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Volume 20 No. 42
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AARP pleased with NASCAR sponsorship

In the first season of its multimillion-dollar sponsorship of Jeff Gordon, the AARP Foundation claims it raised $14.1 million and donated 4 million meals to local hunger relief operations.

AARP Foundation President Jo Ann Jenkins said the deal exceeded the organization’s expectations and achieved its two main goals: to raise money and awareness of hunger among elders. She declined to say how much the organization spent on its sponsorship and promotion to achieve those goals. The three-year, 22-race-a-year deal is valued at $10 million to $15 million a year.

The organization says that its sponsorship of Jeff Gordon’s car has raised awareness about AARP’s mission.
“I can’t tell you how pleased we are with the outcome of our relationship with Jeff [Gordon] and Hendrick and NASCAR,” Jenkins said. “For both of those goals [of raising awareness and funds], we really hit it out of the ballpark.”

Jenkins said that 20 to 25 percent of the $14.1 million raised came from individual donations generated through requests for contributions to the AARP Foundation’s Drive to End Hunger campaign at speedways, online and by text message. The organization had more than 122,000 fans visit its displays at tracks this year.

The other 75 to 80 percent of money was raised from corporations. Chase Card Services and United Healthcare were two of the companies that contributed to the campaign. Chase was the only sponsor to agree to contribute to the campaign in exchange for exposure on the hood of the No. 24 car. Its AARP Visa Card appeared on the car at the Richmond and Dover races last fall.

Jenkins said the organization expected more corporations to sign on to support the campaign and help underwrite the cost of the car sponsorship. It didn’t have a specific goal for the number of corporate supporters it wanted last year and doesn’t have one for next year, but the organization did look for corporate support and plans to continue to do so in the future. Jenkins said part of the reason the car didn’t receive more corporate support last season was because the AARP wanted to be sure that partnering corporations were truly committed to combating hunger and weren’t looking for a business-to-business relationship.

“This was our first venture into NASCAR and I’m surprised by the length of time it takes to negotiate some of these [deals],” Jenkins said. “I think you’ll see more folks coming on the car with us next year.”

The AARP Foundation estimates that it received more than $50 million in media exposure from the partnership. Jenkins pointed to that as evidence that merely giving the money the foundation spent on the sponsorship and promotion to hunger-related organizations wouldn’t have been as effective.

“The real success this year has been around getting people engaged,” she said. “This was an important play for us to be the spokesperson to the 50-plus community, and I don’t think we could have done that with just a cash contribution.”