With the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series underway, IEG SR checked in with Tim Considine, director of sports marketing for Sprint Nextel Corp. for an update.

Considine became the overseer of Sprint’s sports deals in September, having previously managed the company’s NASCAR involvement. He reports to Steve Gaffney, vice president of media and sponsorship.

IEG SR spoke with Considine about the company’s NASCAR program, how it generates return on investment, lessons learned and other topics. Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.

IEG SR: The title sponsorship of NASCAR’s top series is now seven years old, having been signed pre-merger by Nextel. Where do things stand with that relationship now?

Considine: We took the sponsorship on behalf of the Nextel brand and renamed the series in 2008 following the merger in 2005. We renamed the series to reflect the direction we are going with the consumer side of our business.

Our marketing objective is simple: To drive incremental revenue and return on investment from the sponsorship.

IEG SR: How do you go about generating return on investment?

Considine: We measure three metrics: The size of our customer base, average revenue per unit—total revenue divided by the number of customers—and churn. We want low churn, high average revenue per unit and a large customer base.

Over the last eight years we have established that race fans are excellent customers. We have significantly lower churn and higher revenue among NASCAR fans than our overall customer base. NASCAR has been a profitable investment for our company.

The sponsorship provides a unique opportunity to integrate our brand into the sport. We are not shouting from the sidelines like you have to do in other sports.

Every driver is racing for the Sprint Cup and every driver is a Sprint Cup driver who drives a Sprint Cup car. We are on every uniform and in every victory lane. We can organically integrate our brand in a way that is hard to find in any other sponsorship.

IEG SR: One of the ways you activate is with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile application. How does that work?

Considine: Sprint Cup Mobile is a free application for our data customers. It gives race fans about as much data as a crew chief receives. That includes driver communication, lap times and GPS positioning.

It’s something you can’t get anywhere else, and it’s very effective in helping to reduce churn and improve loyalty.

Our goal is to associate with the sport in a way that fans accept and appreciate. Sprint Cup Mobile helps explain to fans that Sprint is a unique company and different from our competitors. We want to build awareness and increase consideration and purchase intent, which ultimately translate into incremental business. Sprint Cup Mobile gives customers a reason to stay with Sprint.

IEG SR: How else do you activate the partnership?

Considine: We try to activate every way that consumers access racing. That includes handsets, online, TV or going to a race. We want to become part of the fan experience.

For example, we support our TV buy with branded enhancements that provide information that might not otherwise be offered. That includes information on the fastest lap and the driver who has gained the most positions. We want to add value to the TV broadcast to demonstrate what our brand is about.

At each track we have a 120,000-square-foot mobile marketing experience. Last year we talked to 540,000 race fans throughout the season.

Fans that attend the experience can have their photo taken with Miss Sprint Cup, get free merchandise and enter a sweepstakes. We capture information so we can communicate after the race.

IEG SR: Do you activate at retail?

Considine: Sponsorship is particularly effect in retail channels where we are in a competitive position. It’s a nice differentiator at retailers like Best Buy or Radio Shack. We can use sponsorship to provide energy, visibility and separate ourselves from the competition.

We run integrated promotions with retailers at various times throughout the year. We don’t want to appear like wallpaper, so we are not there all the time. But when a race comes to town you can connect the excitement of the race with Sprint and our product offering.

IEG SR: Any lessons learned from your history with NASCAR?

Considine: If we had to do it all over again, I would have gotten more aggressive with data capture earlier in the sponsorship. We have come a long way in gathering data for follow-up marketing, and that has become a valuable component in our activation strategy.

We are also constantly improving Sprint Cup Mobile. When people first dabbled with wireless apps, they found it wasn’t satisfying because you had to push a button seven times to get the information you were looking for.

We have upgraded the app with one-touch navigation to provide access to information that people look for. We have also incorporated social networking and live video. The app has gotten better each year, and it’s much better than when we launched the product in February 2008.

IEG SR: Sprint also sponsors the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Assn., Vail Resorts and other mountain resorts. What is the goal of your partnerships in this area?

Considine: We have been a partner of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Assn. for 20 years. It is one of the most enduring relationships in the sports space, and it is one that has been effective for us. We have earned quite a bit of equity in the ski and snowboard communities, and our involvement in the sport has been beneficial to our consumer and enterprise businesses.

We also sponsor several freestyle skiing and snowboard events, as well as some of the biggest personalities in the sport, including Seth Wescott on the snowboard side and Lindsey Vonn in skiing.

We capture names and opt-in information at events. Skiers are a very attractive consumer segment in terms of household income, buying patterns and reliance on mobile technology.

We are working on some new programs with the U.S Ski Team and U.S. Ski & Snowboard Assn. There is nothing ready to be announced, but we are always looking to improve our partnerships.

IEG SR: Sprint also sponsors a handful of college athletic programs and sports facilities. What is the purpose of those deals?

Considine: We have relationships with the University of Notre Dame, Brigham Young University and other properties located in key markets. We also sponsor the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

We are constantly looking for other properties that provide an opportunity for Sprint to enhance the fan experience through our technology. We look for opportunities that allow us to use our technology to bring fans closer to the sport.

We pioneered that with NFL Mobile, and we’re doing that with Sprint Cup Mobile. We want to integrate our brand into events in an organic fashion and use our technology to enhance the fan experience. That’s the recipe we use when we look for opportunities.

IEG SR: Verizon Wireless replaced Sprint as the NFL’s official telecommunications partner following the 2009/2010 season. Why did you decide not to continue that partnership?

Considine: The answer is simple. We were pleased with the sponsorship and engaged in renewal discussions, but Verizon offered quite a bit more money. The partnership didn’t make sense at that expense.