Nationwide Insurance lost a little bit of visibility at the track when a concussion sidelined Dale Earnhardt Jr. last season.
It will try to create buzz now that he is returning, but it started spending money to create that buzz even before it knew if the sport's most popular driver would race next month at the Daytona 500.
The company has created a six-part series it will push on social channels that focuses on Earnhardt's return. The first 180-second episode airs Tuesday night, with 90-second episodes each of the following Tuesdays leading up to the Daytona 500.
Earnhardt tested in December and was cleared to race in Daytona. But the series was filmed primarily over two days in late November, a couple of weeks before Earnhardt's test.
The series is called "Unfinished Business," using the phrase both team owner Rick Hendrick and Earnhardt used when discussing why Earnhardt would return to racing.
Nationwide's director of sports marketing, Jim McCoy, said the company expects Earnhardt fans to be hungry for Earnhardt content amid his return, and he hopes this series satiates some of that. The company has close to a six-figure budget for production and promotion, McCoy said.
It was a little bit of a gamble, pouring money into a production knowing that if Earnhardt's test didn't go well, the series could have little impact.
"We were hopeful it would go the direction that it did," McCoy said. "We did a lot of scenario planning if he wouldn't be ready for Daytona.
"Either way, we were going to be sponsoring a car in the Daytona 500, and with all the excitement and all the attention that race has to start the season, and we wanted to make sure our program was represented with great content."
"We saw a slight softening [in our return] last year, but Hendrick did a lot to help with Jeff in the seat, and Alex and the team overdelivering, and even Dale in all of his capacity outside the car helping us make sure we held on to our value," McCoy said. "But it's great to have Dale back in the seat."
Nationwide had a relationship with Earnhardt before it signed to sponsor his car, and McCoy said the company did not pressure him to return.
"All along, it was always Dale's health first," McCoy said. "We have been a partner with him for a long time. ... We just made sure we were aware of what was going on and had contingencies."
This is the first time that Nationwide has done a video series focused on one of its athletes.
"We would always do some type of new content around the Daytona 500 knowing how much interest piques in the sport during that couple of weeks window," McCoy said.
"But I would say, knowing that there is the added element of him back in the car and just the overall energy and excitement, we definitely wanted to do more than maybe we probably would have to take full advantage of that wave of excitement for the fans and just the general interest in coming back."