Dollar General shifts sponsor money to JGR
14 October 2011
US chain store business Dollar General has announced its motorsports sponsorship strategy for 2012, and confirmed that they are focussing their money on backing the Joe Gibbs Racing organisation.
The retailer has signed up to be the primary sponsor for 12 Cup races of the #20 driven by Joey Logano, which until now has been fully funded by Home Depot since 1999.
The company will also provide sponsorship for JGR driver Brian Scott for a full year of Nationwide Series racing, as well as proving the funds for a further ten Nationwide outings for another car that will be shared between Logano and Kyle Busch. Dollar General will also continue to fund ten Camping World Truck Series races for Kyle Busch Motorsports, with JGR driver Busch himself at the wheel for those outings.
"We chose to increase our presence in NASCAR because it is sport that reaches our customers," said the chairman and CEO of Dollar General, Rick Dreilling. "We look forward to working with JGR and KBM to help us build our brand through NASCAR."
The president of JGR, JD Gibbs, insisted that Home Depot's reduction of funding for the #20 in Cup races was at the team's request in order that JGR could grow the overall family of sponsors backing JGR, and not because Home Depot wanted to reduce its investment or because they were unhappy with the performance of the #20 this season or with Logano's development.
"You don't want to have to pass on that [deal] and let someone else get the opportunity... We're planning on a long-term relationship for a long time with Dollar General,” said Gibbs. "We're thrilled to be in a partnership like that."
He had been in the strange position of having to persuade home improvement retailer to reduce its backing - the inverse of the usual 'tricky conversation' that teams have lately been having trying to get big name suppliers to re-up or extend backing.
"When this opportunity came up and we had an opportunity to talk to [Dollar General], and the fact they would like to make an entry into Cup racing, we went to Home Depot with this idea," said Gibbs, who pointed out that the team had already had a "long-term deal going forward" in place with Home Depot for sponsorship for the full 38-race Cup season. "It wasn't Home Depot coming to us, it was us coming to Home Depot."
"We thought it made sense and that's what we're going to be doing," commented Home Depot spokesman Ron DeFeo, who agreed that the change had been JGR-led.
There had been rumours that JGR's play to sign Carl Edwards over the summer was with the idea to put him in the #20 to satisfy Home Depot, who want the same sort of success for their car that rival chain Office Depot have with Jimmie Johnson in the #48 with five consecutive Cup championships to its credit. When that failed to come off, there were questions about whether Home Depot were entirely happy with the status quo going forward given the race return on their cash investment.
"Without getting into detail, that's not the case," asserted Gibbs. "But I can't really get into all of that." However, he did agree that "first and foremost is performance ... you have to have that, wherever you are," and that Logano would definitely have to up his race performance sooner rather than later.
"We want to do better than we are right now," agreed Logano, aware that the clock was ticking. "We're going to keep working hard and improving."
"He's been great at the store visits," insisted Home Depot's DeFeo, keen to put a stop to rumours of the sponsor's dissatisfaction with the young driver. "He's shown terrific improvement in his time in the sport. He's done everything we've asked."
JGR also said that there had been no real prospect of retaining the Home Depot exclusive deal for the #20 and using the Dollar General backing to launch a fourth team. "I think if you're going to do a fourth car, you'd better have a whole lot more than 12 covered to make it work," said Gibbs, who conceded that the team had sounded out other potential sponsors to raise the 12-race backing up to a full season. "Even if you had 25, and you had to go write a check for the rest, it's not going to work."
Last week Dollar General announced that it was pulling funding from Turner Motorsports, leading that team to let lead driver Reed Sorenson go with immediate effect and to warn of downsizing and lay-offs for the team as a whole in 2012.
In IndyCar, Sarah Fisher revealed in the wake of her team's maiden victory at Kentucky that Dollar General were ending their sponsorship of Sarah Fisher Racing at the end of the current season, leaving SFR's future plans in the balance as well.
"I look forward to seeing Kyle and Joey and Brian in Victory Lane. Being there with Sarah Fisher Racing was wonderful, but our customers lean toward NASCAR. Our demographic is middle America," explained Dreiling. "That's what led us to JGR - a passion to win and do things right ... We have a thrilling and busy year ahead."