SBJ/May 13-19, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Sherwin-Williams signs NASCAR deal

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Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

NASCAR has signed a multiyear sponsorship deal with Sherwin-Williams, adding its first official blue-chip sponsor in five years.

The deal, which sources valued at more than $2 million a year, gives NASCAR its first official paint partner. The sport has had DuPont Performance Coatings, which recently was acquired and renamed Axalta, as its official finish partner for more than a decade.

In addition to becoming an official partner of NASCAR, Sherwin-Williams gets rights to the NASCAR Touring & Weekly Series and Grand-Am Road Racing, which will become United SportsCar Racing next year after its merger with the American Le Mans Series. It also will be title sponsor of the Fastest Lap Award in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, and it gets track hospitality packages during several NASCAR races.

The deal marks the first national sports sponsorship for Sherwin-Williams in years. The company, which is based in Cleveland, also sponsors the NFL Browns, MLB Indians and NBA Cavaliers. Its marketing team saw an opportunity to use NASCAR across all 3,500 of its retail outlets because the sport has a 10-month season and visits multiple states.

“When you look at the demographic of their fans and the brand loyalty the NASCAR fans have, it seemed like a perfect match,” said Ellen Moreau, Sherwin-Williams’ vice president of marketing communications. “The long seasonality and where all these tracks are — we can work with that.”

Sherwin-Williams is the first nationally recognizable brand NASCAR has signed as a new official sponsor since Ask.com cut a deal in late 2008. The sanctioning body has closed a number of large renewals since then, including deals with Mobil 1, MillerCoors, Goodyear and Sprint, but the bulk of its new business has been with “green,” environmentally aware companies. It signed an eight-figure-per-year deal with Growth Energy, an ethanol lobbying group, in 2010, and followed that with smaller deals with companies such as Creative Recycling, Green Earth Technologies’ G-Clean and Liberty Tire Recycling.

NASCAR officials are optimistic that Sherwin-Williams represents a step back toward the large, visible brands the sport signed with regularity prior to the recession.

“This is a 150-year-old company, as blue chip as they come, and they’re the largest paint seller in the country,” said Jim O’Connell, NASCAR’s chief sales officer. “It’s a partnership that reaches across the entire industry, and I think symbolically it shows NASCAR is still great for business. It’s a great reaffirming presence for the sport.”

Sherwin-Williams, which plans to announce its deal on Wednesday in Charlotte, has not finalized its activation plans around NASCAR. While Moreau said the company would activate at its 3,500 stores nationwide, she didn’t know if it would advertise on national TV or set up displays at tracks.

There could be an opportunity for Sherwin-Williams to expand its sponsorship in 2014 by adding the official finish category. NASCAR is in the final year of its deal with DuPont, and it’s unclear if the Carlyle Group, which bought DuPont and renamed it Axalta, will extend the deal.

Sherwin-Williams’ automotive finish division already has a presence in the sport. It provides paint to Roush Fenway Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and Richard Childress Racing.

O’Connell said Axalta has expressed interest in continuing its sponsorship and said NASCAR prefers to keep long-standing partners when possible.

“Since we have someone in that category, it would be premature to talk to Sherwin-Williams about that now,” O’Connell said. “Could we potentially consolidate? Yes. But we could also go forward with two partners in two categories who are both great partners.”

Sherwin-Williams doesn’t have a sports marketing agency. Moreau said it negotiated the NASCAR deal independently and plans to use internal staff for its activation.

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