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Posted: June 07, 2013

High Speed Branding

Truck Accessory Manufacturers Find Racing As A Great Way To Brand Products

By Candace Wittrock

Truck accessory manufacturers are always looking for new ways to brand and promote their products. While social media posts, print advertising and web videos are some of the most common methods, racing and race car sponsorships are somewhat rare in this industry. Some manufacturers however, discovered that sponsoring a race team can provide enormous opportunities. “There have been many benefits (to race sponsorships),  including brand awareness, strengthened and increased partnerships, as well as additional media opportunities and exposure,” says Robert D. Tyler, president  of Winfield Consumer Products and owner of Husky Liners in Winfield, Kansas.

At first, it seems strange that a U.S. manufacturer of floor mats and other accessory products would be a major sponsor of an NHRA drag racing team. But the Patterson Racing COPO Camaro and Chevy Cobalt that are top competitors in NHRA drag racing events throughout the country, both feature a large Husky Liner logo on the doors. The tie-in comes from the fact that Tyler is, and has been, an avid car collector and car lover for many years. Because of this, he was one of 69 individuals in the world that was selected by General Motors to receive a new COPO Chevrolet Camaro race car in 2012, and teamed up with Patterson Racing to campaign it. “We are excited to enter the world of drag racing and team up with veteran racers and engine builders Allen and Todd Patterson,” says Tyler, “There is no better way to do that then with a car like the COPO Camaro.” The teamwork has proven to be successful, as the Husky Liner/Patterson Racing team recently set a new NHRA world record in its class, which drew national attention. Husky Liners is also sponsoring the Richard Childress NASCAR Racing team, as well as the Anderson Racing Land Speed team, and recently signed an agreement with Scott Blintz Racing, owner of and avid dirt track racer.

Other truck accessory manufactures such as Cequent, who manufacture Draw-Tite, Reese, and Bulldog brand towing and hitch accessories, also found that sponsoring a race team could be beneficial. “Two of our most recognized brands, Draw-Tite and Reese, have sponsored NASCAR teams in the recent past and will do so as long as it makes sense," says Tom Benson, president of Cequent Performance Products.  Benson was also exited to announce that the company's other brand, Bulldog hitches and couplers, would be sponsoring its first NASCAR race this June (2013). 

The company currently sponsors the Brad Keselowski Racing team in the 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. “We’re enthusiastic about our association with B.K. Racing,” said Benson. “BKR racing approached us with a great plan. The Camping World Series is a natural fit for Draw-Tite as racing fans are campers and towing enthusiasts, and the timing was perfect for our company.”  Cequent believes NASCAR racing fans share a strong mutual interest with trucks and towing, and makes for great branding to a large audience who make up their customer base. “The opportunity to serve their towing and trailer accessory needs is something we value,” added Benson.

Both Benson and Tyler believe that branding to a large audience of car and truck enthusiasts is definitely beneficial to manufacturers who can afford to work with the right teams. “NASCAR caters to a very loyal customer base, and is a natural fit for several of our brands. The chemistry is great, NASCAR fans are truck owners, camper, and RV owners; and we are the largest manufacturer of towing products.”

Both Cequent and Husky Liners believe this kind of marketing is unique by bringing car enthusiasts and people wanting the best on the market, to their door-steps. They claim it makes the money they spend sponsoring the drivers and their teams well worth the investment.  “Besides showcasing our Draw-Tite, Reese, and now our Bulldog brand on a national stage, we also found the NASCAR races helpful in building trackside relationships with our dealers and distributors,” says Benson.

Sponsoring race teams for a fresh new way to get a brand out there, is a win-win situation for these two truck accessory manufacturers. Depending on the amount of sponsorship, racing teams can offer opportunities to publicize brands by placing their logos on the cars, uniforms, and/or equipment. In turn, they can afford to participate in more racing venues and recoup their investment in parts, entry fees and other expenses. A race team with a high track record may be more expensive to work with, but according to Tyler and Benson, it gives them greater publicity and higher chances of visibility to their target consumer. "We always wish we had more time to spend concentrating on just our sponsorships," says Tyler. “We could create more contests and sweepstakes to really leverage our involvement with each team."

“Racing sponsorships, like any marketing investment, need to be worked," says Benson. "Companies really need a clear expectation of what it expects the results will look like for them.  It goes without saying that a manufacturer should make sure that the teams they sponsor have the same values as espoused by their leadership team.”  In addition to that, Benson and Tyler agree that the right sponsorships can allow customers to associate your brand with a driver or group of people they like. "Sponsorships done well, give a face to a manufacturer and create a connection to their customers,” says Benson.

While Cequent and Husky Liners can't divulge how much they've spent on sponsorships or tally their investment returns, they are confident enough to continue with this type of marketing, and plan to sponsor teams they feel offer them a good connection to potential customers.

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