From Racing to Rewarded: Reflecting on the 2019 My Place Hotels 360 Knoxville Nationals

Having had the opportunity to promote our hotels and our Stay Rewarded® loyalty program to over 15,000 loyal race fans thanks to My Place Altoona and Ankeny’s title sponsorship of the 29th annual My Place Hotels 360 Knoxville Nationals Presented by Great Southern Bank, My Place HQ’s experience in Iowa was more than impactful. It was unforgettable. Take a look back on our week in Iowa as recapped by My Place’s Lanie Hall and Grace Jensen.

Day One: Leaving Aberdeen bright and early on the morning of July 31st, we hopped in the trusty-dusty My Place Van (or Tony, as we liked to call it) and were ready to embark on our 7-hour road-trip adventure that would take us to places that we had never been and would leave us changed when we returned home, days later.

With it being our first weekend “at the races”, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect as we left home and ventured into the heart of Iowa. If one thing’s for sure, however, we left Aberdeen with an open-mind and high spirits and we’re all the more grateful for that!

As we embarked on our 7-hour adventure to Iowa, we had the opportunity to stop by two My Place locations along the way to deliver our brand new Stay Rewarded speed-packs! Our first stop occurred a couple hours into our drive as we stopped by My Place Brookings and our second stop occurred another hour down the road at My Place Sioux Falls! At both hotels, we had the opportunity to get to connect with the staff and old friends which was great!

Four hours, a few strange truck-stops, and an endless assortment of laughs later, we heel-clicked our way to Altoona more excited and eager to take on the week’s activities than when we left home.

Once we arrived, we checked-in to My Place Altoona and got a feel for what our experience at the hotel was going to be like. We especially LOVED the Gen 2 lobby.

Grace was so into the check-in process that she even offered to watch the front-desk for My Place Altoona Team Member Shanda. Now that’s what we call #dedication

We enjoyed our rooms for the rest of the evening to prepare for the big day ahead of us and enjoyed the sweet treats the hotel staff had left for each of us in goodie baskets!

Day 2: On the first day of the event, we arrived about an hour and a half early to make sure that we knew where everything went and to ensure that we had enough time to set up our booth. Rolling into Knoxville, it was very clear just how HUGE the event was for the town. There were t-shirt stands everywhere, RV’s parked outside the track, and people roaming throughout the streets getting ready for the event. You could immediately tell that Knoxville prepares all year round for this weekend. We were amazed as the Knoxville Raceway came into view from a distance, even bigger than we had imagined.

Tim and Laura, Knoxville employees who quickly became our friends, were extremely helpful right from the start as they coordinated getting golf carts set up to help us haul in all of our materials. With the help of Tim, Laura, the lovely Irene Roberts, My Place Hotels Director of Brand Loyalty, and her husband Dan (who had joined us the night before), our table was set up in record time.

The first night of the event was the most exhilarating because none of us knew what exactly to expect. It was very clear, however, that our brand was going to get a great amount of exposure and we couldn’t wait to see what was in store for us over the next couple days!

It was amazing to see the sheer amount of gratitude from Knoxville’s fans for Ankeny/Altoona’s sponsorship of the event and our attendance at the event. Right off the bat, the very first race fan that came up to us immediately said “Thank you for sponsoring this event! We sincerely appreciate you.” And this was a common trend throughout the next few days. Excitement and dirt gleamed out of every race fan – everyone was excited and happy to be there and so were we.

Even Pineapple Pete got in on the action in Knoxville!

Despite the excitement and craziness of the event itself, it was amazing how most fans that approached us were attentive and listened to each of us as we educated them about our brand, Stay Rewarded, and communicated how excited we were to be there. We were able to talk and laugh with nearly 150 people before the races even started. It was abundantly clear that our brand presence in Knoxville was both noted and appreciated, which made being there that much more meaningful for us as a brand.

Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of our night was getting to spend time with Jeremy Murray from True Hospitality and My Place Altoona’s GM, Josh Seivers.

We loved this photo of Josh and Jeremy!

After the races started, we were able to take down our table and go up to the My Place Suite and enjoy the races from above. Something that the My Place team does well is knowing how to laugh with each other and make everyone feel like family – and this was no exception. From winning a bet with Tom Caruth on the Sprint Car winner of the night (winning pride points only) to losing in a game of bags with Matt Eller (losing pride point previously earned), we were definitely tired, but even excited to return in the morning and spread the word about why My Place is so great!

Before the night could end, however, we had an opportunity to head down to “Victory Lane” where we were able to get on the stand with the winner of the race and take some pictures. Can we say celebrity status?!

