Cause Marketing That Refuses to Crash and Burn

For a limited time you can dedicate a small area of the #56 NAPA car, driven by Martin Truex Jr., to the name of someone touched by breast cancer by making a donation of as little as $5.60 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

The goal is to raise $56,000 for Komen.

Here’s how it works: When you make a donation to Susan G. Komen through a special Facebook app, the name of the person you designate will be physically placed on the #56 car in conjunction with a special pink paint scheme. In October NAPA is also selling at its stores a co-branded pink and blue racecap for $3.99. The campaign is called, “All Out for the Cure.”

The custom-painted #56 car will race on Nov. 7 in all its pinkness at the Texas Motor Speedway at the AAA 500. In effect Komen and NAPA have developed a 200mph left-turn only icon campaign!

And in doing so they’ve skillfully avoided the inherent psychic challenge of putting a charity’s name on a racecar.

Years ago, when I worked at Children’s Miracle Network, we were approached by a NASCAR race team that wanted to brand one of its cars as the CMN Car. The car would not race in the Sprint Cup Series, but in the junior tour then called the Busch series and now known as the Nationwide series.

We thought about it and declined. The lawyers and the PR people only needed to imagine the 'CMN car' crashing and the driver being hurt or even dying.

At the time I issued a voice of dissent.

For one thing, NASCAR was huge in CMN’s many southern markets and at the time the fanbase was thought to be uniquely brand loyal.

Secondly, while NASCAR race cars certainly crash, most teams maintain twin cars that can be prepped for the next race in the event the first car can’t go. Deaths in NASCAR races certainly happen. But Dale Earnhardt was the last death in the Sprint Cup series. And that was in 2001. The last death in the Nationwide series was Adam Petty in 2000. God rest both their souls, but a lot of racing has gone on since their deaths a decade ago.

Finally, the media opportunities for a charity-branded car are huge. NASCAR is promotionally-minded in a way that stands out even from other sports. The races are well attended and always televised. Sponsorships are front and center. The drivers are unusually approachable compared to other professional athletes and the fanbase has long been more diverse and more female than you think it is.

Kudos to Komen, NAPA, Truex, and Michael Waltrip Racing.

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