NASCAR Cup Series playoffs began, racing's sanctioning body provided entertainment for fans with short videos. These "NASCARmercials" featured a prominent celebrity taking part in a hobby while explaining the playoff rules, such as when Mario Lopez played bocce ball. Now NASCAR has released the last NASCARmercial of the season, sharing it exclusively with PopCulture.com prior to Sunday's Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix.
The video features Olympian Gabby Douglas describing the championship race and the backstories of the drivers. While doing gymnastics moves, she explains how Denny Hamlin can win his first championship. Douglas then uses flips to emphasize her points about bold moves paying off for the drivers. Although she also clarifies that one mistake can destroy championship dreams.
"What started as a 10-race quest is now down to the final laps," Douglas says in the video. "The Bill France Cup is right around these turns and one of four drivers will take it home. One with a leg up all season as he finally tries to bust down the championship door. Two teammates, former champions, racing for another title. And the son of a NASCAR legend, looking to write his own chapter in racing's history books."
Douglas explains in the video how Sunday's race at Phoenix truly is a "winner-takes-all" situation. The driver with the best finish after 312 miles will earn the championship. "One mistake can end championship dreams, and one bold move can solidify a legacy," Douglas says.
While the fun videos provided important information about the playoffs and the rules, there were questions about why NASCAR created them. The reason, as it turns out, is that there were a large number of new fans that tuned in for the first race
back on May 17. Sports came to a halt due to COVID-19, but NASCAR found a safe way to get the drivers and teams back to work.
"We came back from the return to racing, and after the ... the COVID break, We found that we had a lot of new fans checking us out, and so as we approached the playoffs, the idea was to lean in on helping explain the playoffs to new fans or non-fans that have maybe just recently came across us," said Phil Metz, NASCAR’s managing director of entertainment marketing. "So we've looked upon looking at pairing up some of our celebrity relationships and influencer relationships to help tell that story. And really the genesis came from trying to help explain the playoffs to new fans."
NASCAR found success through this partnership with various celebrities from a range of industries. TV personality Joel McHale took part and continued his relationship with NASCAR after previously hosting an episode of
The Soup live from Talladega Superspeedway. Similarly, both Douglas and NFL Hall of Famer LaDanian Tomlinson waved the green flag prior to races.
Racing's sanctioning body had a massive list of celebrities to pick from, including an unending supply of athletes. However, Metz did not want to simply focus on figures from the NFL, WWE or other sports; he wanted to find a nice combination of personalities. He also wanted to let the various celebrities showcase their pastimes while explaining the playoff rules.
"They were part of the collaboration, for sure," Metz said. "So Mario plays bocce ball, not a lot of people do that, so that was part of it. Some of it is humor. In the Gabby Douglas spot, you'll see she's doing gymnastic movements. LaDanian is an avid golfer. So we purposely leaned in on the talent and allowed them to contribute to it, all the while telling the story of explaining the playoffs."