Broad Effort Targets Scripted and Reality TV Shows

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LOS ANGELES ( -- Nascar is revving up its branded-entertainment efforts, inking an exclusive deal with Madison Road Entertainment to develop new opportunities for the racing league.
Madison Road drew Nascar's attention with its newly expanded ability to produce original TV programming.

Story scripts targeted

Financial terms of the pact were not disclosed, but Los Angeles-based Madison Road will secure deals for the Nascar brand to appear in storylines of scripted and reality programming on the major broadcast and cable networks, especially shows that don’t revolve around auto racing.

It will also coordinate opportunities for brands to gain prominent placement within Nascar-branded and produced programming.

NBC and TNT already share broadcast rights with Fox at $200 million a year each, and Fox cable networks FX and Speed Channel air additional Nascar programming. Meanwhile ESPN is increasing its coverage of the sport.

The deal is the latest move by Nascar, the second highest rated regular season sport on television, to aggressively use mainstream entertainment like TV or films to promote the league’s moniker, cars, drivers, tracks and culture. For example, this summer, Nascar prominently appeared in the plot of Disney’s Herbie: Fully Loaded. Sony is gearing up to start production on a yet-to-be-titled Nascar comedy that will star Will Ferrell.

75 million fans

While Nascar’s 75 million fanbase is smaller than the National Football League’s 165 million, interest in the sport is growing quickly throughout the country beyond the Southeast, where the sport was born. Its twice-a-year races at New Hampshire International Speedway boast attendance of 101,000 each.

All of the league’s entertainment efforts are handled by Nascar Digital Entertainment, based in Los Angeles and headed by Dick Glover, vice president of broadcasting and new media. Sarah Nettinga serves as director of film, television and music entertainment for the company.

The relationship with Madison Road “benefits the entire Nascar industry, including sponsors, drivers, teams and tracks, providing a means for non-traditional marketing that has the potential to add value and extend the reach of traditional advertising spends," Ms. Nettinga said.

Madison Road coup

The deal is a coup for Madison Road, which has previously worked with companies like Levi Strauss & Company, Procter & Gamble, Sara Lee, and Masterfoods to integrate their products into such reality fare as Mark Burnett’s The Apprentice.

"Nascar is the quintessential American brand," said Tom Mazza, president of Madison Road Entertainment. "Writers and producers of television programs have long sought partnerships to involve Nascar in their storylines. We're here to bring that to life in a way that organically integrates Nascar into the fabric of television shows."

However, landing a brand like Nascar is becoming more common at production entities like Madison Road. Across town, Embassy Row has a similar deal with Pepsi. And Mark Burnett Productions has close ties with Home Depot, among other marketers.

Such deals enable the companies to pitch projects directly to a brand, and hopefully produce and get them made, giving the entities some cache as branded-entertainment players. Those projects earn the companies some much-needed revenue, but also enable them to develop their own independent ideas. For example, Madison Road is in the midst of Treasure Hunters, a reality show for NBC that it is producing with Imagine Television and Magic Elves.

Expanded role

Madison Road’s recent moves beyond solely brokering integration deals for brands and more into original programming helped attract Nascar.

Last year, the company hired reality TV vet Danica Krislovich as its senior vice president of programming to help the company expand into original production.

Before making the move to Madison Road, Ms. Krislovich had sold a film to TNT, which she will executive produce.

The movie, as well as "Danica's strong relationships and knowledge of the racing brand … were the impetus for this deal,” Mr. Mazza said.
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