By Cathy Elliott
On NASCAR / Daytona 500 of Football Inspires Super Idea For Earnhardt Ad

On NASCAR / Daytona 500 of Football Inspires Super Idea For Earnhardt Ad

As Cathy Elliott enjoys a Super Bowl appetizer before the meal of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, she suggests a salute to The Intimidator by the sponsor that now adorns Kevin Harvick's No. 29, formerly the No. 3 car. 

Normally, this is the week when I use this space to whine about the fact that the Daytona 500 is often referred to as the “Super Bowl of Racing,” because I adamantly believe it should be the other way around. Although the NFL insists on trying to confuse me with its use of letters instead of numbers, I’m pretty sure the race is a good eight years or so older than the game.


But when I heard this morning that a 30-second commercial aired during Super Bowl XLV – which is a cool monogram but I’m a little sketchy on what it translates to in actual American numerals -- costs an advertiser $3 million, it gave me a slightly different perspective on the “Daytona 500 of Football.” Apparently a Super Bowl commercial functions like an Full Throttle energy drink, offering a concentrated burst of exposure in a finite period of time. More bang for your buck, so to speak.


First of all, I have to note that NASCAR provides this same thing every week. When you think about how much exposure sponsors like Lowes, M&Ms or Red Bull get on any given Sunday afternoon, it’s pretty impressive, especially when it is spread like butter on warm toast over a 36-race season.


Still, you -- and I, albeit grudgingly – have to admit that some of those Super Bowl commercials are pretty cool, not to mention the only reason to watch this year’s game for a Washington Redskins fan like me. But I have a mind and a heart for NASCAR, so it occurs to me that with some minor edits, some of these iconic ads might fit nicely into the racing realm.


Take E*TRADE, for example, Over the years, those precocious babies have become famous for their toddler wise-cracking and name-calling. Frank the alleged cheating golfer was branded a “shank-opotamus,” while Lindsay, the “other baby” in a puppy-love triangle, was denounced as a “milk-aholic.” Can’t you just picture a diapered Kyle Busch wailing at Brad Keselowski in an adjacent stroller to “pick a lane, Wreck-asaurus?”


Michael Jordan’s epic duel with fellow basketball legend Larry Bird over which guy would pick up the tab for a McDonald’s Big Mac spanned several years and an awful lot of hardwood. Substitute Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon and what do you get? Inspired pit strategy, come-from-behind wins, better-than-average luck and nine NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title trophies between them. In other words, “off the Turn 4 wall, over the start/finish line, into Victory Lane … nothing but net.”


Betty White getting tackled in the mud during a backyard football game, before finding the transformative Fountain of Youth by way of a Snickers candy bar, was rated the best Super Bowl commercial of 2010. So picture this: A bunch of young guys, and Mark Martin, are racing go-karts at a generic-looking track in Anywhere, USA. “What’s wrong with you?” one of his friends asks the older driver, handing him a Snickers bar. “You’re driving like Mark Martin.” Then the “senior” driver scarfs down the Snickers and morphs into … Mark Martin, who goes on to kick some serious quarter panel. This proves two things. You’re never too old to be a winner, and chocolate really is good for you.


The 2011 Super Bowl broadcast includes a spot for Best Buy featuring Ozzy Osborne and Justin Bieber. There’s no word yet on whether Osborne ultimately takes a snap at young Bieber’s well-coifed cranium, but if that happens, the fan approval rating could be as high as when Tony Stewart snaps at a hapless reporter asking a redundant question. Talk about getting your head bitten off.


Despite all this kidding around, watching the Super Bowl is an annual ritual for me, along with millions of other Americans. I look at it like a kid looks at broccoli – something I need to get through in order to make it to the entrée, the first race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. If sentiment, silliness and blatant salesmanship are fed to me in 30-second portions along the way, so be it. Whatever they’re selling, I’m happy to consider buying.


Which brings me to my own personal favorite Super Bowl commercial of all time.


For sheer majesty and impact, nothing can match Anheuser-Busch’s breathtaking team of Clydesdales. During the 2002 Super Bowl, the company aired a commercial, for the first and only time, in which the Clydesdales traveled to New York City and bowed down to the empty World Trade Center site. Watching that spot on youtube 10 years later – literally, five minutes ago – still makes me cry.


In the NASCAR realm, 2001 was also the year we lost Dale Earnhardt. Anheuser-Busch and the Earnhardt legacy seem to be inextricably linked. Busch beer was one of Earnhardt’s sponsors. Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove the Budweiser Chevy for a number of years, and Budweiser will sponsor Kevin Harvick’s Chevy – the car he took over after Earnhardt’s accident – in 2011. Daytona International Speedway is also planning a special tribute to Earnhardt prior to the race on Feb. 20.


I would dearly love to see a NASCAR-themed Anheuser-Busch spot featuring the world’s most magnificent horses, honoring the man who was arguably the sport’s most magnificent driver, during the 2011 Daytona 500. Three million dollars is an unimaginable amount of money, but for legions of NASCAR fans, that would be priceless.