Local sponsors vie for eyeballs on and off the track over NASCAR race weekend

SweetFrog's logo on the No. 23 car, which will be driven by Colonial Heights native Gray Gaulding. (Harrelson Photography)

SweetFrog’s logo on the No. 23 car, which will be driven by Colonial Heights native Gray Gaulding. (Harrelson Photography)

As the logos of two locally based companies speed around the Action Track this weekend, about a dozen more will be vying to catch race fans’ eyes from stationary positions during Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

Frozen yogurt chain SweetFrog and Mechanicsville construction firm EJ Wade Construction are again sponsoring cars in this year’s races – both Sunday’s and September’s Federated Auto Parts 400, likewise part of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Buying into so-called primary sponsorships will allow their logos to cover their respective cars with Charlotte-based BK Racing: SweetFrog on the No. 23 car, driven by Colonial Heights native Gray Gaulding, and EJ Wade on the No. 83 car driven by Corey LaJoie.

Both companies secured the naming rights last year for those cars, which also had associate sponsorships from four other local companies. While no local associate sponsors are signed on for Sunday’s race, about a dozen Richmond- or Virginia-based companies will have stationary signage and banners in the raceway and on television coverage.

Those advertisers, secured by RIR, include locally based Drive Smart Virginia, Elephant Insurance, James River Air, Loveland Distributing, Markel Corp., Richmond International Airport, Virginia529 and Virginia Lottery. Other Virginia-based advertisers include Capital One, Federated Auto Parts, Kroger Mid-Atlantic and Smithfield Foods.

Louis Gilmore, RIR’s senior director of business development, said advertising packages include consumer-facing branding, meaning signs on the grandstands that face out to fans, and television-facing branding on track walls and elsewhere that will be seen by the television audience.

“Also included in those partnerships are track assets, whether it’s tickets to help these businesses drive their revenues or to bring foot traffic into retail,” Gilmore said. “Kroger is a great example of that. Kroger Mid-Atlantic, out of Roanoke, they use our assets to help drive market share in our ever-populated grocery wars of Richmond.”

SweetFrog and EJ Wade Construction both are main sponsors of cars for Sunday's race at RIR. (RIR)

SweetFrog and EJ Wade Construction both are main sponsors of cars for Sunday’s race at RIR. (RIR)

Gilmore would not specify prices for different packages, but said they can range from $10,000 to six figures.

The values of sponsorships for a NASCAR Cup Series race can range from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. According to NASCAR’s website, a primary sponsorship in 2013 cost between $5 million and $35 million, while an associate sponsorship cost from $250,000 to $2 million.

BK Racing’s Doug Fritz, a former president of RIR, likewise does not disclose dollar amounts for the team’s sponsorships. While the team’s cars attracted fewer local associate sponsors than last year, Fritz said he was not concerned.

“That’s pretty consistent with sponsors. They’ll kind of jump around from time to time,” Fritz said. “It doesn’t mean that you might not have a relationship again with them in the fall.”

Gilmore said it is becoming harder to secure sponsors and advertisers. He said his team concentrates on outbound sales and business-to-business interactions through local civic groups and other opportunities.

“It’s an outbound effort of getting face-to-face meetings with the decision makers of those companies,” Gilmore said. “Sometimes it takes a few years to get a partnership in place, and sometimes it takes shorter time.

“The relationships need to be in place,” he said. “And we need to keep the lines of communication open, because you never know when their marketing initiatives are going to shift and the budgeting dollars are going to open up a little bit more.”

Sunday’s green flag is set to wave at 2 p.m.

POSTED IN Featured, Media/Marketing/Advertising, News

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