Auburn marketing class helping Atlanta Motor Speedway promote NASCAR race

Published: January 31, 2017
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They cram SEC football stadiums, often decked out in body paint and are often among the rowdiest fans in all of sports. However, you don't find college students at NASCAR races as often as you'd think. Fifty students in Brian Bourdeau's sports marketing class at Auburn University are out to change that.

Bourdeau's class is working with Atlanta Motor Speedway this semester to promote the track's Chase U ticket package, which is geared toward college students for the March 5 Monster Cup Series NASCAR event.

"That's a demographic that NASCAR is struggling with right now," said Bourdeau, an associate professor of marketing in Auburn's Raymond J. Harbert College of Business. "The speedway wants to know how they can better engage that demographic."

Dustin Bixby, Atlanta Motor Speedway's vice president for marketing and promotion, said it was unclear why this demographic has been difficult to reach. "There are so many more entertainment options today than there were 20 years ago that it is a challenge to keep the attention span for an event – any event," he said. "How people are entertained has changed from people going to events to now using electronic devices."

Atlanta Motor Speedway is offering college students $24 tickets at the track's Winners Grandstand, on the frontstretch for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. This includes a pre-race tailgate–the Chase U Tailgate–with food, games and an exclusive question and answer session with 20-year-old Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet.

Bourdeau said the students, 10 teams of five, must quickly come up with promotional ideas leading up to the event. He believes social media will be strongly utilized and that the track could send the race's official pace car to the university, promoting the event around Elliott, last season's Rookie of the Year.

"After the race we'll meet up with Atlanta Motor Speedway promotions and marketing and find out how successful it was," Bourdeau said. "Then the students will make recommendations for the future. What worked? What didn't?"

"It's going to be beneficial for the students and the track," he said. "This is as real-world as it gets. When they walk out of here four months from now or two years from now, this is exactly what they are going to be doing. They are going to be handed a project task and a lot of it's going to be trial and error. The students are real fired up about it."