There comes a moment in a PR professional's life when the planets align, all the stars have the right pattern, and every high school cheerleader you knew turns out to be a slovenly, obese chick at the 20-year reunion. Times like that equate to the perfect storm of stereotyping we experienced in my fare burgh this week when the Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) announced that the National Rifle Association (NRA) will be the next title sponsor in its Sprint Cup series race — the NRA 500.
Come on! Really? This is like shooting fish in a barrel. Talk about easy. Now, I will be the first person to extol the greatness of TMS President Eddie Gossage. The man is a marketing wunderkind, which is why it's easy to make you laugh with this story, but after the snark has passed this makes perfect sense. This is hitting your demographic sweet spot, right?
“This isn’t a political platform. This is a sports marketing opportunity,” said Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. “They saw it was obviously a very attractive sports marketing opportunity and seized it. So that’s what it’s all about.”
"They" being the vilified NRA. In fact, "they" had something to say about this partnership with TMS:
“The NRA 500 is the latest announcement in the long history of a growing partnership between the NRA, Speedway Motorsports and the NASCAR community,” he [NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre] said in a video message played for reporters. “NRA members and NASCAR fans love their country and everything that is good and right about America. We salute our flag, volunteer at our churches and communities, cherish our families, and we love racing.”
This is where you have to merit the bang-to-hype ratio in terms of incoming hate mail versus selling out of merchandise when this race comes to town in April. Sure, TMS will get the nastygrams. And of course, people will always picket the NRA. But when more than 250,000 crazed NASCAR fans pack in the Texas Motor Speedway for the first NRA branded-race in NASCAR Sprint Cup history, do you really think any of that will matter?
So, take the other side and bring up Sandy Hook and Newtown. And...it means bupkus when it comes to marketing. Take this quote from the Major Domo at TMS from this Yahoo! Sports article
Yes, NASCAR is the safest area of sports sponsorship for the NRA. Many drivers, owners and crew members are avid hunters. The same can be said for fans. To put it bluntly, much of the NASCAR demographic is also the NRA's key demographic. The NRA knows this. NASCAR and its tracks know this. Gossage said that "The response on social media has been 99%, I'm not exaggerating, favorable. Most of those enthusiastically favorable."
Of course they are. If you listen closely, you can hear "Handel's Messiah" playing in the background. Sometimes, you just have to separate politics and perception. It's difficult to do that, but in the world of marketing, it's about demographics, geographics, and psychographics. And that perfect storm with this partnership means the skies parted and a ray of sunshine is causing TMS to glow in the dark.
"No such thing as bad publicity?" We shall soon see.