Monster Energy wants to see "raw emotion" from NASCAR drivers in 2017

NASCAR is embracing its inner Monster.

Monster Energy wants to see "raw emotion" from NASCAR drivers in 2017
NASCAR/Monster Energy
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the streets of Las Vegas
Mark Hall, Chief Marketing Officer of Monster Beverage Co.
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the streets of Las Vegas
Steve Phelps, Brian France, Mark Hall and Mitch Covington
Restart: Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet leads
Restart action
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota, crash
Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet crash
The car of Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing on fire after crashing
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota spins off the nose of Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Post race brawl between the crews of Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski
Clint Bowyer, Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota and Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet involved in a crash
Brad Keselowski in trouble
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet beats Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

The Monster Energy Era has dawned in NASCAR — and that’s a good thing. Although NASCAR introduced a new behavioral policy before the 2016 season, overly polished athletes do not fit the Monster mold.

We want to see the emotion — the raw emotion in the sport ... We never tell our athletes what to say in an interview. We never script them.

Mitch Covington, Monster's VP of Sport Marketing

Perhaps the sport will finally shed it’s buttoned-up attitude for the drivers and return to the rebels and cowboys we once knew and loved behind the wheel.

“I think it’s been nine or 10 years since Robby Gordon was our first foray in there,” says Monster CMO Mark Hall. “I remember it was a great day for me when Robby threw his helmet at some guys because that was the only time (Monster) ever got on camera.

“I actually called him up and said, ‘Robby, can you do that some more?’”

An unconventional brand

Monster doesn’t have a reputation for being conventional. The brand encourages authenticity with its athletes — and that’s just fine with Kurt Busch.

Busch, the 2004 NASCAR champion, carries the Monster brand as a co-primary sponsor on the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing car and has enjoyed a relationship with Monster since 2012. He’s excited about the prospect of drivers expressing their true selves.

“That’s what we need to get back to,” Busch said. That’s the underlining defining moment that we all need to work on. But it’s helping the other sponsors understand that. It’s helping the NAPA’s, the Motorcrafts, it’s helping the brands that get excited when something goes wrong and not allowing the drivers attitude or personality come through.

“When Mark Hall says he was excited when Robby Gordon threw his helmet, that’s what we got to get back to. I remember a time when I was in the paper for a bad reason — a few weeks after I won a race — and I said to that CEO, why didn’t I get a phone call when I won the race? Why am I talking to you after a bad moment? I hope we can bring the fun back to NASCAR.”

An unscripted approach

When Monster Energy’s Vice President of Sport Marketing Mitch Covington said Busch was an unbelievable brand ambassador — and a pretty good wheel man — he wasn’t blowing smoke. So it’s not surprising when Covington says the beverage company not only expects its athletes to be genuine, they demand it.

“We want to be authentic in all the sports we’re in,” Covington said. “‘Authentic’ is a big word in our vocabulary. We want to see the emotion — the raw emotion in the sport. My kids race. There’s not a bigger high than winning or a bigger low when you don’t. That’s what draws people to sport. Yeah, we want to see the really thing.

“And NASCAR is a very emotional sport. The drivers get emotional and we need to let them be emotional and do what they do. We never tell our athletes what to say in an interview. We never script them. We hire them because of the way they are not because of what we want them to say. We want raw emotion and good hard racing.”

Busch has been the poster child for “raw emotion and good hard racing over the years”. At 38, he’s participated in every sponsor era that NASCAR has enjoyed from Winston through Nextel/Sprint and now Monster. Other than the sanctioning body, no one in the sport intimately understands the new sponsors potential for taking NASCAR to the next level.

“It’s tremendous for the series, for Monster Energy, for both brands to be able to continue to build,” Busch said. “NASCAR came from its Southern roots and there was a sponsor named R.J. Reynolds and Winston that helped do that. Nextel and Sprint took it to the next level and here we go again. And it’s up to everybody in the room to make that happen.

“What’s fun about Monster, they have been doing the same thing with sponsoring little endorsement programs that started here and there and then moved into the X Games. But it’s always been about the athlete, winning races, getting on the podium and beating the competition. Here we are going into the top form of motorsport because they see what kind of competition goes on here and they want to be a part of it.”

Great competition and personalities should be at the core of every sport. NASCAR has worked overtime the last few years to improve the on track product.

And now we have an edgy title sponsor with attitude to go with it.

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