INDY-PENDENT PROMOTIONS MAJOR MARKETERS LATCH ONTO BIG RACE WITH SPONSOR DEALS

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Indianapolis 500 sponsors are revving up to promote the annual Memorial Day race.

Some of the biggest engines in U.S. marketing have paid multimillion-dollar fees to get on the starting line, and they have souped-up national efforts on tap, including an interactive telephone promotion.

The race typically draws more spectators than any other sporting event in the world-an estimated 350,000 annually to the track. But it's the TV exposure that sponsors find most appealing. Despite Sunday afternoon airings, Indy 500 broadcasts garner high ratings.

"There are very few motorsports events that can be truly national in appeal," said Bill Donaldson, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway Properties. "As a result, we're seeing more and more sponsors wanting to take advantage of the national magnitude of this event."

Ford Motor Co., Eastman Kodak Co. and Valvoline Instant Oil Change are three such sponsors. Each will take part in "The Indy Power Drive," launching May 13. Ads plugging the promotion, created by IMS Properties, broke last week on ESPN and in Sports Illustrated and USA Today.

Consumers can call an 800-number and receive daily updates on racing teams, as well as product and sweepstakes information from each sponsor. As an added incentive, 500 randomly chosen callers will win prizes including a Ford Mustang.

Other sponsors will take a more traditional marketing route. Tony's Frozen Pizza, a division of Schwan's Sales Enterprises, will give away a set of collectible trading cards featuring past Indy 500 winners. The effort will be touted in an free standing insert that drops in May.

Anheuser-Busch, through its Budweiser brand, will give away 33 Ford Mustangs, to be supported through radio and TV advertising from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis (AA, April 11).

And Coca-Cola Co. has a similar Mustang giveaway in the works, but the typically tight-lipped marketer declined to disclose details.

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