NASCAR's premier series entitlement sponsor Monster Energy was awarded brand of the year and recognized as a luminary honoree at the sixth annual 2017 Cynopsis Sports Media Awards on Thursday morning in New York City.
NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Global Sales and Marketing Officer Steve Phelps presented Monster Energy with the Gem Award, which honors the brand of the year. Monster Energy Senior Vice President of Marketing Sam Pontrelli accepted the award on behalf of the company.
"It's a great honor," Pontrelli told NASCAR.com. "Monster Energy is 15 years old now and we've come a long way in a very short period of time by doing things a little differently than other people in terms of business community of being kind of a nontraditional brand. So it's really nice to be recognized as brand of the year even though we don't do things like everyone else. It almost acknowledges that fact that, 'OK they are a legitimate player even though they don't play like everyone else.' "
Monster Energy was announced with a multi-year deal as the premier series entitlement sponsor in late 2016. The energy drink company, which embodies the notion of being a lifestyle brand with its motto "A lifestyle in a can," now has a large presence at NASCAR races from 300X300 foot activation stations to Monster Energy girls who interact with fans and help winning teams celebrate in Victory Lane. The company also maintains a huge social media presence.
For Pontrelli, its nontraditional methods in a very traditional industry like the beverage industry is what sets Monster Energy apart.
"So many brands that are in kind of our same (industry) do very traditional things," Pontrelli said. " ... Our roots are very much different than that, so it's nice to see that people have an open mind to something other than just the very traditional and have acknowledged the fact that we can be a legitimate player without doing the same thing that is expected of a company like ours.
"…Going into our NASCAR sponsorship, what we really wanted to do was make sure that Monster's personality came through to NASCAR. Rather than becoming kind of another NASCAR brand, we wanted to make sure that we brought our personality to NASCAR."
Marrying a popular and traditional brand like NASCAR with Monster Energy's innovative nature has allowed growth for the company. This award validates that, Pontrelli says.
"(The award) means that we can continue to evolve as a company and have very positive outcome from it," Pontrelli said. "Originally we started with very, very niche sports; skateboarding, BMX and motocross that were influential in setting the personality for our brand. But there weren't a whole lot of people watching all those sports. And so as we started evolving as a brand and getting into things that got a little more eyeballs, and got a little bit more traditional, we were worried about 'How is this evolution going to affect our brand?' And so by going into NASCAR, it was a really big risk for us because we didn't want to appear like we were evolving too quickly in (becoming) the entitlement sponsor of one of the top four sporting series in the country.
"And so to be recognized by Cynopsis in a very positive way kind of legitimizes that we can continue to evolve the brand and do new things and still be recognized as an innovator and a brand that is still very much influential among the sports community in this kind of new way that we're approaching this."
NASCAR was nominated in multiple Cynopsis Sports Media Award categories and received top honors in Overall Social Media Excellence, recognizing the best use of social media platforms in sports.
From the 2016 Daytona 500 through the playoffs and championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR social media drove record-setting metrics last season as the sport continued to evolve its overall marketing strategy and lead with social media.
Last year, NASCAR generated 4.3 billion impressions and 287 million engagements – a 101 percent year-over-year increase – on Facebook and Twitter. NASCAR also doubled its Snapchat Live Stories and brought fans closer to key moments of the season on Facebook Live, including Tony Stewart's final Monster Energy Series race and the announcement of Monster Energy as premier series entitlement partner.
The 2016 season also marked the introduction of NASCAR’s Social Media Partner Engagement team, built to provide ongoing strategic counsel and social support for official partners.