CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Nascar is sprinting into cinema ads, and it is bringing its sponsors along for the ride.
The auto-racing behemoth has cut a three-year deal with cinema-ad network Screenvision to bring original branded content to 15,000 movie screens, the league's first play in a fast-growing format that has spotlighted the sport in movies such as "Talladega Nights" and "Days of Thunder."
The deal calls for Nascar to create 90-second pieces that could consist of race highlights, behind-the-scenes pieces and driver profiles at the behest of its sponsors. It could build a segment, for instance, around drivers backed by Coca-Cola-owned brands.
That added value for sponsors could be a useful sweetener at a time when some high-profile Nascar backers such as Jim Beam and Jack Daniel's have been walking away from the sport amid declining TV revenue and track attendance.
Jim O'Connell, Nascar's VP-corporate marketing, said the league was interested in the deal for three reasons: It wanted to expose the sport to new fans, it wanted additional benefits for its corporate partners and it wanted a new platform to help those partners activate against the sport.
Screenvision's 45 million monthly theatergoers, of course, are an attractive way to check all three boxes. "This is a great fit," Mr. O'Connell said. "Few things are going to look better on a 40-foot screen than Nascar racing."
Not a bad deal, considering Nascar didn't pay for the privilege beyond creating content and providing use of their logos.
So what's in it for Screenvision?
The theater network gets original, exclusive long-form content, something it had been seeking to spruce up its "pre-show" in order to improve engagement for the rest of its paying advertisers. And its member theaters get the use of Nascar's logos, which Screenvision's network of exhibitors can utilize in lobby promotions such as banners and drinking cups and popcorn bags.
Cinema advertising has been growing in recent years, driven by strong box-office trends and the struggles of traditional media in a digital world, where a captive audience that can't time-shift or block its way around viewing ads is a valuable commodity. According to the Cinema Advertising Council, cinema ad revenue climbed 5.7% in 2008.
"The No. 1 goal for us is that this is entertaining to our audience," said Screenvision Exec VP Mike Chico. "And there is a lift associated with Nascar's brand and marks that our exhibitors can take advantage of."
Mr. Chico said this would be the largest content deal ever for Screenvision, which has done large-scale theater deals with the likes of Verizon and MTV. The company made news earlier this year when it unveiled the first 3-D theater campaign for Skittles.