ESPN TO SELL SPONSOR SLOTS FOR NASCAR: CABLE NET SEEKS 5 BACKERS FOR WINSTON SERIES

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For the first time, a U.S. TV network will be selling a major auto-racing organization's car sponsorships.

ESPN and Nascar are revamping the Winston Racing Series, and the cable network will sell a total of five multimedia sponsorships -- to one presenting sponsor and four associates -- in which logos from those companies would appear on all 10,000 cars that participate in the 2,200 races run from March through September.

In November, ESPN will televise seven to 10 races under the banner "ESPN/Nascar Champions Week," in which regional winners will be pitted against one another. A location is yet to be determined.

"We are dubbing it the `Woodstock of Auto Racing,' " said Paul Slagle, VP-integrated marketing for ESPN.

Mr. Slagle said it's the first time any network has sold advertising placements on race cars.

`TREMENDOUS OPPORTUNITY'

Many tracks in the Winston Racing Series are humble operations -- some paved, some dirt. They are in 100 small markets in 38 states, including Eureka, Calif.; Minersville, Pa.; Stafford Springs, Conn.; Twin Falls, Idaho; and Waco, Texas.

"It's a tremendous opportunity to get down to the grass-roots level," Mr. Slagle said. "This is the leading form of entertainment in these towns."

Nascar's bigger race circuits, including its top-drawer Winston Cup Series, are where many millions of dollars are spent on sponsorships of established individual car owners. The smaller Winston Racing Series was started about 10 years ago to help support smaller, local races.

Now Nascar wants to heighten the awareness of this lesser-known brand.

Last year, ESPN produced its first integrated marketing campaign for the stock car organization's 50th anniversary, in which the cable network produced special programming and sold TV ad time, Internet advertising and other media.

In addition to the car sponsorships, ESPN will be packaging crash-wall signage, hospitality elements, promotional opportunities and TV advertising.

AFFORDABLE PACKAGE

Mr. Slagle said the total package will be affordable for a lower-tier advertiser that previously couldn't afford to be involved with Nascar.

All sponsors' logos or identifications for the Winston Racing Series will be shown on each quarter panel of cars that race during the season. Sponsors will get Internet presence on both Nascar and ESPN sites, as well as print exposure

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