Ally banks on popularity of NASCAR’s Johnson
Hendrick Motorsports’ seasonlong deal with Ally Financial is a major boost for the team and NASCAR, but it also reinforces the sport’s increasing reliance on business-to-business relationships, according to marketers interviewed last week.
HMS announced the news in a splashy pre-race appearance on NBCSN before the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway two weekends ago, revealing that Ally will replace Lowe’s as sponsor of the No. 48 Chevrolet driven by seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson in 2019 and 2020. Ally, which is heavily involved in auto financing, is a longtime business partner of team owner Rick Hendrick’s group of car dealerships. Ally was originally GMAC Financial, which sponsored HMS years ago before that deal ended and the company was rebranded.
While financial terms were not revealed, most sports marketers interviewed last week believed that Ally is likely to pay HMS somewhere in the low eight figures annually. Lowe’s was believed to have been spending around $25 million annually, but NASCAR teams have faced a pricing reset in recent years amid drops in key performance indicators.
HMS owner Rick Hendrick told media at Martinsville that the deal was similar financially to the Lowe’s deal, but sports marketers interviewed said that given the existing ties between Hendrick and Ally, there is almost certain to be B2B elements of the deal that helped sync the pact. In this case, Ally would be a strong finance option for customers of Hendrick’s dealerships.
Industry executives were excited because Ally bought a rare full-season deal. Ally also says it will use the No. 48 car and Johnson in its companywide consumer marketing, something that will promote NASCAR inside and outside the sport.
Ally CMO Andrea Brimmer said the company is launching a new brand campaign in January, a month before the start of the 2019 NASCAR season, and Johnson will be a focal point. Brimmer said Ally is focused on being disruptive with its marketing in NASCAR.
Ally, which is based in Detroit but has an office in Charlotte, offers online banking services on top of its work in the automotive sector. Brimmer said the company found the deal alluring because of Johnson’s high recognition rate and because of the company’s roots in auto financing.
Brimmer said Ally is looking forward to taking advantage of the B2B elements of the sport, including using hospitality assets to entertain customers and prospects. “But we’re also thinking on the consumer side … and putting a whole activation plan together, looking at what makes sense with TV advertising, track activation and other neat opportunities like esports and digital financing.”
Ally will be using Hendrick’s internal partnership marketing team to guide it through the NASCAR space, but the company also works with Anomaly, Detroit, for consumer marketing.