Behind The Scenes

NASCAR’s Keselowski endures turkey, ‘pepper spray’ in new ESPN ads

Editor’s note: The actual Brad Keselowski ad is featured above. Outtakes are featured later in this post.

One of NASCAR’s fastest-rising stars, and one of its most social media-friendly, Brad Keselowski is featured in the newest installment of ESPN’s “Nothing Beats First Place” advertising campaign that debuts this week.

Launched in mid-July to promote ESPN’s telecasts of the final 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races of the season, the campaign includes commercials starring four drivers.

Spots with Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards already have aired, while a fourth with Denny Hamlin will begin running prior to the Sept. 16 start of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

This year’s campaign continues a theme that started when ESPN rolled out the first spots in 2011, with the drivers in humorous situations that demonstrate that nothing is better than winning (or worse than losing). The theme ties in to NASCAR’s renewed emphasis on winning races in determining the seeding for the Chase, a rule change that took effect last year.

In the new spot, Keselowski fights to stay awake after a gigantic turkey feast, gets (fake) pepper-sprayed while trying to decipher an autostereogram image and answers odd questions at a news conference, all of which he’d rather do than lose on the racetrack.

ESPN tapped into Keselowski’s large social media presence in launching the campaign, with the driver Tweeting a preview to his more than 280,000 followers. He’s already popular on Twitter; his prominence rose during and after this year’s Daytona 500.

During a stoppage of the race, Keselowski, who had his cell phone tucked away inside his race car, Tweeted a picture from the driver’s seat. The image became legendary, with Keselowski being praised for embracing social media and being open, and he gained some 100,000 followers.

“What we enjoy the most about making and airing these spots is bringing out the personalities of the drivers that NASCAR fans may not necessarily always see,” said Nick Smith, ESPN marketing coordinator. “The spots are all different and we’ve gotten a really good response to them.”

Wieden + Kennedy New York is the creative agency for the campaign.

Keselowski will compete in the Pure Michigan 400 from Michigan International Speedway live on ESPN on Sunday, Aug. 19, at 1 p.m. ET.

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