TNT Gets Loud to Build on Solid NASCAR Numbers

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NASCAR has stemmed its recent ratings crash with a solid start to the 2011 season on Fox, so now TNT is stepping up a marketing campaign for its portion of the schedule that it hopes will leave fans’ ears buzzing.

Turner has picked NASCAR-mad Charlotte, N.C.’s EpiCentre complex to test a new “directional audio” technology that delivers a concentrated beam of sound on a specifi c location. When visitors walk through the audio beam over a TNT logo, they’ll hear the sound of engines revving, cars speeding around the track, TNT tune-in information about upcoming races and the song “T.N.T.” by AC/ DC, which can only be heard within the beam of sound.

The campaign rolls out May 17, while TNT begins its portion of the season on June 12 (NASCAR begins on Fox, moves to Turner, and ends up on Disney networks as the season progresses). Through the first 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup races, Fox is averaging a 5.2 rating and 8.9 million viewers, a 7% bump in average audience over last year—a stabilization for a sport that has seen recent ratings erosion.

Turner’s Charlotte effort marks the first time that sound-activated media has been used to promote a sporting event or property, and NASCAR felt like the perfect first-to-market opportunity for the network. “This has the environment for it as well as the natural auditory; the audio feature for NASCAR goes hand in glove, so it made a lot of sense,” says Christina Miller, senior VP of Turner Sports strategy/marketing/programming.

Miller says they’d consider a similar initiative for another Turner sports property if it felt like the right fit. “Sound is such an important part of any sporting event,” she says. “This marries both opportunity and execution.”

The network will also use billboards to deliver realtime info during races—much like it did during the NCAA basketball, NBA and MLB playoffs—which Miller sees as essential to relay the real-time urgency of sports. “It is so important to us as a point of differentiation to capture that anywhere we can, but outdoor is one where we’ve really been able to make a difference.”