SBD/Issue 103/NASCAR Season Preview

Catching Up With JR Motorsports Marketer Thayer Lavielle

Lavielle Sees Growth Potential For
Licensed JR Motorsports Merchandise

After spending more than six years working in the cosmetics industry, Thayer Lavielle made the career change from Assistant VP/Promotional Marketing at L’Oreal to the newly-created position of VP/Marketing & Brand Development at JR Motorsports. Lavielle was hired in June and is in charge of everything from the team’s Busch Series sponsorships to the branding of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s name. She first worked with Earnhardt Jr. in ’02 when he signed a fragrance deal with Drakkar Noir. Lavielle recently spoke with Staff Writer Jim Bentubo.

Q: Are there any similarities or differences in marketing cosmetics versus marketing a driver and a race team?

Lavielle: You’re still marketing a brand and creating a brand. The difference is this is really at a — not a startup level, the Dale Jr. brand is already out there — but the company in itself is in its [infancy] so we’re in the process of creating procedures and guidelines, things that at a company like L’Oreal you just take for granted. So we have to create those processes here. But the Dale Jr. brand is much like the Lancôme brand. ... They’re all brands in themselves and you have to be respectful of what that stands for.

Q: With your background, what new perspective do you bring to motorsports?

Lavielle: I think what I’m able to bring is a fresh set of eyes to an overall industry that has been in transition and has been shifting, and I can at least bring some outside perspective to the fact that there might be a different way to look at it.

Q: What do you envision for the Dale Jr. brand and in what ways can his brand be expanded?

Lavielle: It can absolutely be expanded from where it is. Dale Jr. is authentic to who he is in every fiber of his being. ... He isn’t afraid to stand up for himself or say, ‘This is what I like and I’m okay with being alone in that.’ He is a brand that I don’t look to exploit in a typical sense. I think what we want to do here is to build it to make it more healthy and more whole and add different elements to the portfolio brand that we’re already aligned with.

Q: Are there any endorsement deals currently in the works?

Lavielle: Yes, but I can’t tell you who (laughs). The other really big thing we’re working on is giving back to the fans — not giving back in a charitable sense, although one of our initiatives is to organize a foundation –- but more from the perspective of these fans have spent hours and hours of passion and enthusiasm and time and money on supporting Dale Jr. and the Earnhardt family and we want to make a concerted effort to make them feel they’re getting the best products and best piece of Dale Jr. that they can get without him having to necessarily spend time with each one of them individually.

Q: What do you foresee for the JR Motorsports brand?

Lavielle: We see there definitely to be growth in the licensing sector and certainly in the partnership sector. We need to take that into account with the global picture of where Dale Jr. is and how that affects JR Motorsports and how that affects our Busch teams and how that affects our other race teams. So it’s bigger than just what our logo is. But we plan to certainly get more exposure on [our logo] and have that eventually be synonymous with Dale Jr.

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Anheuser Busch

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