By Published on .

Brian France grew up in the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing family but admits he can't race like the big boys. He has enough trouble parallel parking.

He sure can sell the sport, though.

In the three years of Mr. France's reign as VP-marketing for Nascar, the popularity of stock car racing has exploded. Each of Nascar's 2,000 events, particularly the Winston Cup Series, consistently draws record audiences. Overall, attendance at Nascar races was up 21.8% in 1994, to 4.9 million.

Once considered a regional, "good old boys" sport, stock cars today know no boundaries. They attract major mainstream sponsors, run on tracks from coast to coast and, last August, Nascar even roared on to the sacred grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with its Brickyard 400.

According to Mr. France, Nascar isn't just a sport-it's a lifestyle. And that has great appeal for major consumer-product companies and TV networks.

"Our fans understand that by buying [sponsored] products, they're putting dollars into the sport, into their favorite drivers," says Mr. France. "As a result, there's a bond, a loyalty that's created."

Since joining Nascar, Mr. France, the 32-year-old grandson of Nascar founder William France and son of today's president William France Jr., has chased down major advertisers and convinced them to splash their names on cars, tracks and Nascar paraphernalia.

Currently 23 primary sponsors, including such blue-chip names as McDonald's, Procter & Gamble's Tide detergent and Pepsi-Cola, spend anywhere from $2 million to $6 million on sponsorship.

Mr. France intends to further connect Nascar to the lifestyle of thousands of devoted fans with a chain of theme restaurants. A CD released by Sony Music featuring artists such as Billy Ray Cyrus and Joe Diffie singing country tunes with auto themes, released in conjunction with Nascar, recently hit top 20 on the country music charts.

"We're a powerful sports entity with a lifestyle attachment," says Mr. France. "We just kind of stay on that and don't get sidetracked."

Most Popular
In this article: