SBJ/November 10 - 16, 2003/This Weeks Issue

Elliott makes a meal of snack-food deal

Elliott’s got an equity stake and profit-share agreement to go with his promotional role.

The popular Bill Elliott isn't the only NASCAR driver to endorse a snack-food brand, but his involvement with the recently launched Elliott Championship Products is arguably the most involved. Elliott has a minority equity stake in the company and will receive a share of the profits in a deal that is structured to run "in perpetuity," according to Ardy Arani, president of the Championship Group, which has the majority stake in the company.

Arani would not disclose Elliott's precise ownership stake. The deal did not call for Elliott to contribute cash to the brand's launch, which the Championship Group underwrote with a mid- to high-six-figure investment, Arani said.

The products — beef jerky, pork rinds and other meat snacks — are expected to roll out in the Southeast soon under the "Bill Elliott's Awesome Products" moniker and to have national distribution in 2004.

Also unusual in the venture is that a sports marketing firm, the 23-year-old Championship Group, is the full owner and developer of the product. "It grows out of our expertise in developing and promoting all kinds of consumer products via sports," Arani said.

The company has secured a distribution agreement with logistics giant Advanced Management Solutions and is in discussions with several grocery and convenience store chains to carry the brand.

Snack products will debut in Southeast.
The launch follows two years of planning by the Championship Group. Arani said it considered more than 100 product categories and dozens of potential athlete partners before approaching Elliott, who has won NASCAR's most popular driver award a record 16 times and finally took himself out of the competition this year.

Arani said the $1.5 billion meat-snack category is crowded, with a half-dozen brands garnering half the revenue cumulatively and another 20 or so rounding out the field. But Arani believes the category still has room for a competitor that differentiates itself. For starters, Elliott's products are the only ones in four-color packaging, Arani said. "Tongue in cheek, if there's a Tiffany product in this category, we're it."

Elliott will have a management and promotional role with the brand whether or not he retires from driving for 2004. "He will be involved at every level, and if his level of involvement ever changes, our deal is structured for him and his family to retain a significant stake in the company," Arani said.

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