The Off-Season Race to Daytona: The Clock Is Ticking

As the NASCAR season has come to an end and teams head into the off-season, fans may think that racing is over as they search to fill their Sunday afternoons. However, another race is being run, the race to Daytona. This particular race does not happen on a track. This race is run in the offices and boardrooms at Richard Childress Racing.

Walking the hallway of the RCR partnership marketing office, the clamor of phone calls and the discussion of designs and plans for the future are never-ending. Collaboration with partners over the phone, in video conference and through email is ongoing as the surge of off-season work is underway.

Hauler Tour
CMO Ben Schlosser  guides corporate partners on a tour of the No. 3 transporter at Daytona International Speedway.

If you were to glance at a desk of a partnership marketing team member from a distance it might look a little chaotic. Artwork proofs and schedules are piled upon planners and calendars. Folders are abundant with proofs of trading cards, die-cast, firesuit and other items awaiting approval. Merchandise proofs are stacked in the corner of the offices. Sheet metal can be found with other apparel items awaiting a signature from your favorite RCR driver.

Though it may seem cluttered you can rest assured it is anything but. The RCR marketing team works with over 40 corporate partners across nine teams, each with different goals and objectives. The amount of collaboration and design that goes into one team’s program is truly monumental.

The RCR partnership marketing team is led by Chief Marketing Officer Ben Schlosser, who directs his army of professionals to success in the board room as well as at the track.

“Everyone has a job to do as the clock ticks on to Daytona. We are as busy now as any part of the season but the teamwork and collaboration of our front office ensures we are ready to race come February,” said Schlosser. “At RCR we all pitch in and do what needs to be done for our partners, race teams, media and the NASCAR ecosystem.”

Make no mistake, the off-season started long ago for these detail-oriented professionals. The die-cast cars that so many fans look forward to have been in the design and approval process since as early as August 2016.

“The common joke of ‘Christmas in July,’ is truly an accurate statement,” said Katey Honan, partnership marketing manager. “We are typically six months out on approvals.”

As one can imagine, it takes a lot more work to bring these miniature replicas to a display cabinet near you. First, collaboration with the primary sponsor will dictate and shape the first design. The paper layouts are then a tweaking process, involving everything from number and trim color to graphic designs as significant as the main paint scheme layout. The attention to detail and the back-and-forth process will continue until all parties approve the final design. Everything that makes its way to Daytona runs through an approval process. From the smallest of trading cards to the NASCAR haulers that bring the cars, tools and parts to the track.

RCR Graphics Wrap the No. 3 Hauler
The RCR Graphics team installs the new wrap on the No. 3 transporter for the 2017 season. Each hauler consist of 36 – 40 vinyl panels that are 15 ft tall.

The RCR graphics department is by extension the right hand of the partnership marketing department. They field requests for designs and help partners envision the look of their racing program. The graphic designers produce over 500 designs and wraps each season.

The RCR Graphics Center has dedicated graphic artists who create everything needed at the track. They routinely design and produce paint schemes, pit wall banners, hauler designs, as well as hero cards and apparel. The design powerhouse features two full-time artists, two full-time production specialists and three full-time installers. Every aspect of a race team is branded and designed in NASCAR, and the graphics department plays an integral role in the race to Daytona.

The job of a marketing professional is more than just perfecting how things look at the racetrack. They spend a majority of their time defining what a corporate partner plans to accomplish with their racing program. They develop a strategy for each partner based on what markets or locations will benefit them throughout a season.

“Yes we design race cars and uniforms and that is the creative part that is forward facing, but the programs and strategic elements are of utmost importance and that process is never-ending,” said Schlosser. “We are constantly working to deliver value to our current partners, and find new revenue for the race teams.”

At RCR, the marketing team works to integrate the partner’s company and race program with RCR and its other partners. They then go to work to bring that to life each weekend of the season through at-track activation.

“Each partner is different, it isn’t a one size fits all approach,” said Ashley McCluney, senior manager of partnership marketing. “I work with nine partners, so we have nine individualized plans or strategies.”

Ryan Newman with Grainger Guest
Meet and greets allow partners a behind-the-scenes look during the race weekend. Ryan Newman poses for a photo with guest from Grainger at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July 2016.

To say that scheduling is a big part of partnership marketing’s function at RCR would be an understatement.

These professionals work on schedules for driver appearances, firesuits, team apparel, production shoots, as well as contract meetings and program deadlines. They work closely with partners and communications managers to execute these tasks, meet deadlines and ensure the program goes off without a hitch. Every aspect of a racing program is well planned and thought out months before the team heads to the track.

It may seem like there is a downtime or off-season in NASCAR, however there is a plethora of moving parts behind the scenes. The RCR partnership marketing department is busy running a race of its own to produce and implement programs that hundreds of fans will enjoy as the haulers arrive in Daytona for the season opener.

Through a mantra of teamwork and passion the unsung heroes of NASCAR are quietly working behind the scenes.