With Danika Patrick there, the famous opening line was tweaked a bit, but the resulting roar was just as satisfying…”Drivers! Start your engines!”
That’s all it took to turn this girl into NASCAR’s newest fan. That’s right, add me to the other 75 million Americans the racing giant counts as its constituency.
I was already a Kenny Wallace fan. Sure, I’m a “Johnny come lately” as they say, but I recently met the man who represents the heart of racing to many. He’s one of NASCAR’s most beloved drivers. To me, he’s a genuine guy with a genuine interest in the things that make America great. We have that in common. That, you see, is why I took to him immediately. He saw in me a common love of laughing and (sometimes) ornery behavior.
It was an opportunity made it heaven. Since I count myself as one of farming’s biggest agvocates, my work with Illinois corn farmers was going to be extra special and even more heartfelt than usual this time. We were going to reach an entirely new audience, with a (pardon the pun) entirely new vehicle for that message.
And this (see the picture below), my friends, is that vehicle. But despite how absolutely fantastic it is, the car isn’t what our partnership with Kenny Wallace racing was about.
The promotional partnership struck between the Illinois Corn Marketing Board (called Illinois Corn Farmers outside of farm circles) and Kenny Wallace Racing was about the people. In this case, those people include Kenny Wallace, NASCAR and Kenny’s fans (see the people waiting for his autograph?), and Illinois corn farmers.
And as it happens, the corn gods evidently smiled upon us. Because the day after we announced our partnership, NASCAR publicly announced their intention to move the entire NASCAR series of races to E15 starting in the 2011 season.
Illinois Corn Farmers…NASCAR…fans…Kenny Wallace…ethanol! That’s Good Clean Fun and Good Clean Fuel!
Now, not only can Kenny talk about the family corn farmers of Illinois and ethanol, but he can talk about it in the venue of NASCAR and racing. He did just that at this NASCAR press conference the day before the race at Gateway.
Kenny talked about corn farmers, their crop, and corn ethanol in all his television and radio appearances. He filled his twitter feed and facebook pages with great information about all of you corn farmers. And people responded in the positive.
So did our partnership yield a nicely painted up, sharp looking, eye catching car? You bet. Did we have signage at the track, viewed by the 30,000 people in attendance and the millions on television? Of course. Did we get one-on-one conversations with people visiting the track? More than we could count. Did we get a car that ran in the Top 10 most of the race and finished in the Top 15? Oh ya. How about media coverage? ESPN, Speed TV, AP, local news…yup, they were all there.
But the best thing we got out of this partnership was a new spokesperson and advocate.
You see, what all the research we’ve undertaken here recently at IL Corn has indicated is that despite the issues, it’s the people that matter. You can dispute someone’s facts, but you can’t dispute their feelings. That is a lesson that we in agriculture need to take close to our heart. People carry messages. And we have some of the best people in the world, right here in our midst.
So yes, I’m a new fan of Kenny Wallace.
I’m a new fan of NASCAR.
And I’m a fan of Illinois Corn Farmers.
We reached countless people over the weekend with Kenny Wallace. As a checkoff contributor you can feel proud of that.
Illinois Corn Farmers are in the driver’s seat. Where will you take the opportunity to have a conversation?
ICGA/ICMB Communications Director