Podcast: Why FedEx says a NASCAR sponsorship is worth a billion

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As a sponsor that has invested eight figures annually for 14 seasons in NASCAR’s premier series. FedEx has spent well more than nine figures promoting its brand.

But for all those millions spent, the amount of exposure has stretched above 10 figures annually.

In the most recent NASCAR on NBC Podcast, which highlights the sponsor’s long-term relationship with Denny Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing, a FedEx executive shared a few interesting nuggets about how it tracks the efficacy of its NASCAR involvement.

“We measure it very closely, and we have more than a billion brand impressions generated from the No. 11 sponsorship each year,” said Patrick Fitzgerald, the senior vice president of integrated marketing and communications for FedEx. “It’s one of the reasons it’s important for us to be the sole sponsor of the No. 11 car.”

After selling off a few of its races last year, FedEx will adorn Hamlin’s No. 11 in every race during the 2019 season to gather those impressions, which Fitzgerald said cover myriad categories.

“It’s across everything,” Fitzgerald said. “Eyes on the brand at track, on broadcasts, on digital. Every place we’re able to activate the sponsorship”

Though the delivery and logistics company sponsors many sports globally (including golf, the NFL, international soccer and the NBA), its most visible spokesman is Hamlin, who scored his second Daytona 500 victory in February. The JGR driver has 33 victories with FedEx since 2006.

“He’s become a genuine extension of our brand and a real brand ambassador, and we’re proud of that,” Fitzgerald said. “He certainly understands our culture and business. He takes the time with customers and team members and does understand our business and what we represent and why it’s so powerful to have a long connection with the company and the brand.

“A lot of that can be credited to Coach Gibbs. Denny over time has watched and learned from the interaction with our brand and company. There’s no greater ambassador in sports for the FedEx brand than Coach Gibbs. That’s something that Denny has picked up from him and is a big part of it.”

FedEx also measures revenue generated through the business relationships fostered through NASCAR. More than 1,600 of its customers are entertained annually at NASCAR races by the company, which also considers the value of brand awareness.

“The overall mix, we get a lot of value,” Fitzgerald said. “NASCAR is a great example of the evolving media landscape. For example, with the advent of DVRs and other technologies that change the overall effectiveness of traditional broadcast advertising, the exposure you get from a race, which is DVR proof, you get tremendous brand value just being on that car lap after lap, race after race, and then in particular when Denny does something like amazing like winning the Daytona 500.

“When we host a customer at an event, we look at shipping volumes before and after, you can start to draw some conclusions of the effectiveness as a revenue generator. We looked at that closely.”

The special narrative edition of the podcast followed Hamlin on a trip to the sponsor’s headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee, and included reflections by the driver on the origins of aligning with FedEx and what the future might hold

Hamlin, who will turn 39 in November, signed a multiyear extension with FedEx in 2017 and would like to lay claim to having only one sponsor through the end of his NASCAR career.

“I’d like to do one more contract beyond what I have,” he said. “What I have is long term. We’re not even in the middle of that yet. So I’d like to be here.

“It’s so rare. We thought Jimmie (Johnson) would finish (his career) with Lowe’s. I think there’s something to be said about that. To have someone who is with you from the start to the finish. It’s all about dollars and sense and whether you can make things work, but I’m with the company I believe in and hopefully believes in me through the course of my career. I’d like to go at least 43-ish.”

To listen to the podcast, you can click on the embed above, or listen via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play or wherever you download podcasts.

Penalty report from Iowa Speedway

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NASCAR has fined Carl Joiner Jr., crew chief on Matt Crafton‘s No. 88 truck, $2,500 for an unsecured lug nut at the end of Sunday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race.

Crafton finished the race in seventh.

NASCAR has also issued an indefinite suspension to Clifford M. Turner for behavior level penalties, including violating its substance abuse policy.

NASCAR suspends Johnny Sauter one race; he remains eligible for Truck title

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NASCAR suspended Johnny Sauter for this weekend’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race, but he will remain eligible to compete for the truck series championship after intentionally wrecking Austin Hill under caution in Sunday’s race.

NASCAR did not penalize Hill.

“We look at the history of everything we’ve done and react with the precedents we have set while tailoring it with the situation we have at hand,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, in a statement. “In this case, Johnny Sauter’s actions certainly warranted being sat down for an event, but it felt a little too harsh to take him straight out of the championship. We think that we landed on what is fair and a deterrent.”

Section 17.6.2.1.c of the Truck rule book gives NASCAR the latitude to allow Sauter to be eligible for the playoffs despite missing a race. That rule reads:

17.6.2.1 ELIGIBILITY
a. “Unless otherwise authorized by NASCAR, driver(s) and Team Owner(s) must start all Championship Events of the current season to be eligible for the Playoffs. If a starting position was not earned, then the driver(s) and Team Owner(s) must have attempted to Qualify for the Race.”
The key phrase is “unless otherwise authorized by NASCAR.” Series officials felt that denying Sauter a chance to be in the playoffs was too harsh.

A ThorSport Racing spokesperson told NBC Sports that the team had not decided if to appeal. The spokesperson said the team would not be releasing a statement on the penalty and has not made a decision on who will drive Sauter’s truck this weekend.

Miller explained Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio what series officials will do with Hill.

“We’re not completely done with him,” Miller said. “I wouldn’t think that there is a penalty forthcoming for this. He’s definitely placed himself under a microscope when it comes to behavior out there on the race track.”

