NASCAR & Auto Racing

FCC buying ad on race car

In a $350,000 deal, a government ad blitz to educate TV viewers about the upcoming digital conversion will roll to NASCAR this weekend.

Decals on the hood of David Gilliland's No. 38 Ford will say “Are you ready for digital?” and a stripe on the side of the car will give the Web site.

While the armed services use NASCAR sponsorships as a recruiting tool, the campaign is believed to be the first time a government agency has advertised in motor sports.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin – in Charlotte for a public workshop on the digital conversion that will occur Feb. 17, 2009 – said Thursday the expenditure was a good way to reach an audience of about 8 million race fans “who might not be reached by traditional media outlets.”

Gilliland's car will carry the ads in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup series at Martinsville, Va., the Nov. 9 race in Phoenix and the Nov. 16 race in Homestead, Fla.

Congress has authorized about $35 million to date for the FCC to educate viewers about the digital transition, which requires people who get their broadcasts through antennas rather than cable or satellite to acquire converter boxes.

Martin said some people may object to the unusual marketing efforts, but they are vital to educating the public on the issue. Already, he said, the agency has spent $1 million to reach senior citizens by ads in the AARP magazine.

For its money, the agency also gets banners at the tracks with the Web address, and space on Gilliland's helmet and torso, said FCC spokeswoman Mary Diamond. Gilliland will also promote the issue in interviews, she said.

It appears the FCC got a bargain on the rate – such exposure usually runs more than $400,000.