NASCAR, Nextel CEOs discuss marketing strategy

CEOs representing NASCAR and Sprint-Nextel discussed how to market the fastest growing sport in America for a Public Broadcasting Station series Tuesday.

“Capturing the Checkered Flag” is the sixth installment in PBS series “CEO Exchange.” The event, which attracted more than 200 people, took place in the Marvin Center’s Betts Theater.

On a set ornamented with a dozen flat-paneled televisions, moderator and CNN senior political analyst Jeff Greenfield interviewed NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and President and CEO of Sprint-Nextel Corporation Gary D. Forsee. Greenfield also rewarded knowledge of NASCAR trivia with duffle bags and T-shirts for audience members.

Between frequent breaks to run prerecorded footage, to re-shoot scenes, and to address technical problems, the CEOs took questions from the audience, most of which were directed at France. Many topics discussed during the event surrounded NASCAR’s efforts to expand their audience base.

One audience member commended France on his decision to allow Toyota to race the first foreign cars in American professional auto-racing and for the recent presence of black and Hispanic drivers and pit crews in a predominately white sport like racing.

A 10-year, $700 million marketing contract between Nextel and NASCAR represents a larger phenomenon which France calls the “marriage of the Fortune 500 with the Daytona 500.” The second most-watched sport in America is a huge and growing market for corporate advertisers, netting more than Major League Baseball and National Football League combined, France said.

“Listening to two leaders of prominent companies is good to learn how to position yourself as a leader,” said Steven M. Matuszewski, an agent with the New York Life insurance company, in an interview before the lecture. Others listed networking and an interest in high-level marketing as reasons for attending.

Scott Lowenstein, a sophomore in the Business School eagerly said that Betts Theater was the “place to be if you want to be a CEO.”

The Society for Human Resource Management funded the taping and is now in its second year of exclusive sponsorship of “CEO Exchange.”

In an interview with The Hatchet, Nancy White, SHRM manager of Public Affairs, called the event an “opportunity to reach out to local media, companies and students” and share its mission of “ensuring that (human resource) is recognized as an essential partner in developing and executing organizational strategy.”

Sue Messenger, President and CEO of SHRM and GW alum, briefly introduced her organization to the audience before the talk began. PBS has not yet announced when the show will be broadcast in D.C.

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