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The national association for Stock Car Auto Racing created a spectacular event surrounding this year's 50th anniversary extravaganza.

Nascar laid the groundwork in February 1996, helping in developing more than 200 hours of prime-time TV coverage plus commemorative sections in dozens of publications and extensive radio and online coverage.

Seven marketing partners came aboard with yearlong promotions surrounding the milestone, and 28 more companies signed on as "official status" sponsors to use the 50th anniversary logo on products and promotions, broadening awareness of the event and adding to the momentum.

"I think we met our goal of reaching race fans with this program 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, through all channels and points of sale," says George Pyne, 32, Nascar's VP-marketing.

Co-sponsors, including E. McIlhenny & Sons Corp.'s Tabasco, Procter & Gamble Co.'s Tide and Kraft Foods' Jell-O, have turned the event into a marketing coup by cashing in on the event's popularity with additional consumer promotional discounts, custom cookbooks, and contests.

The timing of the event was ideal, as Nascar recently reached an all-time high in popularity, and the arrival of charismatic young heroes like last year's Nascar champion, Jeff Gordon, helped win new viewers.

Another boost came from expanded broadcast and cable TV coverage of sports, providing opportunities for Nascar programming. ESPN will run 10 different specials related to the anniversary.

Mr. Pyne says the anniversary has drawn new sponsors, such as Tabasco. It's also provided additional marketing platforms for existing sponsors, paving the way toward more year-round promotions.

"The biggest thing we can say we've done is we've gone from being a company that produces races to more of a marketing and entertainment company. That's what we want to be," says Mr. Pyne.

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