SBJ/20090202/This Week's News

NHRA driver/owner launches site to dispel myths about series

During the closing weeks of the 2008 season, NHRA driver and owner Bob Vandergriff Jr. slipped off to a few NASCAR events in pursuit of a new sponsor.

Bob Vandergriff Jr. went looking for a
sponsor to replace UPS after last season.

He was trying to sell space on his Top Fuel dragster, which was good enough to finish fifth in 2007 and 13th last year, when UPS ended its deal. Vandergriff thought he had a compelling story to tell, what with UPS’s business-to-business successes and one of the sport’s more competitive cars.

Instead, Vandergriff said he ran into a lack of understanding about the NHRA among brands and motorsports marketing agencies that surprised him. Those experiences led him to launch a Web site last week that’s designed to dispel what he says are sponsorship-related misconceptions.

“I’d hear things like, ‘If I had $20 million to give you, I’d sponsor you.’ But it doesn’t take $20 million,” Vandergriff said. “I guess everyone assumes that racing is racing is racing. Most people don’t understand how reasonably priced we are compared to NASCAR.

“The questions they asked and the assumptions they made were amazing. I’ve always heard that drag racing is the best-kept secret, and now I understand why. It’s amazing how little they knew about our sport.”

SponsorDragRacers.com supplies
fast facts for prospective
drag racing sponsors.

Weary of answering the same questions about the NHRA over and over, Vandergriff used a firm out of St. Louis, 1320 Media, to build SponsorDragRacers.com, a site that offers information on TV ratings, attendance, fan demographics and specific sponsorship fees. A seasonlong primary sponsorship on a Top Fuel dragster runs $3 million, while associate sponsorships go for $500,000.

The site also includes business-to-business stories and background on the sport’s diversity and geographical reach.

Vandergriff said he put basic information about the size of NHRA events and fan access on the site because many of the marketing executives he talked to were not aware. IMG, an NHRA marketing partner, is working to spread the word, Vandergriff said, but economically IMG “couldn’t have come into the sport at a worse time.”

Even though Vandergriff remains on the hunt for a sponsor — the season opens this weekend — “We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from agencies and companies,” he said of the site. “If nothing else, we’ve created a site that can be a source of marketing information. I can’t tell you how many times I had a conversation with someone from an agency and they asked if I could send them more information. Now it’s all on one site.”

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