CART CRANKS UP 1ST TV ADS TO EMPHASIZE BRANDING: RACING GROUP PLANS TO REFINE POSITIONING FOR LATER IN YEAR

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Championship Auto Racing Teams graduates to the major leagues of sports marketing this week by launching its first-ever TV ad effort, part of an integrated marketing push promoting the CART brand.

The program is being implemented by a team of newly hired marketing executives, led by Carl Cohen, formerly director of marketing at Ryder Systems, who began last week as exec VP-series marketing.

"CART has been racing for about 20 years," said Mr. Cohen, "but quite frankly we're an infant when it comes to this kind of marketing."

NOT PROMPTED BY INDY LEAGUE

Mr. Cohen stressed that the marketing push is not a response to the Indy Racing League, an upstart rival launched last year by CART dissident Tony George, who owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and controls the Indy 500.

"Clearly there's a need for us to brand our sport," said Mr. Cohen. "But we would need to do this regardless of competition if we are to grow our sport."

The tagline-"CART: The fast-est drivers in the world"-could be interpreted as a claim of superiority for CART, as most of the sport's prominent drivers remain loyal to CART.

Two spots begin with the words "Speed thrills," then rattle off various notable CART drivers against an audio track of racing sounds. They will air on ABC affiliates and sports cable networks.

Print also is being used.

Balet & Albert, New York, created the ads and is buying media, but isn't CART's agency of record.

ADJUSTING BRAND POSITIONING

CART is casting the advertising as a test that will inform a more finessed brand positioning to be introduced later this year.

The advertising also serves to promote the Motorola 300 in St. Louis, to be broadcast on ABC May 24, the day before the rival Indy 500. CART hopes the ads will help spark viewership, as ratings for the first five broadcasts of CART's current season are down from last year.

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