Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday Ramble: Talladega Edition

Sexy’s Been Brought. So What’s Next for AJ Allmendinger? Maybe You Can Help Decide.

Imagine you’re a twenty-five year old open-wheel racing superstar, coming off of a major winning streak. You find out you have just been handed a prestigious NASCAR Cup series ride with an innovative sponsor like energy drink giant, Red Bull. The majority of NASCAR fans don’t have a clue who you are, and the company wants to give you a catch phrase or slogan that they can market. What do you use?

That is the predicament that AJ Allmendinger found himself in as he prepared for his debut NASCAR season in 2007. An avowed music lover, AJ turned to the latest hit songs for inspiration. It just so happened that Justin Timberlake had a new single out titled SexyBack. It had a good beat and you could dance to it, so AJ used it as inspiration. He proclaimed that he was going to bring sexy back to NASCAR.

The phrase stuck, perhaps more than AJ wanted it to. I would guess that everywhere he went and every appearance he did that Justin Timberlake song was playing. He was also teased a bit by the media during interviews, most notably during his first appearance on SPEED Channel’s Trackside show. At that time AJ clarified that the sexy he was bringing to NASCAR was his wife Lynne.

Nevertheless, the catchphrase and the song continued to be associated with the driver as he went through the hard knocks of his rookie year. When Red Bull replaced AJ with veteran Mike Skinner for five races in early 2008, signs and petitions went up everywhere stating that fans wanted sexy back in NASCAR. The fans got their wish as AJ made his return for the spring Talladega race, now behind the wheel of a “sexier” silver #84 car.

Since that time, AJ has been through a lot of transitions in his NASCAR career. He came to a new team, went through two manufacturer changes and a couple of company mergers. Now he has settled into the King’s famous #43 car with sponsor Insignia/Best Buy on the hood. AJ has the ability as a driver to win races, and is continuing to develop the chemistry and confidence in his team to make his first trip to Victory Lane.

Yes, things have changed for AJ. So now it’s only natural that he might want to update his slogan or catchphrase. Bringing sexy back to NASCAR has gone a little stale after the eventful career he’s had so far. When Darrell Waltrip asked him about the saying on AJ’s most recent visit to SPEED’s Trackside stage, AJ seemed open to the idea of a change. Not only that, but he wants his dedicated throng of fans to help him out in finding a new slogan.

AJ is up for the fan vote in this year’s Sprint All-star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. And according to sources at Sprint, he is ranked in the top ten for the number of votes he has received. During his latest Trackside appearance, AJ threw out the possibility of letting the fans choose his new catchphrase – on one condition. The fans have to vote him into the All-star race first.

When I asked AJ if he was seriously thinking about giving his fans that power, he replied in the affirmative. Here is what AJ said on the subject via his Twitter account: “Everyone knows now I'm sexy and I brought that to NASCAR. Time to change it up. New ERA with Best Buy, time for a new slogan.”

Wow! What an exciting incentive for Dinger fans to start voting extra hard for their driver. And for fans whose favorite driver is already in the race, this is an opportunity to have a little fun in helping a driver find a new marketing image. Only time will tell whether or not AJ wins that fan vote. In the meantime, NASCAR fans should start thinking about a slogan that fits AJ the best. Yours might be the one he picks.

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