Sunday, February 25, 2007

No Such Thing as Bad Publicity

Teamwork is essential in the world of PR. It's especially important before a major event. For Toyota and driver Micheal Waltrip, the event is Toyota's debut in the Nextel Cup. Toyota was the first Japanese carmaker to compete regularly in NASCAR's top circuit. Participating in the Daytona 500, the kick-off race of the NASCAR Nextel Cup series and the “Great American Race,” was supposed to be their moment of glory. Instead they were scandalized on Wednesday when NASCAR announced that a performance-enhancing substance was found in their car, placed there by one of their own teammates.

Toyota had hopes of making major progress in the American car market by competing in the top American car race, but instead, the actions of one person ruined the respect for the team and cast aspersions on Toyota. In a sport where corporate sponsorship is essential, this major black mark on Waltrip's team's record creates an uncertain future. They have made strides over the past few days to recover lost trust by having all three remaining Micheal Waltrip Racing cars in the race. Waltrip also made sure to accept full responsibility when the news broke. "You can't be skeptical of Toyota," Waltrip said. "You just have to look straight at me."

NASCAR, on the other hand, is using the publicity to its advantage . In a sport where minor cheating is rampant, they are making an example of Waltrip's team and their major infraction. David Hyder, Waltrip's crew chief, and Bobby Kennedy, Waltrip's Director of Competition for Michael Waltrip Racing, were ejected from Daytona International Speedway and suspended indefinitely. Hyder was also fined $100,000 and fired. Michael Waltrip was docked 100 driver points and 100 owner points.

What does this all boil down to? NASCAR and the Nextel cup are reaching a wider audience than usual due to the coverage of the scandal. The grandstand seats were sold out at the Daytona 500, but TV viewership was down 10% from 2006. Waltrip finished in 30th place out of 43. Was all the stress and heartache worth it for the publicity? Is there really no such thing as bad publicity?



http://www.nascar.com/2007/news/opinion/02/16/dcaraviello.cheating.scandal/index.html

http://www.latimes.com/sports/motorracing/wire/sns-ap-car-nascar-toyota,1,6808207.story?coll=sns-ap-racing-headlines

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/racing/s_490641.html

50 comments:

bgs_gator said...

Like it or not, NASCAR has moved north of the Mason-Dixon line and across the nation. The Waltrip scandal, followed by the controversial ending of the race itself, gained the sport widespread media coverage.

In December 2005, ABC signed a deal with NASCAR for $4.48 billion over eight years. NASCAR recently signed a deal with Sirius Radio, and it is introducing new technology that will revolutionize race coverage. Check out this USA Today article from March 1.

Allie said...

NASCAR has a good PR team whomever they are. I do think that they did a good job with the Nextel cup, however, I don't know that they reached a broad audience in a good way. Basketball has become the less prestigues out of the three sport powerhouse (football, baseball and basketball) because of negative publicity of individual athletes. I hope this doesn't happen with NASCAR. Because NASCAR is growing at such a rapid pace, I can see where it would be easy for negative publicity to shape a budding image.

Thanks for the insight!

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