CSD Goes to the Races

Going behind the scenes of this year’s Daytona 500, the bond between NASCAR and c-stores is strong.

By David Bennett, Senior Editor

It should be no surprise there’s a growing bond between convenience retailers, the suppliers and manufacturers that provide its most popular products and NASCAR. That link was on full display at the 60th running of the Daytona 500 Feb. 18.

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“We are proud to partner with NASCAR—a sport and organization our guests love—alongside so many other great companies to support the NASCAR family of drivers, owners and most importantly, the fans,” said Wendy Hamilton, senior manager of sales marketing at Pilot Flying J.
Pilot Flying J Racing, which sponsors the No. 5 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet, is part of the NASCAR XFINITY Series.

Joey Logano drives Car No. 22 Pennzoil-Shell Ford for Team Penske. He said that NASCAR and c-stores go hand-in-hand.

“When you read demographics about NASCAR fans, or race fans in general, you’ll find that 90% of the time that one of their top interests is cars,” Logano said. “That same 90% will need gas to power their favorite street ride and they will find themselves running to the corner convenience store to pick up these products a majority of the time. Race fans are also extremely brand loyal, so convenience store retailers find that sponsorship in NASCAR is a great way to grow their customer base and generate strategic business-to-business relationships along the way.”

Before the big race in Florida, NASCAR changed a rule eliminating the post-race ride-height requirement so cars at Daytona didn’t have to meet a minimum car height.

Michael McDowell, driver of Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores No. 34 Ford, part of the Front Row Motorsports team, said given constant rule changes, getting to the top of any competitive market is a long journey.

“We all have high expectations, but like any business, just like any industry you have to execute, so now is our time to execute and we have to see what we need to work on to get to that high level that we all want to be at,” said McDowell. “It’s a growing process; it doesn’t happen overnight.”

The primary sponsor of Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota, driven by Kyle Busch, Mars Wrigley Confectionery’s collaboration with Joe Gibbs Racing goes back 10 years. Tim Lebel, senior vice president of U.S. sales for Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S., said exposure from the NACAR team has extended into nearly every marketing and sales channel, especially c-stores.

“Our partnership with NASCAR without question helps bridge the gap with the convenience customer. Research shows strong parallels in the core demographics of the loyal NASCAR fans and the core consumer, who shops convenience on a regular basis,” said Lebel. “When NASCAR fans see our brand partnerships in the sport, media and on race day, we are not only building loyalty to our brands, but also preselling convenience customers so when they walk inside the store and see our brands on display, at the checkout and in line—it’s a perfect bridge.”

To strengthen that connection, Mars Wrigley a few years ago set upon a fully-integrated promotional effort, including the company’s “50-mile radius activation” that targets different NASCAR tracks throughout the season.

“So within 50 miles of Daytona Speedway, we should have NASCAR presence and activations. We have displays, stand-up characters. I think I saw (a depiction of) Kyle about 20 times today.”