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2017 Team and Sponsor Previews: JTG Daugherty and Team Penske

Kraig Doremus

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Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski (2) and Joey Logano (22) battle for position. Photo via athlonsports.com

Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski (2) and Joey Logano (22) battle for position. Photo via athlonsports.com

As the 2017 season draws closer, we continue our season previews. This edition features JTG Daugherty Racing, now a multi-car team, and the historic Team Penske organization.

JTG Daugherty Overview

After 15 years in the Xfinity Series, Tad and Jodi Geschickter made the jump to NASCAR’s top division in 2009. Today, JTG Daugherty Racing is co-owned by the couple, as well as ESPN Analyst Brad Daugherty. This year, they will add a second team with Chris Buescher joining the organization.

JTG Daugherty Drivers

A.J. Allmendinger: After winning at Watkins Glen in 2014 and finishing 14th in the standings, Allmendinger, the driver of the №47 JTG Daugherty Racing machine, has failed to find victory lane and has not finished in the top 15 in points over the past two seasons.

There were some bright spots in 2016, as the 35-year-old California native finished in the top-10 nine times, one shy of his career-best. He recorded a pair of top five finishes, while posting an average finish position of 17.8.

Allmendinger finished 2016 ranked 19th in the final standings. His best finish came in 2014, the year of his only Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory. That season, he made the playoffs and finished 13th in points.

A.J. Allmendinger's 2017 ride. Photo from racingusa.com

A.J. Allmendinger’s 2017 ride. Photo from racingusa.com

Stability could be Allmendinger’s best friend in 2017. Kroger returns as the primary sponsor for 24 races, continuing its partnership with JTG, which it has had since 2010. The grocery chain signed a multi-year deal to stay with the №47 team in 2015, but enters the final year of its deal this season.

According to Bob Pockrass, Kingsford Charcoal and Clorox are signed through the upcoming season and set to sponsor ten races. Multiple other sponsors, including Bush’s Beans, Hungry Jack and Scotts Products, could find themselves on the hood of Allmendinger’s ride this year.

With the same sponsors on board, a contract that runs through 2020, according to the popular NASCAR site Jayski, and a teammate joining the shop this season, Allmendinger could be primed for success this season.

A colleague will be incredibly important for the #47 crew. Now, data can be shared among two teams, instead of Allmendinger’s team relying only on its technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing.

The organization will have a method to compare data and make the necessary changes on a weekly basis. Perhaps the data sharing will allow the team to increase its speed, as well as handling, and make the playoffs for the second time in four years.

Making the playoffs and winning races will be vital if the #47 team wants to compete with the sport’s elite teams like Hendrick and Gibbs.

Chris Buescher: For the first time in team history, JTG will field a second team. Chris Buescher comes over from Front Row Motorsports, to drive the №37 JTG Chevy. The team is leasing a charter from the №16 Roush Fenway team, which parted ways with Greg Biffle and ceased operations after the 2016 season.

Buescher is just 24 years old and enters his second full-time season in NASCAR’s Cup Series. He won a rain-shortened Pocono race in 2016, securing a playoff berth after finishing in the top 30 in points at the conclusion of the regular season.

Despite a first-round playoff exit, Buescher turned heads by being the first rookie to win a race in 2016, doing so before household names like Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney. The win was one of two top-five finishes he recorded, the other coming at Bristol in August.

He is under contract with Roush Fenway Racing, but has been loaned to two teams (FRM and now JTG Daugherty) and will be in a Chevrolet this year, rather than a Ford, which is the manufacturer for RFR.

Driving a Chevy rather than a Ford is certainly a unique situation, one which the 2015 Xfinity Series champion recognized. He told MRN, “…this is the best way to go on the racetrack and be competitive, get more seat time and be ready to come back for 2018 in whatever that brings. Right now, Roush has said the plan would be to get three teams started back again in 2018 and me go back there.”

A lack of sponsorship forced the №16 team to cease operation rather than moving Buescher to the car in place of Biffle.

Buescher knows that this is very likely a stop-over year, however, he should be much more competitive in the №37.

