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

Chip Ganassi Racing has a diverse portfolio of sponsorships for its teams, which compete in four different racing series – NASCAR, INDYCAR, IMSA and WEC.

Kraig Doremus

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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.

READ MORE: How NASCAR Stays Up to Speed in the Ever-Changing Digital Space

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.

WATCH: Inside Toyota’s Massive Daytona Activation

“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.

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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