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Nathan Durkes ‘10 Wows NASCAR Marketers

Nathan Durkes ‘10 Wows NASCAR Marketers

Imagine the life of a NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) marketing executive-fly to the NASCAR's Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead Speedway, watch the races from a skybox, eat in four-star restaurants like Emeril's of Miami Beach, hang out with drivers and owners at private parties, and rest your head at the end of the day on Egyptian cotton pillowcases in an executive suite at the Lowes Hotel overlooking Miami's South Beach-one of the highest-priced beachfront properties in the world. All you need is a love of the sport, a lot of creativity and flare for promotion.

Now imagine traveling like this while you are still a college student. That's what Nathan Durkes'10 experienced in November when he and his partners on the University of Notre Dame's NASCAR Kinetics Team were chosen as one of the three team finalists in a marketing pitch contest judged by NASCAR's top promoters. Thanks to Nathan and his team's innovative marketing campaign, Team Notre Dame was declared the competition's winners!

In this, NASCAR's second semester of the Kinetics: Marketing in Motion program, six university teams competed for the championship. This is the first time a team was assembled from Notre Dame. Schools returning for their second try at a championship were Winston Salem State University, Howard University, Central Michigan University, and Clark Atlanta University. A second new addition to the competition was Coastal Carolina University. Each team consisted of five to seven students.

Nathan Durkes, the only Holy Cross College participant, was invited to try out for the University of Notre Dame team by Notre Dame engineering counselor Laura Flynn who knew of his extensive previous experience in motorsports marketing. He is also a member of the University of Notre Dame Marketing Club. "I heard there were hundreds of applications from students wanting to be part of NASCAR Kinetics," Nathan said. "It was very competitive even before we started to compete against other university teams."

So how did Nathan learn so much about motorsports marketing? "While growing up, I have always been a fan of motorsports like the Indy 500, NASCAR, and Formula One, however as a fan, I found that motorsports marketing was often even more interesting than the race itself. When I was younger, I wrote letters to some of the top people on various racing teams, and some even wrote back. One person who has been particularly influential for me is John Doonan, the Manager of Mazda Motorsports Team Development. He replied to one of my letters and our relationship grew from there. Since 2007, he has been a mentor who has given me the opportunity to acquire hands-on experience in the areas of sponsor activation and integrated marketing communications. In my association with Mazda, I have assisted with on-track activation and hospitality with corporate sponsors such as Bank of America and BP Oil," Nathan explained.

"John has helped me learn the marketing creative process. For Mazda, I have been involved in brainstorm strategies for new promotions, activations, and business growth strategies alongside members of the Mazda community. I have contributed to marketing strategy for Mazda's programs in the American Le Mans Series, Grand-Am Series, and elsewhere," Nathan continued.

Nathan also spent last summer creating marketing strategies for the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend to satisfy his requirements in the Holy Cross College professional internship program. For four months, he planned and implemented promotional strategies and performed database development for the museum.

"Although my duties varied from day to day, the project that was the most fun was to promote the new Harley-Davidson: Building a Legend exhibit," Nathan remembered. "This was a grassroots campaign focused on the core audience of motorcycle enthusiasts within a 150 mile radius of the museum's location. My job was to try to expose them to information about the exhibit. The campaign was a measurable success with large increases in attendance from motorcycle riders. I also managed to write and publish articles about the exhibit in over 15 local, regional, and national publications, including two of the top magazines in the motorcycle-enthusiast category--Hot Bike and American Motorcyclist," he said.

In all, Nathan's articles about the exhibit reached over 1.4 million in readership.

Nathan worked closely with motorcycle dealerships, the American Motorcycle Association, Harley Owner's Groups, and ABATE (American Bikers Aimed Toward Education). He also got the exhibit featured in a number of radio shows, local newspapers, Internet sites, and posted in various community calendars. Not bad for a summer job!

So what will Nathan do with all this great experience? "My dream is to get a job in the motorsports industry when I graduate this summer," he said. We'll keep Holy Cross fans updated.