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Inside Bojangles’ and Darlington Raceway’s Unique Partnership

Since 2012, Bojangles’ has been the entitlement sponsor of the Southern 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington.

Kraig Doremus

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Ask a NASCAR fan or even industry executive about Darlington Raceway, and chances are that their first words will be the track’s slogan, “Too Tough to Tame.”

Darlington, which has also been called the “The Lady in Black,” has partnered with Bojangles’ since 2012. This year, the track will put on its fourth Throwback Weekend over Labor Day as drivers’ paint schemes in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 pay homage to schemes over the past seven decades of NASCAR.

The Bojangles’ and Darlington partnership pairs up a legendary track with an iconic brand in the Carolinas. Although Bojangles’ has been the entitlement sponsor for the Southern 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington since 2012, the company’s history in the sport extends back to the early 1990s.

“I came to work for Bojangles’ in 1990,” said Randy Poindexter, senior vice president of marketing for Bojangles’. “At the time, we had no affiliation with NASCAR, so I started going to Charlotte Motor Speedway to look for a team that qualified for the race but didn’t have sponsorship.”

In 1993, Bojangles’ managed to secure a sponsorship with Cale Yarborough Motorsports and driver Derrike Cope for the full season, but since then, the company has been primarily involved with trackside sponsorship, something that Poindexter believes is a unique niche for the Southern company.

However, for the 2018 Southern 500, Bojangles’ will not only sponsor the race, but the company’s branding will be featured on Cope’s No. 99 StarCom Racing Chevrolet, 25 years after the chain sponsored him during the 1993 season. And you’ll most likely find Poindexter wearing his 1993 vintage race uniform on pit road. The uniform is a hit with the fans and gets them talking about Bojangles’ involvement in the sport.

“Sponsorships with tracks have been great for Bojangles’,” Poindexter said. “We can have our concessions stands and mobile kitchen at multiple tracks, and we’re able to get food into the hands of fans. At first, I didn’t think the sponsorship was within our reach from a financial standpoint, but in addition to the entitlement sponsorship at Darlington, we have operated concession stands and mobile kitchens at tracks like Martinsville, Richmond and Talladega, which has been great marketing for the company.”

At the time, Bojangles’ began its sponsorship with Darlington, the brand was opening its 100th store in South Carolina. The partnership gave the chain a chance to not only increase its presence in the southeast, but also gain national exposure through a partnership with Darlington.

“For us, it was a huge bonus that Darlington is in South Carolina,” said Poindexter. “In addition to more local exposure centered around our South Carolina initiative and the opening of the state’s 100th store, it gave Bojangles’ national exposure with entitlement sponsorship and TV coverage. We were excited about the chance to reach out beyond South Carolina and increase brand awareness.”

For Bojangles’, the marketing efforts involving Darlington start in the stores, and the materials are specifically retro themed. “We designed in-store merchandising materials to promote the event and help the speedway sell tickets. The designs are retro themed for the years that the track is trying to highlight and this year, everything highlights Darlington’s theme of seven decades of racing.”

Bojangles’ has been able to increase its presence at the track each year, bringing about more brand awareness and getting its product in the hands of more consumers.

“Each year we seem to add on to what we’ve been doing,” Poindexter said. “Our interactive area started as a small pop up tent doing things with fans and has now grown to three displays and a mobile kitchen. We give away coupons to drive fans into our stores and have our team members and Bojangles’ mascot ‘Big Bo’ going through the infield and engaging with fans.”

At the displays, fans have a chance to win Bojangles’ “swag” ranging from a koozie with a Bojangles’ Southern 500 logo, to a headband or even foam finger. And, the engagement extends beyond the fans to the NASCAR team members, something that has been a hit on social media.

When it came to interacting with crew members, the Bojangles’ public relations and digital team wanted to embrace the idea behind Darlington’s throwback weekends.

In 2017, Darlington’s throwback weekend honored the 1970s, and the Bojangles’ team designed “survival kits,” given to the crew members for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams. The kits contained everything from sunglasses and headbands to ear plugs, and was packaged in a retro style lunch box complete with Bojangles’ and Darlington branding.

“We had a lot of great feedback around the kits on social media,” Poindexter said. “The crew members loved the headbands and sunglasses that we put in the lunch boxes and took pictures wearing them for their social media channels. The activation was great for Bojangles’ brand awareness but also gave the crews something to remember.”

While Bojangles’ has been able to successfully engage with ticket holders and teams alike during Darlington’s Labor Day race weekend, the brand has also gained national exposure. With two years left on the current agreement, Poindexter and his team understand the value of the partnership for Bojangles’.

“It’s been a great partnership that has given us a national presence outside of our core markets in North and South Carolina,” Poindexter said. “The advertising, along with the national exposure for a regional chain is priceless. You add the bonus of being able to engage with the fans in interactive areas and driving customers into our stores, and it’s great. We treat it as going beyond a business relationship. It’s a family relationship. Darlington Raceway and International Speedway Corporation have been fantastic to work with. Race weekend is a big celebration with the local Darlington, Florence and Myrtle Beach communities, and our plan is to continue it for a long time.”

To witness the seventh Bojangles’ Southern 500 and the fourth annual Darlington Raceway throwback weekend, tune in to NBCSN at 6:30 p.m. EST on Sunday, September 2.

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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Sponsorship

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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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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