7 Days Out: Costa Daytona 500

By: Chelsea Lashua, Allison Pulikowski and Dave Dziemian

The calm before the storm at the Daytona Speedway

The calm before the storm at the Daytona Speedway

It’s the Super Bowl of stock car racing, it’s electric, it’s like nothing you’ve seen before. Words that can only describe the Daytona 500. Whether you are a diehard NASCAR fan or you’ve never seen a race in your life, being a part of this widely watched sporting event is wild, and to some a bucket list experience.

One thing that many attendees and spectators do not take into consideration is the endless hours of planning that go an event of this size, or the man and woman power that it takes to bring all of the pieces together for the businesses and brands that take part. Ember had the honor of bringing to life Costa Sunglasses’s activation that spanned from the Midway, to the Fan Zone and most notably, the Boardwalk Club. Our Gathering Producer, Allison Pulikowski, and Production Lead, Dave Dziemian give us an inside look behind the scenes of what it is really like to produce an activation at the most prestigious event in NASCAR:

Q: Tell me about the Daytona 500, sometimes referred to as the Super Bowl of stock car racing

Allison:  It's like nothing I have ever seen before! Not only the sport itself (it's actually pretty interesting once you learn a lot of the details behind it) and the group of people who are there. It's a vibe like I can't describe and the fans are a true community…the friendliest people I have ever met.

Dave: It’s electric. 500,000 people ascend on Daytona to watch one of the biggest car races in America.

Q: Can you give an overview of what the Daytona 500 looks like from an event professionals POV? 

Allison: A lot of moving parts and logistics! We have to abide by the overall regulations of the Speedway, while also working with NASCAR because they basically take over ownership of the track. We have to have everything loaded in by a certain time, traffic has to stop at a certain time, sailboats need to have the sails drawn at certain times.

Ember and Captain Willy on the custom Costa sailboat

Ember and Captain Willy on the custom Costa sailboat

Q: What is the most exciting part about producing an activation for the Daytona 500? 

Allison: Being able to be a part of such a monumental event is such a cool thing - to be able to say I did an event at the Daytona 500 isn't something most event professionals don’t get to say. It was the perfect balance of hard work and fun!

Dave: The people being able to see the brand and interact with Costa employees and the merchandise. The best part is that this is all for fun and helps attendees and event pros set the stage for a fun event. No stress of selling, just make it look awesome and have fun.

Q: What’s the most stressful part?

Dave: Getting everything to the speedway and getting set up is the most stressful part, as there are thousands of other vendors, campers, and attendees all sending and shipping materials to Daytona. Once race day arrives, it is extremely difficult getting in and out of the speedway. 

Q: What do you and other event professionals see at the event that the race fans do not see? 

Allison: Probably how quickly you can run out of giveaways - 2,500 t-shirts disappear in the blink of an eye, it's crazy!

Q: Can you describe how you’re feeling 7 days out from the event, during, and at the end?

Dave: 7 days out I am confident and concentrated on making sure I am dotting i's and crossing t's to make sure the client, speedway and any vendors are all in sync and have what they need to be successful. During the event I am pretty content and alert - doing everything we can to make sure we are meeting expectations. After, I am relieved and a little sad. It is a fun consumer facing event, which can sometimes be rare for us.

Allison: To put it simply, Before: Anxious, During: Go-Mode/Excited, After: Happy!

Q: What is the impact of the Costa activation with race fans? Do they connect with a racing audience? 

Dave: In this case we are showcasing the Costa brand to people around every corner of the speedway.  A lot of the interaction you have with race fans is with brand loyalists who love their Costas, but also with people who are interested in getting a taste of what the brand is all about. I would say anyone who interacts with the activation instantly gets this feeling of connection. 

Q: What part of the Costa Activation do you most look forward to?

Allison: It's a tie between the beach and the sail boat! We built a custom Costa beach by the lake and brought in a bunch of furniture for fans to lounge during the day. We also brought in a sailboat with a custom Costa sail to sail around the lake which looked so cool! It was amazing to see them both come to life.

Custom Costa Beach at the Boardwalk Club (Daytona 500 Speedway)

Custom Costa Beach at the Boardwalk Club (Daytona 500 Speedway)

7 Days Out:

Day 7 - Install of all the graphics

Day 6 - Building a beach (loading in hundreds of pounds of sand, building the frame & surrounding wooden pilings)

Day 5 -Product for display cases is delivered

Day 4 - Moving of all client's collateral to the speedway

Day 3 - Last minute builds and pick up from the client

Day 2 - Any rental companies involved would make their deliveries, loading in the sail boat

Day 1 - At this point we are show ready and feeling good

Day of - Pumped and ready to make the best event we can!

In the grand scheme of the Daytona 500 we are small, but we make a big splash with thoughtful design and big impact items. You don't have to have the most money or build the largest booth to make an impact.

Mindy Wright