Ladies & Gentlemen, Start Your Digital Transition

FCC sponsoring NASCAR driver David Gilliland to promote DTV transition for three Spring Cup Series races, beginning October 19 at Martinsville Speedway.

The FCC has put the DTV transition education effort on the fast track--literally.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who is from the racing hotbed state of North Carolina, announced Thursday that the FCC would sponsor NASCAR driver David Gilliland and his #38 Ford car for three Spring Cup Series races starting Oct. 19 at Martinsville (no relation that we know of) Speedway.

Gilliland will also be racing toward the digital transition at Phoenix International Raceway Nov. 9 and Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 16.

An FCC source pegs the cost at $350,000, which he said was less than the going rate of $450,000.

For that the FCC gets signage on the hood, sides and back of the car as well as on the driver's suit. The hood will feature a picture of a TV set and the words: "Is your TV ready for digital," as well as a yellow banner with  "DTV Transition Deadline: February 17, 2009," inside.

It will also say "DTV transition" on the back and sides of the car.

The FCC says those races will reach an average 8 million weekly TV audience, as well as some 125,000 spectators in the stands at each race. That means the FCC will be engaged in some imbedded marketing of its own.

The commissioner is obviously hoping Gilliland will be at the front of the pack, said the sources. They didn't want to think about the opposite end of the spectrum, say a crash with that TV set crumpled and smoking.

The FCC recently got $20 million from Congress to help promote the DTV transition, but the FCC did not say how much it was paying for the privilege of promoting the DTV transition.

“NASCAR fans are known for their avid interest in this sport. Their awareness and responsiveness to NASCAR sponsors is also exceptionally high." said Martin in announcing the sponsorship. "I believe this sponsorship is an extremely effective way for the FCC to raise DTV awareness among people of all ages and income levels across the United States who loyally follow one of the most popular sports in America.”