Think the Average Nascar track gets crowded? Check out those paint jobs. There were about 800 different logos festooning America's super-speedsters last season. "Things start to look indistinguishable when they're going 180 miles per hour," says Eric Wright, VP of R&D at media sponsorship expert Joyce Julius & Associates. To measure the impact of each billboard-on-wheels, JJ&A revved up a new system of "recognition grading" for the 2010 season. It uses logo-recognition software and an algorithm that crunches size, clarity, screen time, placement, and clutter to create a media value for the time each brand is displayed. As seen during this year's Daytona 500, companies are jostling hard for position at every turn.
1. RED RIDING HOOD
By dumping spell-it-out name recognition in favor of its universally recognizable red-and-white bull's-eye logo, Juan Montoya's Target car (No. 42) telegraphs its presence virtually anywhere on the track. Plus, without font or margin restrictions, it's extra big and shiny. Nascar fans love big and shiny. The car grabbed 25 minutes and four seconds of screen time, worth $1,927,925 in recognition.
2. SIDE BY SIDE
National Guard soldiers would be sick to their stomachs if they knew the Tums logo on Montoya's car won more airtime than No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s mine-is-bigger logo. How? The blank space around Tums helps it cut through the clutter.
3. EXTREME CLOSE-UP
Aflac has found the perfect way to take advantage of the rooftop camera that sits atop its driver Carl Edwards's No. 99 car. Just above the windshield, at the edge of the roof, it has posted a small knowquack.com decal to underline footage every time the networks cut to Edwards's camera. Like when he flips a car. What could be better for selling injury insurance? At Daytona, KnowQuack got a full 1:33 in airtime ($757,805).
4. WINDOW DRESSING
Valvoline has gotten slick by spreading out its exposure with smaller endorsements across Roush Fenway's four-car fleet, which includes Edwards's No. 99. Betting the field paid off big-time at Daytona when Edwards's teammate David Ragan got a bunch of close-ups on his window, giving the oil company 40 seconds of great recognition and an additional value of $66,600. Shake and bake.
A version of this article appeared in the May 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.