Dillon sponsors ready to embrace the 3 car

The chosen one to become the next NASCAR hero

There probably couldn’t be two more different companies than Dow and General Mills. One produces chemicals and other products that aren’t meant to be ingested. The other manufactures food.

They will have their sponsorship of Austin Dillon in common starting in 2014. And they actually already had something in common.

“Guess what Cheerios packaging is made out of?" Dow executive vice president Joe Harlan said. “Our product."

That’s why this sponsorship makes sense to Dow. It hopes to use NASCAR to cultivate more business from companies involved in NASCAR. General Mills hopes it sells a lot of Cheerios, the brand that will be on Dillon’s car.

The two have teamed — the SportsBusiness Journal reports Dow will have 16 of the races (leaving General Mills with 20) — to sponsor Dillon as he moves to Cup at Richard Childress Racing.

This isn’t just any Cup sponsorship. They’re sponsoring Dillon in a No. 3 car. It will be the first time the No. 3 races in Cup since seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt died in the 2001 Daytona 500.

Harlan was talking about the sponsorship in general when he said, “this is a marriage, we think, that is made in heaven."

With the No. 3, that might take on another meaning other than just what a company thinks NASCAR and a driver can do for its business.

Obviously the publicity generated with the No. 3 was attractive to the sponsors, who didn't appear worried about any backlash over returning the 3 to Cup.

“We think the 3 (and) we think Austin is a great family story," said Gregg Dorazio, manager of shopper marketing and motorsports at General Mills. “Cheerios is about families. That’s what we get excited about is not just the performance on the track. We get excited about everything that Austin brings and the entire RCR and No. 3 community off the track.

“We’re going to be telling that story in social media. We’re going to be telling that story to our customers in stores."

What if Dillon was driving the 33 instead of the 3?

“Austin’s a great guy and obviously I don’t know (what we’d do) on a decision like that — we’re just thrilled to be on the 3 with Austin," said Dorazio, whose company already has launched a social media campaign. “We didn’t do a ton of research (on fan attitudes). We relied on RCR. … We think it is very positive going forward."

The Cheerios car will be yellow with a good deal of black as part of the paint scheme. The Dow scheme is white and black.

Earnhardt primarily made the No. 3 famous in an all-black RCR car.

“(The schemes) were more sponsor driven," team owner Richard Childress said. “We wanted it to be built around this (deal) instead of being solid black."

They didn’t release the length but it is expected that it is at least a two-year deal. It typically takes $15-20 million (sometimes even more depending on driver salary) to sponsor a car for a major team for a season.

In addition to business to business, it is expected that the companies will earn a significant amount in merchandise sales, which often are split equally between the team, sponsor and driver.

While the deal was announced too late for diecasts to be ready for Christmas, they will be by the start of the 2014 season.

“It’s about the promotions of our brand, merchandising is just one (part of the package)," Harlan said. “It’s social media, it’s internal communications with employees and the whole promotional aspect of our brand and what it means with technology innovation."

Dow also hopes that its partnership with RCR will increase relationships with other automotive companies that can use Dow products. Dow already makes the foam used in the door panels of NASCAR cars.

“(Racing) is a rolling test lab for our lubricants, crush durable adhesives, our fluids, our carbon-fiber development program — the hoods are all carbon fiber, the gearbox is all carbon fiber (and) the seats — it’s a huge opportunity to test innovation," Harlan said.

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