Video: Winning at the track

CNBC
updated 7/11/2005 9:03:33 PM ET 2005-07-12T01:03:33

NASCAR offers Corporate America something no other sport provides.

"When I drink beer, I drink Coors Light," one fan said. "I'm kind of paying this driver's paycheck by buying his beer."

It's a level of consumer loyalty that's unmatched, and it's not just from the beer drinking crowd.

It's jeans, it's candy, it's cell phones ...

"Our research indicates NASCAR fans are five times more likely to purchase Nextel than the consumers in general," said Mark Schweitzer, Nextel's senior vice president of marketing.

Goods and services are flying off the shelves and that has Wall Street taking notice.

"There is significant evidence that suggests that all sports sponsorships do move stock prices, but nothing does it like NASCAR," said Dr. Stephen Pruitt, a professor at the University of Missouri.

One explanation for the strong link is that fans are rooting not just for teams, but for corporations.

This has led some Fortune 500 companies to abandon sponsorship deals in other sports.

Kodak is one of them. Bud Denker is its director of brand and market development.

"We found the participation of NASCAR to be one of our biggest ROIs, from a return standpoint. In fact, we have not taken away and rationalized a lot of the dollars we spend on stick and ball sports and brought those dollars to this partnership because it pays out so well for us," Denker said.

How much does it cost?

"Every team is different ... ballpark a low of $10 million and a high of $20 million, depending on the team," NASCAR's Chief Operating Officer George Pyne said.

And NASCAR licensed product sales shot up 250 percent between 1995 and 2004, surpassing the $2 billion mark last year.

But what is it exactly about the sport that breeds such a high level of consumer loyalty?

Even though top drivers fly around the country in private jets, live in mansions and make millions, they still manage to relate to the fans.

"They're competing. They're not just getting a salary ... they're working for a living," one fan said.

These athletes are almost always accessible. The fans are allowed, even encouraged to visit the drivers in the garage — NASCAR's equivalent of the locker room.

That is critical to NASCAR's corporate partners because the drivers are not just drivers — they are an integral part of each companies marketing effort.

Rick Hendrick runs one of the most successful teams in NASCAR. He also had an ownership position in an NBA team, and says an accessible driver makes the sport.

"You can't measure. It's one of the most valuable assets of our sport," he said.

NASCAR fans clearly have the money to spend. The median income is $60,000. Yes, more than the national average.

"There is no question that in the early years of NASCAR the fan base was very different than it is today — and they are a very moneyed clientele," Dr. Pruitt said.

"There used to be a theory, an old saying that went along with the business, that 'win on Sunday, buy on Monday," McAlpine said. "And a lot of people go out and buy a car because they saw it win in NASCAR."

And that points to more sodas, razors, PCs, hotel rooms and chocolate candy bars being sold.

"CNBC on Assignment: NASCAR Gold" hosted by Dylan Ratigan airs Monday, July 11 at 8 p.m. ET and 11 p.m. ET. Check local listings for your CNBC cable channel.

© 2012 CNBC, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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