Coca-Cola’s relationship with NASCAR dates back to the Seventies, when it began sponsoring Hall of Famer Bobby Allison and various races. The soda brand has maintained naming rights to the World 600 race since 1985, and formalized its relationship with the association in 1998, when it became the official soft drink of NASCAR.
That yr also saw the launch of the Coca-Cola Racing Family, a roster of top drivers sponsored by the brand that has included everyone from Dale Earnhardt Sr. to Danica Patrick. To have fun the twenty fifth anniversary of the racing family, Coke reunited a handful of veterans for a “Legends” content series that might give the brand a possibility to distinguish its social content from its traditional marketing pathways on broadcast and in retail.
“When we thought of what’s the best solution to do that, it was easy,” said Al Rondon, senior marketing manager of sports and entertainment at Coca-Cola. “Put a mic in front of them, bring them together and allow them to tell their story.”
The result’s a conversational content series that features Kyle Petty, Dale Jarrett, Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte and focuses on their legacies, their relationships with Coca-Cola and more light-hearted topics, like the primary query they receive: “What do you do while you gotta pee in the race automotive?”
So far, the six-episode series (the final episode premieres today) has garnered greater than 15 million views and an engagement rate of roughly 12%, outpacing an industry benchmark of three to 5 percent, based on Amy Creech, vice chairman of 160over90. The creative agency has been a long-running part of the Coke-NASCAR partnership — a relationship Creech jokes is longer than some marriages, an element that has contributed to the program’s success.
“Honestly, we see this more as a family amongst ourselves. I do know that sounds slightly corny, however it elevates the work and makes it higher because there is a high level of trust and partnership that we have built over a fantastic amount of time,” she said.
Celebrating legacy through nostalgia
The partnership is a singular one in sports marketing. While major brands have looked to latch on to the popularity of leagues like the NFL and NBA and their biggest stars, Coca-Cola’s enduring work with NASCAR — the twenty fifth anniversary of the racing family coincides with NASCAR’s seventy fifth anniversary — helped to bring attention to the racing association.
“While we’d never say that, it was interesting, because in the content series, you hear [the drivers] say, ‘When Coke got here on board, the things that they were doing, helped legitimize the sport and convey it to a recent level,'” Rondon said.
To have fun that legacy, Coke and 160over90 keyed in on legendary drivers — some of which were part of the first racing family back in 1998 — who’ve enduring popularity and relevancy not only with NASCAR fans but with the brand’s current generation of drivers. The brand has utilized the legends as part of internal and external experiential activations, like having them function grand marshals for the Coca-Cola 600 or making appearances at bottling plants.
The content series began as part of a weekly conversation between brand and agency and developed from there. The drivers signed on almost immediately, after which gathered as the agency captured video, hours of raw content that were edited down into minute-long segments built for social media, where the clips have been well received.
“We received a lot positive commenting on our social channels about bringing these original family members back,” Creech said. “We all really underestimated how people really do crave nostalgia, and the way it is so comforting to recollect the past.”
Coke isn’t any stranger to leaning into nostalgia, especially for and around its iconic brand, and the “Legends” content series comes as marketers writ large — from McDonald’s to the Gap — have embraced nostalgia to have interaction with consumers who’ve faced a gradual stream of bad news and crises over the previous couple of years. For the content series specifically, nostalgia takes on a fair deeper meaning in a sport where family legacies still matter: the yr’s hottest driver, Chase Elliott, is the son of Bill Elliott, one of the original members of the Coca-Cola Racing Family.
“You take into consideration that story of father and son — the first time we have had that as part of the [racing] family — and to know the way necessary that was for the Elliott family to have that connection,” Rondon said. “That was really one of those special moments for the program.”
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