Students present advertising strategies to NASCAR communications director


Jack McClellan

9th G.E.A.R. offered the panel of judges a variety of ideas for an advertising campaign revolving around the NASCAR Chicago Street Race taking place early July, 2023.

Students of Iowa State’s advertising campaigns class, ADVRT 434, spent the year developing advertising strategies for NASCAR, culminating in an end-of-the-year competition in the Student Innovation Center Launchpad.

Students were split into two advertising agencies, each developing a campaign and competing for the best product. Each group consisted of nine participants who took on different aspects of the challenge of developing an advertising campaign.

The competition was judged by Matt Nordby, the managing director of communications at NASCAR and a member of the Greenlee Advisory Council, Michael Dahlstrom, the director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communications and Catherine Huggins, assistant teaching professor in advertising.

Nordby said the competitive element of the presentation fits right into the real world, where advertising agencies compete for business with high-level clients.

Michael Dahlstrom and Matt Nordby pictured after students’ presentations, remarking on the quality of information proposed by each team. (Jack McClellan)

“So, a bit of a real-world scenario, which is kind of fun, right?” Nordby said. “But, I mean, at the core of it, I’m an ISU grad and passionate about Iowa State. And I just love being able to do something like this — come back years later and work with the students.”

Nordby said he likes the idea of paying it forward and helping students with their professional development the same way others helped him when he was a student.

“It’s been fun to work with them throughout the entire semester and answer questions and provide feedback,” Nordby said. “You know, hopefully, it was a good mock trial run. It’s something that could be a real-world for them one day when they step into the professional world.”

Both student agencies chose to center their advertising campaign around the NASCAR Chicago Street Race, set to take place in early July 2023. The agencies’ main focuses were attracting a more diverse demographic and becoming more relevant within Generation Z.

The student advertising agency, 9th G.E.A.R., presented first with ideas like developing short-form video content for social media, making deals with popular influencers, and viral stunts like using NASCAR drivers in random Uber rides or an augmented reality bus stop advertisement.

9th G.E.A.R. also suggested participating in the Chicago Pride Parade to show their support for the LGBTQ community and show off some of the stock cars before the race.

FastLane was the second student advertising agency to present, offering similar means of attracting new and diverse audiences.

Jack McClellan

FastLane suggested embracing connections with other professional sports like the NBA or NFL, promoting their Chicago event through Chicago-based musicians like Chance the Rapper and Brett Eldredge and promoting the event through the video game NASCAR Heat.

All of the judges were very complimentary of each group and their presentations. The competition winner was FastLane, with a score of 1,413 out of 1,500, and 9th G.E.A.R. followed shortly behind with 1,400 out of 1,500.

Dahlstrom said having the opportunity to work on a project with real-world significance throughout the semester is great for students who plan to get into the professional world soon.

“That’s what the Greenlee school really tries to do,” Dahlstrom said. “We’re a professional school, so it’s not just to learn about it — it’s to be able to do it, so you can integrate with the profession. So, these are the types of classes, they’re at the end of your career, you got the skills, and this is a way to just put it all together and show that what you have is relevant to the profession.”

Dahlstrom said when assessing the student agencies’ presentations, he was looking for realism and ideas aligning closely with the client’s perspective.

“So, I gotta say, I love these campaign classes because this is where the students get to work with a real-life client and come up with solutions to real problems,” Dahlstrom said. “So, that’s one thing I really look for is, have they taken the client’s perspective and prioritized what matters to them in their presentations.”

9th G.E.A.R. pictured towards the end of their presentation in the Student Innovation Center Launchpad. (Jack McClellan)

Beulah Kure, a senior majoring in advertising and the account manager for 9th G.E.A.R., said she was very happy with how 9th G.E.A.R. performed and the reaction they received from the judges shortly before the winners were announced.

“I am very proud of the whole class, including FastLane,” Kure said. “I think that we’ve all worked really hard towards making the presentation, and in the end, I feel like, regardless of who wins or loses, everyone’s done a good job.”

Kure said one challenge of the presentation was that her team had an abundance of ideas and had to prioritize which were most likely to succeed and organize them into a cohesive presentation.

“I think in the very beginning when we first started talking to Matt, we were very nervous about interacting with him,” Kure said. “Then we understood that he’s just another person, and he has passion for Iowa State and is rooting for us too. We love that we had the opportunity to present to him and we hope that NASCAR is actually able to use some of our stuff.”

Ben Teske, a senior majoring in advertising and the account manager for FastLane, said one challenge he faced personally was helping to manage his peers and keeping the group working towards their task.

“It was difficult, initially, with no experience of how to manage people — especially people that are my peers,” Teske said. “But I thought it was really good. We had a lot of really good people, really good ideas, really hard workers.”

Teske said developing a campaign with real-world applications and aspects was extremely valuable.

“I don’t think that you get to work with such a high profile client at this, like, in-depth level, even at an internship,” Teske said. “I thought it was a really interesting way to really have Iowa State give us an opportunity to really be involved and see how our jobs would be in the workplace.”