Right now, it looks as if Kroger will sponsor the car, as it does his teammate Allmendinger. It’s a good move for Kroger, not only because it strengths its relationship with JTG Daugherty, but also because it will receive more exposure on a second car, one that is driven by an up and coming driver.

Kroger’s sponsorship of the №37 was first reported by Jayski.

Team Penske Overview

Team Penske made its NASCAR debut in 1972 and also won the Indy 500 that same year. Roger Penske fielded a team in the Cup Series until 1977 and again briefly in 1980, before taking a hiatus from stock car racing. In 1991, Penske Racing South (now Team Penske) reemerged in Cup racing with driver Rusty Wallace. Today, the organization is one of NASCAR’s most well-known company’s and employs two drivers, 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion Brad Keselowski and 2016 MENCS runner-up Joey Logano.

Team Penske Drivers

Brad Keselowski: The 2012 Cup Series champion and driver of the №2 Team Penske Ford has made NASCAR’s version of the playoffs in all but one of his full-time seasons, and every year since 2011.

His first win came at Talladega in 2009, where he earned James Finch for his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Victory. The following year Keselowski drove the №12 Team Penske car, before sliding into the №2 Ford, sponsored by Miller Lite.

Miller has a longstanding history with Roger Penske’s organization, dating back to mid-1980s. Last season, three of Keselowski’s four victories came when the beer company was the alpha sponsor.

2016 saw him race nearly two thirds of the season with sponsorship from Miller, which enters the final year of its contract with Penske this upcoming season. In 2017, the longstanding brewing company will sponsor the team for the same amount of races as the past few seasons (24).

Also returning in 2017 are sponsors Alliance Truck Worth, Wurth, Autotrader and SKF. Alliance will sponsor eight races, according to Jayski, while Wurth has rights to three races, Autotrader two, and SKF a single event.

Alliance’s eight race deal for 2017 is up from six events last year. Keslelowski did not win in Alliance colors, but did finish runner-up at Pocono in August and Martinsville in October.

Brad Keselowski (foreground) leads A.J. Allmendinger and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Photo from cnd.inquistir.com

Brad Keselowski (foreground) leads A.J. Allmendinger and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Photo from cnd.inquistir.com

Jayski states that this is the final year for both the championship winning driver, as well as crew chief Paul Wolfe. Don’t expect the pair to go anywhere though. The duo has been together since 2011 and has won 20 races as a team, including 11 over the past three seasons.

Although the team finished 12th in the final standings, it recorded top-10 finishes in 2014 and 2015. If they can perform in the playoffs and avoid finishes outside the top-30 (three in the 2016 playoffs), the №2 group should be in contention for its second championship since 2011.

Joey Logano: The past three seasons have seen Logano win 14 times and make the playoffs each year, yet each season ended without a championship.

The Middletown, Connecticut native finished as the runner-up in last year’s point standings and if the driver of the №22 Team Penske machine has a repeat year, he could secure his first championship in 2017.

He signed a contract extension back in 2014, which runs through the 2018 season, per Jayski. After signing the multi-year deal, Logano made it clear that he was excited and expected to compete for championships, something he has done throughout his contract.

In September 2014, Logano said, “I am fortunate and excited to be a part of Team Penske for the foreseeable future. He added, “Mr. Penske gives us everything we need to keep our eye on the prize and compete for wins and championships.”

Shell-Penzoil will sponsor the №22 Ford Fusion for 32 races. It has been associated with Penske in the Cup Series since 2011, but the partnership between the two organizations began back in the 1983 in the Indycar Series.

Last season, each of Logano’s three wins came with Shell-Penzoil on his machine. His lowest finish in Shell’s colors was a 39th place showing at Kentucky, but his average finish was just outside the top 10 (10.11).

Sponsor AAA nearly found themselves in the winner’s circle with Logano, but his best finish was a runner-up performance at the November Texas race. Finally, Autotrader will be on board the car for a pair of races, doubling its alpha sponsorship total from 2017, while SKF will adorn Logano’s car for a single race.

