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How e.l.f. Cosmetics’ Indy 500 Sponsorship Placed Women in the Driver’s Seat

“This was more than just an event; this was a movement.”

–Patrick O’Keefe, VP-Integrated Marketing Communications, e.l.f. Cosmetics

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e.l.f. sponsored Indy 500 driver Katherine Legge, the only woman who competed in this year’s race.

When e.l.f. Cosmetics cruised into this year’s Indianapolis 500 as the first-ever beauty brand to serve as a primary sponsor of a driver, it didn’t just offer a “Lip Oil Change.” It aimed to foster systemic change, too.

The brand’s partnership with Katherine Legge, the only female driver that competed in the May 26 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, served as the anchor for a racetrack-themed activation designed to celebrate women in the sport and educate the next generation of fans on the handful of women who have hit the track in the event’s 108-year history. Setting the tone was Legge herself in an e.l.f.-branded fire suit, helmet and wrapped #51 car.

For e.l.f., the sponsorship connected all the right dots between its driver partnership, its mission to empower women in athletics and the need for a beauty brand to shake up a sport that is often viewed as male-dominated, but, in fact, attracts an audience that is 45-percent female, according to the brand.

buick-seehergreatness-bus-featured-2022_teaserMore on Women’s Sports:

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Fans from all walks of life stopped by e.l.f.’s Lip Oil Change.

“The fans went crazy for her. Crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Patrick O’Keefe, vp-integrated marketing communications at e.l.f. “And it was all walks of life. It was women, it was men, it was young boys, young girls. Everyone was just there to celebrate [Legge].”

Indy 500 sponsors have historically been endemic to the sport (think: tire brands and automakers), and typically don’t stray too far outside the lines of a traditional fan activation. But that’s not how e.l.f. rolls, so the brand arrived at the track with a pit crew of “glow-up” artists offering makeovers that included its holy grail product, Glow Reviver Lip Oils; a female dj spinning tracks; limited-edition swag, like bumper stickers that read “Eyeliner as Sharp as My Turns”; and a wall of history that commemorated the nine women who have competed in the race since its inception.

Another way e.l.f. leveled-up the event: it delivered the Indy 500’s very first drone show. The brand deployed 500 drones that portrayed a celebration of Legge and women in racing. The spectacle inspired a mountain of UGC and attracted a range of local news outlets, helping the brand generate more than 6 billion p.r. impressions (and counting).

Then there were e.l.f.’s digital race activations for fans at home. On May 24, to kick things off, the brand unveiled an Indy 500-themed, gamified AR Snapchat lens. It also launched a custom race extension on its Roblox experience, “e.l.f.UP!.”

And on race day, the brand livestreamed the event via the @elfyeah Twitch channel with gamer @nobswithanna serving as host, and guests like Dr. Jen Welter, the NFL’s first female coach, dropping by. Fun fact: a handful of female F1 drivers at the race heard about the stream and—entirely unprompted—asked to jump in on the broadcast.

“This was more than just an event; this was a movement,” says O’Keefe. “This was a time for us to stand up and support women in the space and all the allies that are there. Men were coming into the space saying, ‘I’m really proud that my daughter gets to come and see this, and my son should be seeing this. These are things that they should be supporting…’ It was really powerful.” Agencies: All Terrain; Day One Agency; BRANDed Management; eGEN (Roblox and Twitch activations).

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Brand ambassadors were dressed in pit crew-inspired jumpsuits and checkered scarves.

Photos: Courtesy of e.l.f. Cosmetics

Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor, digital content. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music.
View all articles by Kait Shea →

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