Understanding Partnerships With an Inside Look at Chip Ganassi Racing’s Strategy

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Photo via Chip Ganassi Racing

Chip Ganassi Racing has an impressive stable of 12 drivers representing four different racing series, and with that diversity comes a variety of partnerships and sponsors. The CGR team knows that partnerships are not a one-size-fits-all approach; constant communication and developing relationships have been the keys to CGR’s success and longevity with its partners.

“I think the main thing with any type of relationship is listening to what’s important and trying to bring partners the things that they desire,” said John Olguin, senior vice president, marketing and communications. “Just doing what we think is right does not make sense from a partnership perspective. It is easier to keep partners than to find them, so that’s one reason why communication is so important. Having conversations allows us to develop a plan and meet the objectives that we’re jointly seeking with our partners.”

For more than 30 years, Chip Ganassi has been a fixture in the racing industry. He began with a single INDYCAR team in 1990, and now his organization features a pair of NASCAR teams, two INDYCAR teams, two IMSA teams and two WEC teams. CGR boasts partnerships with some of the biggest brands around, including McDonald’s, Cessna, Credit One Bank, PNC Bank and many others.

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The Ganassi organization was founded with the backing of major retailer Target, which could be seen sponsoring a CGR-powered race car any given weekend until it decided to move out of racing. When Target left, other partners stepped up to fill the void thanks to the value that CGR brought to the companies involved.

“Chip always says that we have one goal. We want to win on and off the track,” Olguin said. “To win off the track, we have to bring value to the partner. We’ve been with several of our partners for a number of years, including Bass Pro Shops (2009), McDonald’s (2010) and Cessna (2013).”

The No. 1 Chevrolet in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, which will be driven by CGR newcomer Kurt Busch this season, has been sponsored by Cessna and McDonald’s in years past.

“The No. 1 car predominantly shared two sponsors, and they were polar opposites,” said Olguin. “One sells dollar hamburgers and one sells multimillion dollar airplanes, but they’re using the same platform to accomplish their goals. McDonald’s wants to see the golden arches everywhere, whereas Cessna simply wants to sell airplanes. They are now part of the NASCAR family and want nothing more than to have their planes transporting drivers, owners, teams and sponsors to and from the track.”

Another partner of Chip Ganassi Racing is Credit One Bank, which stepped up specifically for the No. 42 NASCAR Cup Series team of Kyle Larson when Target left.

Credit One Bank often has unique activations at the race track involving Larson, and not only are they a hit for the fans, but the digital and social media engagement is impressive.

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“Credit One Bank created campground gift packs that fans could win on social and they would have Kyle go to the infield and surprise the winners with products,” Olguin said. “They also did something cool with ‘Flat Kyle’ (similar to ‘Flat Stanley’) where they distributed him through social media and kids took him with them all around the world and posted photos of his travels on social media. The ‘Flat Kyle’ activation resonated with followers. Some of our partners want big activations at the track or on digital, and others — like Cessna — are more focused on the business to business aspect.”

One of the major benefits for partners of CGR is that they have access to all of the company’s race teams across the different series.

“One great aspect of being represented in different series is that if a company is a partner of ours in NASCAR, for example, it still has access to our INDYCAR and sports car teams,” Olguin said. “It allows them to reach different demographics and expand their branding and message.”

Olguin and the team at Chip Ganassi Racing know that retaining partners is one of the keys to having a successful organization. Having conversations with partners and setting goals together, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach has allowed the Ganassi brass to maintain longstanding relationships with several companies.