Good Ol' Boys - NASCAR

Name that NASCAR sponsor
By Doug Belliveau
July 13, 2000

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Every day, we are assaulted by multimedia advertisements with companies selling everything from frozen dinner entrees to vacuum cleaners. Listening to the car radio, you can hear about the new laser eye surgery process. Watching your favorite sitcom, you can see bizarre and confusing blue jean commercials. Open a major magazine and you will see it is at least half-full of glossy print ads hocking perfumes.

So why should NASCAR be any different? Go to any race and your eyes will be immediately directed to bold, bright and colorful paint schemes on race cars that splash corporate logos across the track at 180 mph. Long gone are the days when the driver and chief mechanic would take a wide brush and paint a red number seven on a car spray painted in silver. Advertisers really caught on in the 1980's and 1990's and realized there was gold in them there race cars. Instead of just product stickers scattered on the fenders, now the car paint schemes are advertisements themselves. Except for the windshields, almost every square inch of the vehicle is covered in some type of advertisement. Even the in-car cameras manage to show advertisements purposely located in the cockpit and rear of the car. These cars are so bright they hurt the eyes when the sun glistens off of them or when the night-lights reflect off of the colorful sheet metal.

For long-time NASCAR fans and people working in the racing business, the advertising seen on race cars makes complete sense. They understand how the system works, including product loyalty by fans and advertisements to various industries. But for the person who watches an occasional race on television, some sponsorships may completely baffle them.

Let's first look at some sponsors that make complete sense to anyone, even those who never watch auto racing:

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - Budweiser 

Beer is a HUGE seller, both at home and at the race. You don't have to love racing to know that barbeques and tailgate parties would be nowhere without it. And who can resist the duo of a red and white car and the little frogs that croak their product to the world?

Dale Earnhardt - GM Goodwrench Service Plus 

Even if your car is not blowing a header or breaking a timing belt, it still needs loving maintenance. That's where the GM dealer service centers can help. Combined with television commercials, this sponsor is very effective at reaching a very profitable market.

Ed Berrier - Hills Brother Coffee 

I think 99% of everyone over the age of 16 drinks coffee, and lots of it. It is beyond my comprehension, but people even drink coffee when it's 95 degrees outside. Even though I'm in that elusive 1% of non-drinkers, the sponsor has hit a homerun with this product.

Tony Stewart - Home Depot 
Mike Skinner - Lowe's

Everyone I know has been to a home improvement store at least once in their lives. I drag my young daughters to Home Depot at least once a week. Some people go there just to admire hardware and machinery. It's like a modern day case of window-shopping. Sometimes you go there for a light bulb and come home with a weed whacker. 


Bill Elliot - McDonalds 

This lends new meaning to the expression "billions served". That's exactly what this car does every week for the biggest fast-food chain in the world. Did somebody say McDonalds? They sure did.

Everyone can agree that these race-team sponsorships make sense. But what about some of the others? The following sponsors probably confuse most casual or non-fans. Questions come to mind like "I don't buy that type of product" or "I've never heard of that company". Let's take a look at some of these sponsors and try to make sense of them.

Jeff Burton - Exide Batteries
Bobby Labonte - Interstate Batteries 
Jeremy Mayfield - Mobil 1
Steve Park - Pennzoil
Ricky Rudd - Texaco Havoline

It's a fact that internal combustion engines require oil for lubrication. But does the average person choose an oil brand for their car? Jiffy Lube and other quick lube garages use a specific oil brand. Nothing is going to change that. And people need batteries for their car, and maybe even their RV. But when they go to their garage for servicing, aren't they sold whatever battery they happen to keep in stock? 

On the surface, these may seem to be valid questions. But alas, there are missing pieces of the sponsorship puzzle!

Could it be that not all advertisements are directed to just race fans? You bet your tailpipe. What most casual or non-fans don't see is the corporations and industries that are being influenced every week, especially at racing events. John Doe may not choose his brand of oil because he gets it serviced at the local X-Mart store. However, Acme Oil Company invites some X-Mart executives to a race one Sunday and wines and dines them. And then, X-Mart decides to use Acme as their exclusive brand of oil. The end result is that John Doe and millions of others are now using Acme Oil! This is of course an oversimplification of the process, but it does portray how the advertising works in an indirect way.

And automotive advertising is effective directly on fans as well. Long-time race fans are serious about their automobiles. And they are VERY loyal as well. I've heard from many fans that have used the same brand oil in their cars for as long as they can remember. If you can get someone to use the product brand sponsored by his or her favorite driver, you've got a long-term customer!

Ward Burton - Caterpillar

Most people don't have a piece of construction equipment in their backyard shed. So how in the world does this sponsorship help sell products?

Obviously, Caterpillar's customers are mostly people in the construction business. And many people who work for contractors also like - you guessed it - auto racing. If you're ever in the sponsor area of a NASCAR race, surely you'll see contractors being entertained. And if they've done a good job, the next front-end loader may just be purchased from a company that starts with a "C".

Jeff Gordon - DuPont Automotive Finishes

Gordon may have one of the most recognizable racecars in all of racing. The rainbow paint scheme can be seen from anywhere on the track. However, how many people buy automotive finishes? This is certainly not a product purchased by the mainstream public.

No, most people don't get involved with buying automotive finishes. But once again, this is a case of indirect selling. Automotive builders and body repair shops most definitely use these finishes. And every year, automobile companies produce millions of vehicles. Don't you think they know who DuPont is? Every year, DuPont's revenue increases because they continue to influence CEO's in the automotive industry.

John Andretti - Cheerios

In combination with STP, this has to be one of the most attractive cars on the track. And everyone eats breakfast, right? That may be true, but I know my wife doesn't like cereal, and what kid is going to be eating a non-sweetened breakfast food? So just how many people would this sponsorship reach?

Have you ever been in a restaurant or diner for breakfast that has cereal on the menu? Just think if you could convince the CEO of a chain restaurant that Cheerios is the cereal for them to sell. I think you get the picture now.

Here are some sponsors that may not be well known to the general public, sometimes because they are only regional. Most advertise directly to fans and for obvious reasons. 

Brett Bodine - Ralphs - a chain of grocery stores, mostly on the west

Ricky Craven - Midwest Transit - trucking company

Kevin LePage - Familyclick.com - family internet site

Dave Marcis - RealTree - clothing for hunters 

Jerry Nadeau - Michael Holigan -modular and mobile homes
Joe Nemechek - Oakwood Homes

Geoff Bodine - Power Team -electricity wholesaler

Photos courtesy of MSI

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