants its many sponsors to use social media to pump up the Father’s Day promotion.

“We want you guys to be photojournalists,” Matt Shulman, NASCAR managing director of marketing platforms, advised the sponsors.

NASCAR’s sponsors were treated to several videos, including one made up of scenes from Las Vegas-theme movies. The aims were to drive sponsorship return-on-investments, shorten sales cycles and build market relationships.

“Let’s make some deals,” the video ended.

Contact reporter Alan Snel at asnel@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @BicycleManSnel on Twitter.