It’s no secret that growing the sport of NASCAR racing is going to require an influx of young people who become engaged and passionate race fans. That much is a given.
This weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, Nickelodeon is making an all-out push to connect young fans with its Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. Six race vehicles — two each in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, XFINITY and Camping World Truck series — are carrying Nickelodeon special paint schemes, and Sunday’s Cup race is called the Tales of the Turtles 400.
And the drivers and sponsor are noticing all the kids noticing their heroes of the half shell.
“It’s neat. You get all these kids who are just obsessed with the Ninja Turtles,” said Jeffrey Earnhardt, who has a “BeBop Rocksteady” scheme on his No. 33 Circle Sport Chevrolet in the Cup Series. “They’re like, ‘Man, that car is so awesome. You’re my new favorite driver.’ I think it’s a great way to get the younger demographic in tune with NASCAR and really follow the sport.”
It helps, too, that Earnhardt’s sponsor, Hulu, offers Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episodes for viewing, which makes this an opportunity for good sponsor synergy.
Matt DiBenedetto, driver of the No. 32 “Samurai” GoFas Racing Ford in the Cup Series, agreed with Earnhardt’s take.
“One of the best parts of it is it’s always fun to connect with kids,” said DiBenedetto. “This is one of the greatest ways to see the kids and their parents connect. The young generation watched (the Turtles), my generation watched it growing up. I focus a lot of efforts on the kids, because if they come here and have a great time, they’ll bug their parents to bring the whole family back here.”
Anthony DiCosmo, Senior Vice President of Sports Marketing, Nickelodeon, said the television network is committed to bringing in new fans to NASCAR. “This is a pioneering effort,” DiCosmo said in an exclusive interview with PopularSpeed.com. “I think us (Nickelodeon) being involved in the sport brings a different connecting tissue to the sport.”
DiCosmo was bullish on Nickelodeon’s involvement with NASCAR.
“It allows kids to come here and experience racing in a new and different way,” DiCosmo said. “And maybe it’s the hook that allows them to become lifelong fans, which is really what our goal is being here: to try and cultivate the next generation of fan.”
To that end, NASCAR has allowed Nickelodeon to do something that’s never been done before: the winning driver in Sunday’s Tales of the Turtles 400 will be covered in Nickelodeon’s famous green slime, which will be shot out of a “Shaboozinator.”
It’s a bold move that required the approval of NASCAR, the Cup Driver Council and all of the teams in the race. “The sport’s been really good to us,” said DiCosmo. “There’s so much flexibility and they are willing to push the envelope in ways a lot of other sports haven’t been so far, so I applaud NASCAR for doing that.”