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NASCAR, 3M And The Great Race Of Marketing

There has always been a carnival atmosphere at a NASCARevent. Hundreds of thousands of people, food, drink, more drink, and all that noise. Throw in 36 or so hard charging cars and the resultant thrills and spills and what do you have? A sales opportunity.

NASCAR has always been about 'the sell'. From the sponsorship logos on the cars to the suits the drivers wear .There is a great 'armpit' TV spot right now with Tony Stewart that makes fun of just that aspect of motor racing. But with tens of millions of dollars invested in the sport by some of the biggest companies in America, guess what? They've finally figured out a way to REALLY leverage all that cash.

3M has figured it out better than most. Not only sponsoring a car, and race, the rain delayed Michigan event, but by also using the venue to promote and launch targeted product. The old adage of 'win on Sunday, sell on Monday' has long been gone relative to sales of the actual makes and models of the cars. But, when you have a couple of hundred thousand consumers at a race predestined to be interested in your product, why not show it to them? Show them how to use it. Make an honest to goodness sales pitch, not just a free hand out of toothpaste or some such thing.

That's what 3M did at MIS in Brooklyn (there is a Brooklyn in Michigan) over the weekend. Set up a true sales 'event', complete with demos on how to use it's new car care line. 3M it turns out has been in the automotive business for as long as there have been cars. Early assembly lines used it's abrasives and adhesives. They've been in collision shops and in racing for decades. So why get into consumer goods? 36 billion dollars is a very good reason. That's the size of the consumer car care and aftermarket. 3M wants a chunk of that and with 70 million 'core' do-it-yourself car enthusiasts out there, many of them NASCAR fans, it's a very deep pool.

In fact, not only have the sponsors smartened up on how to use their money, but the race team owners have figured out that if they go to sponsors with a plan, show them how to get more bang for their buck, they'll spend more, or at least, won't spend less. Jack Roush of Roush Fenway Racing told me his team considers figuring out how to help sponsors get added value as important as turning a fast lap on qualification day.

After all, no money, no car, and then who cares about qualifying? Pass the car wax.

'Mike On America' is in the heart of NASCAR land--Concord, N.C...we'll be here for the next few days. Varooooooooooooom!

Questions? Comments? mikeonamerica@nbcuni.com