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Agrimarketing : November December 2007
34 AgriMarketing November/December 2007 On September 9, 2006, a news conference was held at Chicagoland Speedway, site of the final IndyCar Series race of the season. It had been an exciting year for the league, with the championship to be determined on the final day. The sea- son also saw the introduction of ethanol to open-wheel racing, a 10% blend with 90% methanol, the longtime choice of the Series. But as league and ethanol industry officials gathered on the dais in Chicago, it was time to take the experiment one step further. In 2007, all cars in the Series would be powered by 100% fuel-grade ethanol. There were risks involved for both sides. This would be the first time in 40 years that a new fuel grade was incorpo- rated into open wheel racing. These were some of the fastest cars on the planet, with speeds of up to 230 mph. The new fuel would be renewable and cleaner-burning, but it was about to face its most challenging test in one of the most demanding environments in racing. Engineers had to be convinced that performance would not suffer. A driving force behind the fuel switch was the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC), the consumer marketing and public relations arm of the ethanol industry based in Omaha, NE. The organization was formed in 2005 at a time when the ethanol industry was growing at a significant pace, but the long term health of the movement would rest on consumer demand. The ethanol brand resembled a musical group in search of a hit record. It had achieved regional success in the Corn Belt, but needed the clever hook that would pro- pel the brand on the national stage. What better stage than the "greatest spectacle in racing," the Indianapolis 500, with a worldwide audience of over 300 million. EPIC's proprietary research showed that the main consumer barrier to ethanol use is performance. Motor racing is the manufacturers' proving ground, and it influ- ences auto technicians, who in turn influence consumer perceptions of ethanol. Racing would also provide an ideal platform for retail promotions. "We looked at motorsports as a pulpit to not only talk about performance, but also to address issues of energy security, the economy and the environment," says To m Slunecka, EPIC's Exec Dir. DEVELOPING A BRAND Motorsports may have been the ethanol brand's media darling, but efforts were underway far from the spotlight in equally influential endeavors. EPIC developed a national brand initiative for ethanol-blended fuels, under the direction of Reece Nanfito, EPIC's Sr Dir of Mktg. It was designed to create a singular brand image for ethanol and ethanol blends nationwide. From city-to-city, block-to-block, consumers who are seeking ethanol blends can now look to the EPIC "e" logo in 25 states. The voluntary branding initiative was often painstaking work, with careful navigation of each state's bureaucratic process. "Without the ability for consumers to find the prod- uct, it is impossible for them to support it and to drive change, says Robert White, EPIC's Dir of Operations, who spearheaded the labeling effort. "The IndyCar Series offered a significant platform for brand exposure, but we needed that connection to the end user at the local filling station. The labeling program provided the final link in the process." PRODUCT OF THE YEAR CREATING BRAND IDENTITY CREATES DEMAND FOR A COMMODITY by the AgriMarketing Editors (more on page 36) EPIC and Broadhead + Co designed an Ethanol/IndyCar Series media kit that was shipped to nearly 1,000 consumer reporters across the country. The IndyCar Series and EPIC kicked off the 2007 season with a news conference on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. Pictured (l to r) Jeff Simmons, Team Ethanol Driver; Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN); Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN); and Tony George, Owner, Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
2008 Marketing Services Guide