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Williams: Product Wars Still Percolating In NASCAR

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, June 21 2011

Driver Tim Richmond and owner Rick Hendrick were key players in NASCAR's coffee wars back in the 1980s. Looks like razor wars are now upon us. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

With Schick’s entrance into NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series sponsorship arena, it rekindles memories of the coffee wars and how a team’s performance isn’t the only thing that drives the coveted dollars on which the racing operations rely.

In case you missed it, Schick executives announced at Michigan International Speedway its Xtreme3 FitStyle Refresh razor would become an associate sponsor on Martin Truex Jr.’s Toyota. This is the first time a razor brand other than Gillette, a Procter & Gamble company that entered NASCAR with its “Gillette Young Guns” program, has been involved in the sport.

In a nutshell, Gillette’s sales via its NASCAR program apparently has forced Schick to enter the sport in order to compete in the market place.

Using stock car racing to gain an upper hand with non-automotive consumer products was the catalyst that triggered NASCAR Cup racing’s financial explosion with corporate America in the 1980s. Ironically, it was Procter & Gamble that initiated it with its Folgers coffee brand. In the mid-1980s, Folgers led coffee sales every where in the United States except in the Southeast. In that region, Maxwell House led.

Folgers’ brand managers test marketed racing in a limited sponsorship deal with Morgan-McClure Motorsports. They also determined, via a demographic study, they could cross-promote their racing and country music programs, thus boosting coffee sales in the Southeast. Thus, in 1986, Tim Richmond’s T.G. Sheppard’s Coffee Machine fielded by Hendrick Motorsports was born.

Richmond appeared at Sheppard’s concerts and Sheppard sang the national anthem at numerous NASCAR races. The marketing plan worked and Folgers soon surpassed Maxwell House’s sales in the Southeast. That eventually forced Maxwell House to obtain sponsorship in the sport.

The two companies’ battle for supremacy in the market place funded the same number of race teams. However, when Folgers executives decided their objectives had been achieved and elected to withdraw from NASCAR, Maxwell House no longer found a need to participate and two team sponsors were lost.

It’s that market place competition that has caused the beer companies continued involvement in the sport, as well as such firms as Lowe’s, Home Depot, UPS, Federal Express, DEWALT and Craftsman. It’s also that desire by the companies to sponsor a driver who appeals to its demographics that has given corporate America more power than the team owner in determining who drives the race car.

Sponsors that enter the sport with a marketing plan and a clear objective, either in sales or recruit numbers, often have several successful years in racing. Yet, once those objectives have been met the sponsor leaves and seeks another venue in which to market its product.

No doubt, the length of Schick’s involvement in the sport will depend on Gillette’s and how well each program is activated in the market place. But don’t be surprised if when Gillette leaves, Schick isn’t far behind.

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, June 21 2011
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  • Terry says:

    Deb,
    I would say this cutting edge piece is right up there with
    Somerset Maugham’s…..I can’t do it….
    it’s to stupid….Oh what the #@!*….
    ” THE RAZOR’S EDGE “….there I am stupid…I admit it.
    Not NASCAR ….but TEAMS need all the marketing money they can get.
    Wood Bros need a second sponsor to keep TREVOR BAYNE going full time.
    FORD needs to keep Carl in house.
    We need to see….Babersol…Noxima…Tidybol…Krispy Kreme…AJAX…OIL of OLAY….OPRAH…on the fenders of cars.
    Give breaks to old sponsors…
    Bring back TIDE…BABY RUTH….A K HOOTER’S tribute car…
    Get dealers involved again….EAST TENN FORD MTR’S ….is all over the fenders of H of F cars…..and my family bought cars there.
    NASCAR ROOT’s….of marketing…can still be used…
    L D Ottinger’s car use to say….”money buys speed”….
    Good job lady,
    Terry