SBJ/July 2-8, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

NASCAR sales shift into overdrive at Wal-Mart’s stores

NASCAR is only halfway through the second year of its licensing deal with Wal-Mart, but industry sources said the retail giant already has seen a 25 percent increase in merchandise sales.

The growth has been driven by factors including an expanded NASCAR product line, a major marketing push ahead of the Daytona 500 and a better understanding of the NASCAR market.

NASCAR officials declined to confirm the size of the increase. Wal-Mart did not return a call for comment.
“There’s still a long way to go and a lot more upside left, but we’re in a pretty good place now,” said Blake Davidson, NASCAR’s vice president of licensing and consumer products.

The uptick is welcome news for the sport, which saw licensing slump significantly between 2006 and 2009. Motorsports Authentics, which was the sport’s primary licensee, reported revenue of $200 million in 2007 but that number was cut in half by 2009. The company was later restructured, and NASCAR formed a licensing trust. It cut a non-exclusive licensing agreement with Wal-Mart before the 2011 season that enabled the world’s largest retailer to make apparel, home goods and other products bearing NASCAR, driver and team marks and imagery.

The first year of the partnership was somewhat unremarkable because Wal-Mart didn’t have much time to ramp up its promotional and merchandise efforts. That changed this year when 2,000 Wal-Mart stores ran a program called “Race Time” and showcased race-themed displays and NASCAR-themed merchandise ahead of the Daytona 500.

T-shirts, hats and apparel such as loungewear have formed the backbone of NASCAR merchandise sales to date, but Wal-Mart has had success selling backpacks, coolers and other items. It rolled out its first collectible item this season — popcorn tins featuring team logos — and had a great deal of success. The retailer is looking for other collectibles in the future, Davidson said.

Wal-Mart has also seen a spike in sales of its “Family Track Pack,” which offers four tickets, four sodas, four hot dogs and a program for select races. Sales have nearly doubled from 2011, and NASCAR is only halfway through its season.

Wal-Mart’s sales success with the $99 package was exemplified by Michigan International Speedway, which saw an 817 percent increase in sales of the package. MIS President Roger Curtis attributed that to better promotion by the retailer.

“It’s been a huge home run,” Curtis said. “They’ve activated more. They know what they’ve got, they’re working closer with tracks, and the social [promotion] has been far greater on both sides.”

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