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Volume 20 No. 42
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Bud will go with Harvick to Stewart-Haas

Budweiser will follow driver Kevin Harvick to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, bringing an end to its three-year relationship with Richard Childress Racing.

A-B’s flagship brand signed a three-year deal with Stewart-Haas that makes it the primary sponsor for 20 Sprint Cup races and the Budweiser Duels, a non-points race. The deal is valued at more than $10 million a year. Budweiser sponsored 20 points races and two non-points races this year at RCR.

Budweiser, with Kevin Harvick since 2011, chose not to switch to another driver at RCR.
Photo by: HHP / GARY ELLER
Budweiser had an option to stay at RCR and sponsor Childress’ grandson, Austin Dillon, when he moves to NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series next year. But Blaise D’Sylva, A-B’s vice president of media, sports and entertainment marketing, said the company felt Budweiser would benefit more from sticking with Harvick than changing to its fourth driver in eight years. It previously sponsored Dale Earnhardt Jr. from 2000 to 2007 and Kasey Kahne from 2008 to 2010.

“Kevin is a proven winner, and that plays a role for us, but he’s also shown an amazing commitment to the brand,” D’Sylva said. “He works well for the system when we have him out in the marketplace with our bottlers and wholesalers. It’s not that we wanted to leave RCR. They’ve been a great partner. It’s about the equity we’ve built with Kevin.”

Harvick made the decision to leave RCR for Stewart-Haas Racing last October. His move wasn’t contingent upon bringing Budweiser, Jimmy John’s or any of his other sponsors with him, but the Budweiser deal is a huge lift for Stewart-Haas as it looks ahead to 2014. It leaves the team with just 16 primary races to sell on Harvick’s No. 4 car.

“It’s exciting to augment our portfolio with a global brand” like Budweiser, said Brett Frood, Stewart-Haas executive vice president. “Over the years they, from a creativity standpoint, have shown ingenuity and innovation in advertising and marketing, and it will be a great learning experience for us and a challenge to translate our assets for them into sales.”

A-B’s decision leaves RCR without one of its most high-profile sponsors. The team hasn’t announced any sponsorships for Dillon, who is expected to drive the team’s third Sprint Cup car.

“We’re trying to keep as many of the partners on the No. 29 car as we can, but we certainly have to replace A-B,” said Torrey Galida, RCR chief operating officer. “We’d like to keep the No. 29 car going, but it’s all sponsorship dependent and that would be us growing to four cars from three, which is a long-term goal.”

After signing Harvick, Stewart-Haas had an option to put him in the No. 4 car or No. 8 car for the 2014 season. It consulted with A-B before making a choice, and the company, which had sponsored Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 8, told the team it preferred the No. 4.

The company did a photo shoot with Harvick and the new car last week. It will begin changing from No. 29-themed marketing materials to No. 4-themed materials next year.

D’Sylva said Budweiser will continue to complement its sponsorship of Harvick with at-track activation and TV advertising.

“Our commitment to NASCAR is not decreasing,” D’Sylva said. “You look at our assets and what we want to do with the team, Kevin personally, the tracks we have relationships with and the commitment we have on Fox (which broadcasts races) — our commitment is as strong as ever.”

Harvick said he didn’t get involved in the negotiations and won’t be involved in talks with other sponsors such as Jimmy John’s.

“For me, it’s all about driving the car and doing what I have to do on the racetrack,” Harvick said. “We’re racing for a championship. The other pieces of the puzzle they just inform me about.”