Toy makers offer fans some playtime at NASCAR Fun Zone
By MICHAEL SMITH
Published July 31, 2006 : Page 04
NASCAR’s first Fun Zone will debut this week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in hopes of introducing families to many of its licensees who produce toys and games for children.
At least eight manufacturers will have booth space in the Fun Zone during the weekend of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Some, such as Shelcore Toys, have the license for preschool toys and produce, among other things, bouncy cars with Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart paint schemes. Others, such as Team Up International, make remote-control cars, while Specialty Board Games has produced a line of NASCAR-themed DVD board games and Leapfrog has added NASCAR to its extensive list of electronic games.
These manufacturers and more, many of whom just acquired a NASCAR license, will showcase their toys in the Fun Zone, which also will be the site for a library reading/coloring book event.
The first Fun Zone, which will house eight 15-by-30-foot booths and tie in with Camping World’s RV Expo outside the track, signals a new focus on children by NASCAR’s licensing office. For years, NASCAR shied away from marketing to youths because a cigarette brand, Winston, sponsored its most prominent series.
In addition to creating Fun Zones at future events, NASCAR has other plans in the works.
It just signed a multiyear deal with Starbridge Media Group of McLean, Va., to create, publish and distribute NASCAR-themed comic books. NASCAR will work with Starbridge to develop characters and story lines, with children ages 7-11 being the target. They hope to have the first issues available in the first quarter of 2007.
Previously, NASCAR partnered with Reel FX Entertainment to form NASCAR Jr., which will create entertainment programming and products for preschool children. Dennis DeShazer, the co-creator of Barney, will help develop an animated series aimed at children ages 3-7.
“Now, we’re in a position to actively market to kids … and the Fun Zone really signifies for us the start of that,” said Blake Davidson, NASCAR’s managing director of licensed products. “We’re going to do more to activate in that space and be aggressive in the whole area of kids and toys. The Fun Zone will be a good test for us to see what kinds of legs it has at the track, and it also gives us a chance to bring our partners together.”
NASCAR’s research shows that 37 percent of its fan base have kids under 18 years old and that the number of children age 7 to 11 who consider themselves NASCAR fans has increased 7 percent in the last three years, Davidson said.