Tide the other big winner at Daytona 500

Safety workers clean up the track with Tide after a jet dryer burst into flames after being hit under caution by Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. John Harrelson/Getty Images/NASCAR

Matt Kenseth may have been the one in Victory Lane last night, but he might not have been the only winner at the Daytona 500. Juan Pablo Montoya’s crash into a truck hauling a jet dryer ended up giving Tide huge sums of money in free advertising.

Crews used the powdered detergent to clean jet fuel leaked by the damaged dryer, giving the brand exposure for at least a half hour on national television. The Twitterverse exploded, too.

According to a consumer engagement study done by Taylor last year, 54 percent of NASCAR fans will buy a sponsor’s product if it’s the same price as competing products. Another 11 percent of fans will buy the sponsor’s product even if it’s priced higher than its competitors. For fans ages 18 to 34 -- a prized demographic for advertisers -- those numbers are even higher at 61 percent and 14 percent.

Tide got the free advertising without being a NASCAR sponsor. NASCAR says Tide is not an official partner, and officials are not aware of any sponsorships with drivers, either, although parent company Proctor & Gamble is involved with the sport.

Tag Garson of Wasserman Media Group said Tide gained a tidy sum in the exposure: “The value they received was well into … the high seven figures if not into the eights.” But at least one expert believes Tide missed an even bigger opportunity to clean up. “Tide literally had the chance of a lifetime fall into their laps, and they missed catching it,” said social media expert Mack Collier.

While the Twitterverse was abuzz with Tide mentions, the @Tide account remained silent, with its last tweet from the account coming hours the race began. To be fair, the account describes itself as being monitored by a “Tide expert on clean,” who will help with stain removal tips, not company marketing.

Even so, the public sees the account as the public face of the brand. “Tide is a global brand. There’s no excuse for them taking five to eight hours off [of social media],” said Collier.

“If this had been a crisis situation, this could have been really, really bad for [Tide]. They could be waking up to 10 hours of tweets complaining about them. Hopefully they can use this as a learning moment.”

Garson said all should not be lost for the company, though: “You could very quickly turn this around and put newspaper ads together that are very creative.”

A Proctor & Gamble spokeswoman said the company was excited about its role in the race.

"We were excited to see that Tide helped save the race last night," said Sarah Pasquinucci of Proctor & Gamble. "It is exciting to see how when people know they want a great cleaning, they look to Tide."

She said that the company has a "name that caption" contest on Twitter and its Facebook page for an image from the race cleanup.