If a contract extension is not in the works, look for Penske to lock up Logano for the foreseeable future. His sponsors have had solid results despite the fact that team still lacks a championship ring.

At the young age of 26, Logano is one of NASCAR’s top talents. With consistent finishes, the №22 team could capture its first championship this upcoming season.

Kraig Doremus is a content writer for Front Office Sports with a focus on NASCAR. He holds a B.S. in Sport Studies from Reinhardt University and is currently pursuing his M.A in Sport Education from Gardner-Webb University. He can be reached at kraig@frntofficesport.com

Sponsorship

Teams and Leagues Cozy Up to CBD Brands

The sports world is beginning to bring CBD companies into the fold, marking a significant milestone for the CBD industry.

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Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

As teams and leagues look for emerging partner opportunities, CBD brands are showcasing that they aren’t afraid to spend when it comes to sports partnerships. 

While not really a thought in the minds of professionals more than a year ago, CBD presents both a revenue opportunity and an interesting challenge for teams and leagues.

How did this happen?

Before the enactment of the new nationwide 2018 Farm Bill. there wasn’t much mainstream conversation around CBD. Since then, the category has exploded across both retail and sports.

When the bill passed, it legalized industrial hemp by removing it from the controlled substances list and allowing tribes, states, and territories to establish regulatory structures within their boundaries that allow farmers and ranchers to produce a high-value cash crop while retaining federal farm program benefits that were previously not allowed.

Teams and leagues are starting to find interest…

Just this past week, the Portland Pickles became the first baseball team with a CBD partner.

Before that, the Big3 signed a deal with cbdMD that made the brand the official CBD partner of the upstart basketball league. 

And, ahead of this weekend’s Indianapolis 500, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced its partnership with DEFY – a CBD-based sports performance drink.

The only problem with this partnership is that the drivers of the car can’t drink the drink due to the fact that CBD is on IndyCar’s banned substance list

Who’s sponsoring what?

Below you will find a list of some of the CBD and cannabis-related partnerships that have been signed recently.

Las Vegas Lights / NuWu Cannabis Marketplace

Big3 / cbdMD

Portland Pickles / Lazarus Naturals

Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports / DEFY

Jonathan Byrd’s Racing / Liquid Gold Processing

RC Enerson / Craft 1861

It’s not just teams and leagues…

While the bigger deals might get more attention, CBD companies have also struck deals with athletes. 

For example, Bubba Watson has a deal with cbdMD, the same brand that is sponsoring the Big3.

Before Watson, Scott McCarron signed an endorsement deal with Functional Remedies, a hemp manufacturing company.

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Sponsorship

Are NFL Jersey Ads Next?

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May 15, 2019; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki (44) runs a drill during organized team activities at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

Jersey ads aren’t an unfamiliar sight at NFL practices. Brands like Lecom and Hyundai are visible on the practice jerseys of the Browns and Cardinals respectively.

The one place jersey ads haven’t shown up is in regular season games. 

Could that be changing anytime soon?

Speaking with SI, an NFL spokesman said, “Never say never, but there are no current plans to pursue or explore.”

With what SI estimates to be $224 million in revenue being left on the table by not having patches on the jerseys, why would the league not consider it? 

According to those inside the industry, the NFL is concerned about conflicts of interest between teams who may have patches of competitors of current partners for opposing teams.   

The NBA has found success…

The NBA launched its jersey patch program in 2017 and as of March of 2019, every team in the league found themselves with a patch on their jersey. 

According to Terry Lefton and John Lombardo of SBJ, the patch program has generated more than $150 million for the league.

Another important stat is that of the 30 team patch sponsors, 20 are doing business with NBA teams for the first time.

At this point, not having ads is more unusual…

Even MLB, considered the most traditional of sports leagues in the U.S., has experimented with sponsor patches since 2000. Of the major sports leagues in the U.S., here’s a look at which ones have ads on their game jerseys and which ones don’t. 

NBA: Yes

WNBA: Yes

MLS: Yes

NHL: No 

NFL: No

MLB: Yes (for special occasion games only – Mexico Series etc)

Internationally, teams are cashing in…

While soccer is somewhat different in that the advertising is not just a patch, but the primary part of a team’s uniform, the revenue potential can’t be argued. Here’s a look at what just five brands are paying international clubs, according to The 18.

