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Volume 21 No. 1
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Plugged In: David Morton, Fifth Third Bank

With a 4:1 return on investment from its motorsports program and his company’s first win as a sponsor in the books, things are humming along nicely for David Morton of Fifth Third Bank. Morton heads up the Cincinnati-based bank’s motorsports program, which was created in 2012 to focus on opportunities with teams, tracks and parts suppliers. Morton, based in Charlotte, says his company has exceeded its original 3:1 ROI goal every year since the program was implemented. He spoke about motorsports’ most pressing issues, opportunities from a business and banking point of view, and getting into victory lane with Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 17 Ford Fusion driven by Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

  [Motorsports] has accelerated the sales cycle for us, because we’re connecting at the C-Suite level. Instead of working our way up, we’re starting from the top, and that helps open doors to have more meaningful conversations and moves things along a good bit quicker.


The biggest issue facing NASCAR: One of the things that I really think the sport needs to continue to do is to work on its reputation management, because I think unfairly some in the media and some individuals in the sport are not properly giving the sport the due that it’s owed. A lot of people are more focused on the negatives of the sport instead of building up all the positives in the sport.

How the bank has landed business-to-business deals in the sport: We’ve learned that you have to be embedded in the sport in an authentic way; you can’t just come in and start knocking on doors. And we’ve done that by a number of different investments, our Roush deal, ISC and Daytona, IndyCar (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), and beyond those investments, you’ve got to have the right partnerships in place to leverage that. ... (I)f you’re not engaged and constantly at the track, if you’re not involved at the events and out at (the PRI trade show), it’s hard to say you’re really authentically an embedded part of the sport.

Why motorsports appears primed for consolidation: We’re seeing teams that are becoming more focused instead of trying to do it all on their own or trying to run four cars and build cars for other teams. Now, they’re trying to do more with less, and you see that on a number of different teams.

How it felt to win at Talladega this spring, the first victory since Fifth Third’s motorsports program launched: What an incredible thrill it was; I was so thrilled that I could be there for it. ... We launched our new branding, and what better way to show how to be 167 percent better than having a win on the track; Ricky certainly demonstrated that and he was awesome; but crossing the finish line he remembered to weave in our tagline; he said, “Now that’s ‘Banking a Fifth Third Better,’ boys!” That’s an incredible example of why the sport works for sponsors and brands because you get that type of exposure that you wouldn’t get in football or the NBA.

                                                                                                                               — Adam Stern