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Mixed emotions abound following Budweiser announcement
The recent announcement of Anheuser-Busch’s decision to end its relationships with Kenny Bernstein Racing and NHRA after a 30-year partnership was met with mixed emotions from the team and NHRA.

The decision was not unexpected, given the recent acquisition of Anheuser-Busch by InBev, a Belgian beer company, which brought speculation about how the sale would affect Budweiser’s sponsorship programs in all of sports. The team is now able to move full speed ahead on procuring sponsorship for the 2010 season.

“We are proud of our long-term sponsorships, not only with Budweiser, but we’re also celebrating our 31st season with LaPaz party mixes, 22nd anniversary with Mac Tools, and our seventh season with Lucas Oil,” said Kenny Bernstein. “We believe that taking a proactive role in initiating programs and promotions that help sell product and build brand awareness has been an integral part of retaining our sponsorship associations through the years.

“Coupled with the success we’ve had on the racetrack while flying the Budweiser colors, including six NHRA championships and 85 national event victories between Brandon and me, it’s a very attractive opportunity for another sponsor,” Bernstein said.

NHRA was not surprised by the decision. NHRA had been tracking the progress of A-B’s recent acquisition by InBev and the formation of Anheuser-Busch InBev and anticipated potential changes that might come under new ownership. NHRA was informed that Budweiser’s decision was made to redirect dollars to a non-sports-enthusiast audience.

“The beer category is one of the most coveted at NHRA and we believe provides an incredible opportunity for a brand to take advantage of the unique attributes available through association with NHRA,” said Gary Darcy, NHRA senior vice president-sales & marketing. “With a highly loyal fan base, NHRA delivers a younger, more diverse fan base than other motorsports.” A Scarborough Research poll released in 2008 positions NHRA as having one of the youngest average fan bases of all major sports, three years younger than NFL and stock-car racing, five years younger than open-wheel racing, and three and a half years younger than the U.S. population.

Kenny Bernstein Racing plans an aggressive full-court press to secure a sponsorship for Brandon, who has 17 victories and holds the distinguished record of having the most successful career launch of any Funny Car or Top Fuel driver in NHRA history. “We’re passionate about the sport of NHRA Drag Racing and plan to continue if we can secure sponsorship. We are moving forward with the search for a replacement so that we can field an NHRA team in 2010 with Brandon as the driver. Having owned teams in NASCAR and CART, we have always felt that NHRA Drag Racing affords the best value for the sponsorship dollar,” said Bernstein.

It goes without saying that NHRA works extremely hard to ensure that every sponsor sees a strong return on investment in its association with the sport. “NHRA worked with everyone at Budweiser throughout our relationship to develop and execute programs that would increase the value of association and return on investment,” said Darcy. “We are aggressively pursuing opportunities within the category in hopes to make an announcement for the 2010 season.”

Bernstein echoed his desire to move forward in 2010, pointing out his formula for success that spans the better part of three decades. “We pride ourselves on ethics and integrity. We recognize you can’t have success without good people, and we have a skilled staff that offers the opportunity for a turnkey program that is inclusive from marketing and sales to public relations, highlighted by a race team that is professional and capable of winning on Sunday,” said Bernstein. “We are dedicated, committed, and willing to go the extra mile. We have been one of the marquee teams in this sport, and we bring with us 30 years of fan base. NHRA Drag Racing is our home, and we’re going to put forth every effort to find sponsorship and continue to field a competitive team here.” NHRA

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