TRUE VALUE STARTS 2ND NASCAR LAP: MASTERCARD WILL RIDE ALONG IN SERIES OF PROMOTIONS

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True Value the second season of its Nascar sponsorship with a marketing program designed to push sales of automotive products at its hardware stores.

The centerpiece of the 1997 program is a series of joint efforts with MasterCard International under the "Race to Win" banner.

True Value is an official Nascar sponsor, and separately, a sponsor of Nascar's International Race of Champions series. The involvement is designed to make the retailer a more attractive option for consumers who go to a hardware store for their car maintenance needs, said Chuck Kremers, True Value's VP-marketing.

However, even though True Value is the official hardware store for Nascar, the chain, for the present at least, will not sell a new line of Nascar-branded auto parts.

`RACE TO WIN' EFFORT

"Race to Win" will launch in February with the True Value/ MasterCard Auto Racing Viewer's Guide, containing a TV schedule of IROC and Nascar Winston Cup Series races. The guide, distributed in True Value stores, includes an entry form for a sweepstakes to win a 1998 Pontiac Firebird.

The sweepstakes also touts yet another promotion, tied to the True Value/MasterCard FanScan Card. Each card in the five-card set features a different Nascar driver and an 800-number. During selected races, callers would be connected into the communications between driver and pit crew.

Consumers will be able to buy the cards for $14.99, or for $3.99 if they purchase $20 in automotive products with their MasterCard.

TEAMING WITH PONTIAC

True Value is also teaming with General Motors Corp.'s Pontiac for a watch-and-win sweepstakes tied to their sponsorships of the IROC series. At various points during the broadcasts, viewers will be asked to call a toll-free number and identify the lap leader. Correct callers will be registered to win a trip to a racing event, as well as a True Value gift certificate.

Unlike its sponsorships with Major League Baseball and the National Football League, True Value can't pass along Nascar logo rights to vendors because Nascar has just launched a new automotive aftermarket licensing program.

"There's definitely an opportunity there, but we'll wait until the products become more accepted," Mr. Kremers said.

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