Industry launches PR campaign with NASCAR

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, June 11, 2012

The ethanol industry and NASCAR today launched a promotional campaign to boost the fuel’s image amid increasing opposition by the oil industry and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The campaign will run until Aug. 31 and will feature racing driver Austin Dillon, grandson of former driver Richard Childress and winner of last year’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The multifaceted campaign will include TV spots, sponsorships at the Iowa and Chicagoland speedways, and displays at races and farm industry events.

“NASCAR is the perfect platform to dispel the myths about U.S. made ethanol,” Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, said in a statement. “This campaign truly showcases that if American ethanol meets the high expectations and rigorous demands of NASCAR, it will bring the same level of performance and benefits to your car.”

The campaign is sponsored by American Ethanol, a partnership that includes NASCAR, Growth Energy, the National Corn Growers Association and several ethanol companies across the country.

American Ethanol has been planning the campaign for months, Growth Energy spokesman Michael Frohlich said, to increase consumer awareness of E15, or gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol. U.S. EPA has taken several steps in recent months that bring the fuel closer to the market; currently, pumps are dominated by gasoline blended with only 10 percent ethanol.

“This is more directed at consumers,” Frohlich said. “Obviously, we hope that policymakers will see it. We know a lot of policymakers watch NASCAR races.”

The ethanol industry has faced an uphill battle to win support for E15 as a strange-bedfellow coalition including the oil industry, automobile makers, livestock groups and environmental groups has opposed the introduction of the fuel in the marketplace.

American Ethanol’s PR campaign coincidentally comes a week after reports that Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) were forming a bipartisan Senate group to study the nation’s biofuels mandate, a move that the corn ethanol industry said seemed like a calculated attack on its product (Greenwire, June 1).

In the campaign, Dillon and fellow racing driver Kevin Harvick will appear in a 30-second national TV commercial during the Pocono, Pa., 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on TNT. The ad will highlight “the benefits of U.S.-made ethanol,” according to a news release on the announcement.

Dillon will also drive a car with an American Ethanol paint scheme during the Sprint Cup Series race in Michigan on June 17. A month later, driver Joey Coulter will have the scheme at the Camping World Truck Series at Iowa Speedway. All drivers in the campaign are on the Richard Childress Racing team.