Emirates / Real Madrid: $80 million per year 

Chevy / Man U: $68 million per year

Rakuten / Barcelona: $60 million per year

Emirates / Arsenal: $56 million per year

Yokohama / Chelsea: $51 million per year

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CohnReznick Sponsors a Dive Inside the Business of Baseball

Accounting firm CohnReznick shows the business of baseball in two video series with MLB, “Business of Baseball” and “Front Office Focus.”

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CohnReznick MLB Videos
Photo Credit: Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports

Accounting firm CohnReznick is taking an authentic approach to its MLB sponsorship. Through a video series called Business of Baseball and Front Office Focus, CohnReznick lends its name to an inside look at professional baseball. The series is produced by MLB Network, where it airs, along with, MLB.com and CohnReznick’s website.

MLB confirmed CohnReznick as a sponsor of the video series to FOS. The two parties collaborate on ideas, but MLB declined to speak on the sponsorship further.

“Our team really wanted something that was authentic, not just a way to slap our name onto something, but to own something,” says Frank Longobardi, CEO, CohnReznick. “We are able to align some of our core values with what’s being talked about in Business of Baseball and Front Office Focus. That makes us feel good, as we felt we could drive content and value with our strengths.”

READ MORE: MLB Flies Under the Radar With Sponsor Patches

While service-oriented companies have sponsored sports for decades, it’s becoming more common for non-consumer brands to find ways to cut through the clutter,” says Joe Favorito, a sports marketing and communications consultant.

“These companies are tying to something that resonates,” Favorito says. “Consumers have millions of choices. If it comes down to personal choice, they remember the company for who their spokesperson is or the story being told.”

The Business of Baseball series launched during December’s Baseball Winter Meetings, where CohnReznick was the presenting sponsor of the meetings for MLB Network. Over the course of the video sponsorship, there will be approximately six Business of Baseball videos and up to 35 Front Office Focus clips through the season.

“They’re topics, like hospitality and security, that are the same types of things we deal with our clients,” Longobardi says. “We wanted to show similarities of how Major League teams go through some of the same things our clients go through.”

Each of the videos feature commentators and baseball executives. Front Office Focus highlights discussions with executives from the league’s 30 teams about issues ranging from team strategies to club operations, while Business of Baseball looks into how franchises transform the game through analytics and management, but also how they redefine the fan experience.

A recent episode, “The Business of Food,” featured a look at how food experiences now play into a fan’s trip to a ballpark., like a sit-down interview with Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer by CohnReznick Managing Partner Cindy McLoughlin talking about how the game day experience has evolved to include a culinary aspect. The restaurant industry is evolving inside and outside the ballpark.

“When you look at stadiums and games, it’s not just about baseball anymore,” McLoughlin says. “Fans expect an overall experience. People get to stadiums to stand in line, they need to get their Shack Burger.

“That led us to Danny Meyer to really peel back why it’s a benefit to him and how those synergies line up.”

The video topics originated in a brainstorming session featuring CohnReznick’s team and  MLB. The topics center around issues with innovation and analytics to elevate customer experience and retain loyalty. From these conversations, MLB could consider matching a team with a relevant topic.

“It puts us front and center with a really good brand,” Longobardi says of the partnership. “In any business, you want to align yourself with good organizations, and this relationship does that well and connects the right type of people we’re trying to attract, the C-Suite individuals to middle market to small public companies.”

READ MORE: The MLBPA Has Embraced Athlete-Driven Marketing

The sponsorship has allowed CohnReznick to provide clients, potential clients and employees with strong relationship building opportunities at games and events.

“It really has allowed us to spend some time with key clients and be able to spend quality time with our employees and enjoy ourselves,” Longobardi says. “We can more closely align MLB brand with our clients and our staff, and that makes it a unique experience.”

By tying in with behind the scenes content, CohnReznick hopes to resonate with clients beyond just a name on the screen.

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