Why Claritin Invited Consumers to Race Go-karts with Allergy Sufferer Frankie Muniz

“These kinds of experiential events create quite a lot of buzz and stir. We do these events in New York City, and the question’s always: Are we going to hit anybody other than the people who are attending the event? And that’s really the purpose of the content that we created, the video we pushed out afterward, the consumers who are coming and taking selfies and pictures and putting them on social channels. People are seeing it beyond just that one moment in time.”

–Denise Vitola, VP-Brand Integration P.R., Social and Influencer, Bayer

Operating heavy machinery while on certain medications is a huge no-no, so Bayer wanted to reinforce the value of Claritin’s non-drowsy allergy formula by running a go-kart track at Seaport Square in New York City. The pharmaceutical brand invited consumers to race alongside NASCAR driver Frankie Muniz, the former actor who starred on “Malcolm in the Middle,” as part of the one-day-only springtime Claritin Clear 500 event.

“We wanted to—in a very experiential, hands-on way—demonstrate to people that they don’t have to have allergy fog. They can take our allergy medication, and they can still go on,” says Denise Vitola, vp-brand integration p.r., social and influencer at Bayer. “Thinking about times when consumers can’t do things because of drowsiness, we landed on driving to show consumers they’re living their life to the fullest in the fast lane, as they sped around in these go-karts.”

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Coincidentally, around the time that Bayer was starting to brainstorm this driving-focused activation, Muniz had pivoted to a racing career in the NASCAR ARCA Menards Series (and he just so happens to be an allergy sufferer himself), so it was what Vitola calls “a lightning-in-the-bottle moment” for the brand to partner with Muniz on the campaign. He not only sported a black-and-white Claritin-branded racing suit—emblazoned with his name, of course—but also enthusiastically engaged with on-site media and attendees as an ambassador for the brand.

With New York City as the chosen location for the Claritin Clear 500, Vitola says the biggest challenge was finding the right venue with enough space to host a go-kart track while being accessible to foot traffic. The South Street Seaport fit the criteria, but the team didn’t want the site to come off as industrial. As a result, they leaned into greenery and florals to create a parklike environment, visually depicting traditional springtime allergens.

Developed with track experts and design teams, Claritin’s winding go-kart track was lined with stacked tires, orange-and-white barricades, and yellow traffic signs (directional arrows and messages like “Allergy Season Ahead”) for a realistic racing experience. The branded elements included a starting archway covered in leaves and flowers, logos on the track surface, and standing banners. Claritin’s signature blue extended to the brand ambassadors’ jackets, go-karts, and racing suits and helmets for participants to don while on track.

Claritin clear_2023_frankie meet and greet

For consumers, NASCAR driver Frankie Muniz was the one to beat on Claritin’s go-kart race track.

The event kicked off with a VIP experience for 15 media representatives and influencers in the Claritin Clear Lounge next to the track, resulting in more than 50 social media posts that generated over 1 million impressions. Following opening remarks from the brand team and Muniz, attendees had the opportunity to mingle with the NASCAR driver, enjoy breakfast, make flower bouquets and suit up to hit the race track, which required participants to sign a waiver before jumping into the go-karts. Trackside crowds kept the energy up with cheers for the go-kart drivers who were running laps nonstop around the allergy-themed course.

Vitola says Bayer conducted some pre-promotional efforts to spread the word ahead of the Claritin Clear 500 but didn’t want to push too much messaging in advance to be able to accommodate participants who happened upon the event. The brand leveraged its social media channels, and Muniz posted about the event for his own followers. Before exiting, attendees made sure to stop by Claritin’s branded flower wall backdrop on a grass-covered elevated platform—a winner’s podium of sorts—and pick up Claritin product samples and giveaways.

“There are three key takeaways for us. First, having the right spokesperson. The allergy fog message came through clearly with the driving tie, and Frankie’s shift to racing was just a perfect pair,” Vitola says. “I would also say designing an experience that is breathtaking and picture-perfect because then you are going to have consumers and attendees promoting your content on-site and on social. And then the third thing is really making sure that your event extends beyond that actual location by grabbing content, taking pictures and having a social media person on-site with constant posting. Afterward, continue to extend that message and support it with paid media. Those are the things that worked well and will be taken to other experiential events we do for Bayer brands.” Agencies: Allied Global Marketing; Coyne PR.

Claritin clear_2023_attendees in photo op

A floral-themed photo op reinforced Claritin’s “allergy fog” messaging.

Photo credit: Claritin

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