Racing has a long, checkered history with advertising.
Even if you’ve never been to a race, you know the cars are all festooned with names and logos like ornaments on a Christmas tree. Same with the drivers. Not to mention every possible surface in the vicinity of the track.
I went to the Long Beach Grand Prix last weekend for the first time in many years. It really hasn’t changed much, except for the prices. Friday was “free pass” day, perfect for a tightwad like me, but that only gets you in the door.
(Note to self: check the date on the free pass before bringing it to the ticket window.)
Naturally, race sponsors pay big money for exclusive rights to advertise in their category at mega events with captive audiences. The cumulative crowd for a weekend at the LB Grand Prix regularly reaches or exceeds 200,000 people.
It soon became apparent that if you wanted a beer at The Long Beach Grand Prix, your choices were Tecate and Tecate Light. If you wanted a soda, it was Coke or Coke Zero. Fortunately the food choices were slightly more varied.
Tecate owned the track.
Tecate had giant inflatable beer cans and banners outside. Just inside the entrance, hot Tecate beer babes greeted each adult of drinking age with a New Orleans-style Tecate necklace. Other Tecate people riding branded Segways handed out little business-card sized ads (not a discount or coupon). Banners surrounded the track circuit.
Then there were the beer concession stands. Tecate had set up Tex-Mex cantina-style stands with arches and Spanish tiles. A Playa Tecate faux beach area with a palapa facade and Adirondack chairs. A Tecate Sports Bar offered traditional bar stools and pool tables. All were temporary structures, set up just for the Grand Prix.
But $9.75 for a beer? Even an import? (Mexican, if you couldn’t tell.) It’s the same at any major sporting event or concert. If you’re thirsty enough to buy the sponsor’s beer, get used to paying more than the price of a six-pack for a single drink. I just wasn’t that desperate for a drink.
The cheapest thing on any menu was probably at King Taco, where you could find chicken, beef or pork “street tacos” for $1.75 each. Granted, they’re small tacos. (In case you’re wondering: I got lots of tacos. With hot sauce. And a $3 water. I didn’t get a beer. Stay thirsty, my friend.)
Meanwhile, inside the convention center, Cholula Hot Sauce was causing quite a stir at their booth among all the automotive exhibitors. People lined up on one side of the Cholula to pick up a free sampler of tortilla chips on which you could pour some lime hot sauce. Follow the queue around to the other side of the booth and you got a free bottle of Cholula!
I hear back in the seventies, the LBGP was BYOB. Must’ve been quite a picnic back then.
Cost = clutter.
Big ticket events require big sponsors just to function. While prices have increased over the years, has the amount advertising really gone up that much? Technical innovations aside, the ads have always been big and in everyone’s face at these things. And after a while it becomes just so much wallpaper. Sure, you can’t help but notice the Target logo on that race car. But does it really make you want to shop there any more than you do already?
Step back and look at it from the perspective of the advertiser. Without knowing sales figures or event attendance numbers, what’s your guess: do you think Tecate got (or is getting) their money’s worth by sponsoring the Grand Prix?
I would love to hear from anyone at Tecate, Cholula, King Taco, Toyota, or any other Grand Prix sponsor who could share any type of ROI reporting.
I’m doing my own humble part to further the event’s advertising reach with this post.
What do you think? Do the ads ever bug you at these kinds of events? Maybe you enjoy it all. What about the prices?