Day 3: On the third day of our trip, we used the first part of the day to catch up on some much needed sleep and had the opportunity to get some work done. We grabbed lunch and headed out to the races early, knowing this night would have more foot traffic than the previous.

Here’s a photo of Lanie eating some DELICIOUS Pho!

While leaving early was novel, in nature, we may or may not have gotten lost on our 40 minute journey from Altoona to Knoxville as a result of Grace missing a vital exit. Getting lost, or what we referred to as, “advertising”, happened more than we would probably like to admit.

Eventually we made it to Knoxville and got set up for the evening. On the second night of the races, event attendance and the amount of attendees who stopped by our booth easily doubled. It was amazing to see how many people recognized us from our two locations in the Des Moines area. This alone proved to us that our brand visibility really resonated with Knoxville’s loyal fans and made our efforts all the more worth it.

Here’s a couple action-shots of Irene connecting with Knoxville attendees!

Our second night at the raceway was easily as memorable as the previous. Perhaps the coolest part of the evening was having the opportunity to ride in the Pace Truck, which led each of the Sprint Cars around the track before the race started.

While observing from the stands, one would think that the truck is only going around the track at about 40 mph. Boy were we proved wrong each time one of us climbed in the pace truck. (To give you little bit of insight into the chaos that ensued the moment the driver hit the gas pedal: phones and GoPros were flying)

Day 4: On the final day of our adventurous trip to Iowa, we decided to spend our last morning in the heart of downtown Des Moines.

Here’s one of our favorite photos from downtown Des Moines!

Before long, we were headed back to Knoxville for the very last time on our trip as the races came to a close. Our final day was particularly exciting as event attendance far surpassed the previous couple nights. We were amazed by the fact that we were able to get more people to sign up for Stay Rewarded than the previous nights. We easily provided brand exposure to over 10,000 people on the final night, too, which was extra thrilling.

As time grew closer to the gates opening, the line to the entrance grew longer and longer. Making the most of the moment, we walked alongside the long line handing out My Place koozies to all the guests walking in. We got rid of an entire box of koozies (750) that evening!

One of the most memorable experiences from our final night in Knoxville was when Matt Eller and Tom Caruth invited us to join them and their guests at their VIP tent. Here, we had the opportunity to interact with so many different people and talk about all things My Place! Perhaps the coolest part was that the My Place sprint car was on display in the tent. Sadly, the car had crashed within the first few laps of the first heat and was out for the rest of the races.

Check out Matt and Tom with the My Place Sprint Car!

It was incredible to see the amount of people that showed up for the final day. The stands were packed with people of all ages. It proved just how loyal Knoxville’s fans were and the value our presence had on making an impression on them. Our event coordinator, Kendra, shared with us that she had her first Knoxville experience at 6 weeks old and now plans and coordinates them. This isn’t an anomaly, either. We met so many people who had been attending the event since they were little, so the fans that we did meet and encounter definitely appreciated the Sponsorship, which was more meaningful to us than they could ever know.

As our final night at Knoxville came to a close, we were able to enjoy the last few races. Our trusty-dusty “Tony” even got to take a few laps around the World’s best dirt track – and THAT was awesome. We wrapped our final night up as we proceeded to Victory Lane to take the stage with the winner of the 360 Nationals, James McFadden

We hope that you enjoy this video of our beloved Tony making his way around the Knoxville Raceway Track!

While our hopes had been high from the jump, we would’ve never guessed going into the event that not only would we receive the exposure that we did, but also the gratitude from those working the event and from fans simply enjoying the races in such abundant amounts. If people weren’t interested in signing up for our rewards program, they were still grabbing koozies and cups and taking a part of us with them as they walked away. If they hadn’t heard of us before attending the week’s events, they certainly left knowing us and perhaps that was the most meaningful part of the week, not only for us, but for the brand as a whole.

Eventually, we did have to return home to Aberdeen which was quite bittersweet, but exciting because we knew we’d get to do it all over again in a year. By the time we returned home, we had the opportunity to quantify just how many individuals we had signed up for Stay Rewarded at the event. Our hard-work translated to over 250 new enrollments – a big win in our books!

Check Knoxville Raceway’s My Place Hotels 360 Knoxville Nationals video recap!

No matter where Knoxville’s fans are traveling to next, we hope that they’ll continue to look out for My Place Hotels along their journey and bear the same significance in meeting us as we did them at the 29th Annual My Place Hotels 360 Knoxville Nationals. See you next year, Knoxville!