The penalty to Sauter is in addition to the action NASCAR took after the incident Sunday at Iowa Speedway. NASCAR parked Sauter after he retaliated and wrecked Hill.

The feud between the two drivers went back to the previous race at Texas Motor Speedway where Hill’s contact sent Sauter into the wall.

At Iowa, Sauter made slight contact with Hill and got by him. Hill responded by hitting Sauter and sending him into the wall. Sauter came back under that caution and wrecked Hill.

Section 12.8.1.c of the Truck rule book provided penalty guidelines for such an infraction. It reads:

“Member actions that could result in a loss of 25-50 driver and Team Owner Points and/or $12,500-$25,000 fine and/or one Race suspension, indefinite suspension, or termination:
  • Physical confrontation with a NASCAR Official, media members, fans, etc.
  • Member-to-Member confrontation(s) with physical violence and other violent manifestations such as significant threat(s) and/or abuse and/or endangerment.
  • Attempting to manipulate the outcome of the Race or championship.
  • Intentionally wrecking another vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is removed from Competition as a result.”

Meanwhile, Sauter announced on Twitter his new racing plans for Saturday.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. honoring Darrell Waltrip with Sonoma scheme

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will pay tribute to Darrell Waltrip this weekend by driving one the NASCAR Hall of Famers’ old paint schemes in the Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

The tribute comes in the last race Waltrip will serve as an analyst for Fox Sports’ NASCAR coverage. He is retiring after 18 years in the broadcast booth.

Stenhouse’s No. 17 Ford has been made to look like the No. 17 Western Auto/Parts America cars Waltrip drove from 1992-1997.

“Darrell Waltrip has meant a great deal to our sport as both a competitor and a member of the broadcast media,” team owner Jack Roush said in a press release. “The thing that stands out to me about Darrell is that after I just announced I was starting the team with Mark Martin, I was invited into a driver’s meeting that season. Darrell Waltrip was one of the first to welcome me into the fold and say ‘Come on in Jack, we are going to have a lot of fun with you’ and we sure have over the years.”

This is not the first time Stenhouse has driven one of Waltrip’s old paint schemes.

In the 2016 Southern 500, Stenhouse used the scheme Waltrip had for his first Cup win in 1975.

This is the second time Stenhouse has driven the Western Auto/Parts America scheme, but the first time with the right color scheme.

Stenhouse’s 2017 Southern 500 car used the scheme but with the colors of his sponsor, Fifth Third bank.

“With as much as he’s done in the sport on and off the track, Darrell will definitely be missed,” Stenhouse said a press release. “I have enjoyed all the sit-downs and seeing his passion that he has for the sport. I’ve gotten to pay homage to him with two Darlington throwback schemes so it will be extra special to drive his iconic paint scheme for his last appearance in the booth.”

Darrell Waltrip during practice at Sonoma Raceway in 1997. (David Taylor /Allsport)

Clint Bowyer hopes to ride ‘wave of confidence’ to a second Sonoma win

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When thinking of exceptional road course drivers currently in the Cup Series, who is the first driver to come to your mind?

Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch may pop in your head. But who is next?

How about Clint Bowyer?

Bowyer only has one road course win in his Cup career – at Sonoma in 2012 – but he’s consistently been up front when the series ventured to the California road course.

Through 13 starts, Bower is the active leader at Sonoma in top fives (eight) and top 10s (10).

He also holds the best average finish of 10th. In three of the last four visits to the track Bowyer has placed in the top three.

“For the last several years, I have looked at that track to be the go-to track,” Bowyer said in a media release. “Since the Car of Tomorrow, it really woke up certain tracks, and Sonoma and these road courses have been some of our best products of racing. I think that is a fact. It is an opinion, but it is pretty damn close to factual.”

Despite finishing 35th at Michigan due to a crash, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver says his team has a “wave of confidence going at the moment.” Bowyer will try to ride that wave to the first win of the year for both himself and SHR.

But what could temper Bowyer’s confidence this weekend?

The Carousel.

For the first time since 1997, the Cup Series will compete on Sonoma’s original layout, which includes a sweeping downhill corner that goes from Turn 4 down through Turns 5 and 6 to the facility’s longest straightaway before reaching the Turn 7 hairpin.

“I’m a little bit torn on this,” Bowyer said of the layout change. “I was surprised they added The Carousel back to the layout. I’m kind of old-fashioned and thought, you know, if it isn’t broke, why fix it, why touch it? And I didn’t think that track was broke at all. I think the tire and stuff has gotten a little bit too good for a track like that, but I always have thought it’s been a great product for our sport.”

Bowyer has learned tires are everything at Sonoma, as well as getting “yourself right” for the challenge of a road course.

“Mental attitude is everything,” Bowyer said. “You have to manage that racetrack, that race car, and manage traffic, make no mistakes, hit your marks, go easy on your throttle and brake pedals. You really have to take care of those four Goodyear tires because those are what will take you to victory lane if you take care of them.”

While Bowyer sees Sonoma as a prime opportunity for him, he also views the road course as the start of the important summer stretch that leads to the playoffs.

“It’s that time of year when you start looking at the standings and seeing where you need to be to make the playoffs,” said Bowyer, who is 12th in the standings. “Plus, you really want to be on a roll when the playoffs start in September. It all begins Sunday in Sonoma.”

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