The shock news of Coca-Cola ending an 18 year naming-rights partnership with the NHRA’s professional drag racing series has created much comment, but perhaps the most interesting remarks so far have come from Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis.
Lemonis tweeted Tuesday morning that Camping World were ‘not scared of a commitment to racing’, with an invite to the NHRA to talk sponsorship.
While a tweet is far from a firm commitment, Lemonis is a high profile businessman in the USA, where he stars on CNBC’s The Profit, a show about helping struggling small businesses.
NHRA responded to Lemonis via Twitter, where a number of high profile teams were also quick to voice support.
At first glance, NHRA’s fan and racer base would have a high level of crossover with Camping World’s customers – the sheer amount of RVs in the pits and in campgrounds around tracks should be an indication of that. Drag racers and drag racing fans also tend to be interested in other outdoor activities, such as off-road vehicles, fishing and hunting.
Coca-Cola used the NHRA to promote three of their brands across the years: Powerade, Full Throttle, and Mello Yello. It is notoriously difficult to convince people to change the soda they drink, and if you can’t convince them on taste then marketing is what you are left with. While energy drinks brands such as Red Bull and Monster have done very well in associating themselves with extreme sports and excitement, Mello Yello hasn’t had the same cut-through.
Camping World may have a far easier time – it’s a lot simpler to change a consumer’s behaviour so they shop at a different camping retailer. The end products are virtually the same as their competitors and Camping World have plenty of experience in marketing to motorsports fans thanks to their involvement with NASCAR (which includes a sponsorship of the NASCAR Truck Series via their Gander Outdoors brand).
It gets a little exciting when you think about what Camping World’s involvement with drag racing could do in terms of getting new fans involved. Part of Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the NHRA involved an additional activation budget to help market events. Camping World has 160 stores throughout the US, plus other brands that include Gander and Good Sam Club, the largest organisation of RV owners in the world (over two million members). It’s no secret that drag racing’s fan base is a little older, but they are in the prime spot for RV ownership – and you could argue that any RV owner is also a potential drag racing fan.
All of this is an extreme hypothetical situation based on 29 words issued from one man, but we believe there is plenty of reason to be excited for NHRA’s future. Their series offers great value for the right sponsorship partner – and Camping World would be a great fit.