SBJ/March 17-23, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

NASCAR extends licensing deal with Wal-Mart

NASCAR signed a two-year extension of its licensing agreement with Wal-Mart, ensuring that the retail behemoth will continue to make and sell NASCAR-branded apparel and products in stores nationwide.

Since signing their initial agreement in 2011, NASCAR merchandise sales at Wal-Mart have increased steadily. The amount of product the retailer offers has doubled, and sales this year have doubled from the same period a year ago.

“Everyone felt like [the partnership has] been working,” said Blake Davidson, NASCAR’s vice president of licensing and consumer products. “We’re getting smarter and growing. It was easy to just roll [this partnership] over.”

The extension also stands to benefit NASCAR sponsors and teams. As part of the agreement, Wal-Mart plans to continue its “Race Time” program, which brings a NASCAR theme to stores in Sprint Cup markets on race weekends. Wal-Mart stores in more than 20 cities nationwide put showcars in front of stores and set up NASCAR-themed displays inside with products made by sponsors of the sport and its teams. The displays have offered both NASCAR and teams a way to deliver value back to sponsors increasingly concerned about justifying their marketing spend in the sport.

In addition to its “Race Time” program, Wal-Mart has invested marketing dollars at the track level the last three years. It offered a $99 “track pack” ticket package for families of four in 2011 and 2012 for select Sprint Cup races. It fielded a car driven by retired driver Bill Elliott, who returned to race in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway in 2012. And it signed on to be the title sponsor of the Pocono 400 last June.

Wal-Mart hasn’t announced any major marketing activities in NASCAR this year, but Davidson said the company continues to look at opportunities in the sport.

“They are looking at tracks and trying to get more opportunities to encourage people coming in town for races and shopping at Wal-Mart,” Davidson said.

Since signing its 2011 licensing agreement with NASCAR, Wal-Mart has gradually expanded the amount of licensed merchandise it offers. Davidson said Wal-Mart’s NASCAR line, which started with no more than 100 different items, now has more than 200 different products ranging from T-shirts and hats to coolers and backpacks. It also expanded the number of drivers featured on apparel and products from 10 to more than 20.

The increase in product offering has coincided with an increase in NASCAR merchandise sales at Wal-Mart. Sales rose more than 25 percent between the first year, 2011, and 2012. They already have doubled from last year, in part because the sport’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., won the Daytona 500, triggering NASCAR merchandise increases at stores, tracks and online.

The licensing partnership with Wal-Mart is nonexclusive. NASCAR merchandise also is available at Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods and other retail outlets.

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