Promoting a race - Adelaide topped them all


 by Roger Wyman
February 6, 2002

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Editor's Note: This article was written by Mr. Wyman in March of 2001.  It was sent to us after Mr. Wyman read our article "Should CART race in Adelaide?" and is being published for the first time.  The majority of CART's street races are so successful because the whole city gets behind the event, but nothing like Adelaide does.  It certain sets a good example for other race promoters to stand up and take notice.

The 3.78 km (2.347-mile) Adelaide circuit  is everything a street circuit should be

This article is to commend the promoter and co-sponsors for the remarkable pre-race publicity they generated for the December 31, 2000 Race of a Thousand Years. For me, that publicity was so different that it was one of the biggest stories of the weekend. The irony is that they evidently won't get to see the continued growth of their event since the Premier of South Australia has cancelled the event. Nonetheless, their efforts deserve recognition and are an excellent benchmark for other promoters.

If you were in the Adelaide area during race week, then you had heard about the race, and you knew what the cars looked like. Or else you were in a coma. Possibly even both. For pre-race publicity, none of the 100 + major sports car races I've attended would have made the cut under a 20% qualifying rule.

When was the last time you saw a sports car article as a lead for the largest daily newspaper? On the front page, not the sports page! Three out of four consecutive mornings! The Advertiser/Mail is the only major daily in Adelaide (Sunday circulation well over 700,000 copies). Its front pages on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday were dedicated to stories and pictures about the race. The Sports Section included several more articles, with numerous splashy photos. Thursday's paper included an eight-page pull out section on the race. There was even a race related article in the Fashion Section.

Four major TV networks service Adelaide. I saw pre-race coverage on three of them - two of those on Wednesday, (the day I arrived). I wasn't surprised that two networks each sent a cameraman plus a reporter to the very crowded Thursday autograph session. The amazing thing is that the crews, (who interviewed drivers and fans) stayed for nearly all of the 55-minute session, rather than a typical drive by (camera) shooting. On Friday, the prime time teaser for the late local news was a news headline and a race headline.

Several stores in and around Rundel Street Mall, (Adelaide's busiest mall and where the autograph session was held) were selling a wide range of event merchandise even before I arrived. Two stores had half of their show window space filled with event merchandise. Official race programs were available there, plus in most newsstands. (I can remember a couple races where programs weren't available at the track until Saturday.)

Promoting the race as a festival, not solely a race, created many other pre-race publicity opportunities. At the track, there was a large fireworks show after Friday's evening practice and stunt flying exhibitions on two afternoons. People anywhere in the area who saw any of these knew there would be a race on Sunday. There was also the cross publicity from the two post-race rock concerts to be held at the track. One of these was headlined by INXS.

Each initiative was impressive to a guy who has attended both ALMS races at Las Vegas (among many others). Two incidents, however, stood out in sharp contrast to the total news blackout that I've come to expect before a sports car race. The first occurred at the crowded autograph session noted above. One fan was already wearing an event T-shirt, in effect promoting the race on his back (and front) three days before the race. The second was a 20-second TV ad that I must have seen a dozen times. The spot was for a government agency involved in workplace safety. They used the race, including racing audio, as a background for their campaign. The tag line was "Even LeMans Adelaide drivers work to live." Does the idea of a government sponsored TV spot that piggybacks on the popularity of an upcoming sports car race seem a bit unusual to you, too?

Did all of the pre-race publicity work? The newspaper reported crowds of 30,000 on Friday, 35,000 on Saturday, and 65,000 for the race. NBC's TV coverage put Sunday's attendance at 76,000 [Editor's Note: Quite high for an ALMS race]. Based on the large crowds I've seen at Laguna Seca, those numbers seem realistic. I suspect that the Las Vegas promoters would kill to have had the number of fans at either of their ALMS races equal to the number of vendors at LeMans Adelaide.

So, I tip my LeMans Adelaide cap to the promoter and co-sponsors for their imagination and hard work. It's a shame that they won't get to see the continued fruits of their labor, however they can take pride in the height at which they set the bar.

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