On a very warm April afternoon Best Western’s senior vice president of marketing Dorothy Dowling sat on a stage in the press center at Phoenix International Raceway. Along with Michael Waltrip, two-time Daytona 500 winner and co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, she introduced three uber-NASCAR fans to the assembled media. It was not only the debut of Best Western as a main sponsor on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but also the unveiling of Dowling and Waltrip’s latest marketing creation—the Best Western “Tweet Crew.”
Best Westerns sponsorship of Michael Waltrip Racing’s 00 Camry driven by David Reutimann is a marketing program that is about more than simple sports marketing. Through a creative use of Social Media, the marketing program reaches NASCAR fans—and potential Best Western guests—on multiple levels.
“We’re always looking at integrated marketing approaches,” Dowling says. “I look as social media as a different element to the marketing plan. When we look at an investment like NASCAR, and certainly a celebrity like Michael Waltrip, we’re looking at how we can use that relative to our key goals, which is about contemporizing our brand, making it relevant to younger audiences who speak in different media. I think the Tweet Crew was really the culmination of that.”
The three members of the Tweet Crew Team were selected through an application process. Their job for the day was to follow Reutimann as he prepared for the race and then to, in effect, “broadcast” the race on Twitter. Throughout the day they received a first-hand and inside look at the sport they love. While having the Tweet Crew team represent Best Western on social media outlets for the day may sound risky from a marketing standpoint, the trio of Randall Martin, Rebecca Kivak, and Nancy Mills, proved more than up to the task. “I can’t even describe their level of engagement and how they really appreciate the opportunity to have that look at Michael, at NASCAR, at Best Western,” Dowling says.
Dowling is quick to point out Waltrip’s importance to the development of the program. “They were really responsive on developing that platform with us,” she says.
Dowling says the goal of the Tweet Crew promotion was not only about creating relevancy to a younger crowd, but also creating more growth in terms of social media engagement and building Best Western’s identity as a contemporary and leading-edge brand.
Best Western’s and Michael Waltrip Racing’s use of new media didn’t begin and end with the Tweet Crew. Over the last few years, they have held an ebay auction to have Waltrip swap jobs with a winning fan. The charity auction benefits World Vision, Best Western’s official charity partner. In the promotion, Waltrip traveled to New Jersey to swap jobs with winning bidder David Emery, an electrical company owner and operator. Emery, in turn traveled to Cornelius, N.C. to experience the inner workings of owning a race team and all the work that goes into preparing for race weekend.
“I think it’s a very engaging opportunity for us because it allows to leverage Best Western for a strong cause,” Dowling says. “And, it’s really kind of fun.”