Michael Waltrip Racing enters the 2010 season with a growing sponsor base, a new driver and a sense of momentum enjoyed by few NASCAR teams, and now it can count Just Marketing International on its side as well.

The three-year-old race team has a new consulting agreement with JMI that MWR hopes will broaden its sales and marketing reach.

"We need more ammo than we have," said Ty Norris, MWR's vice president and general manager.

Norris is part of a three-person business development team at MWR that grows to four when Waltrip joins the sales process. Waltrip is retreating into a part-time role as a driver, but the team picked up driver Martin Truex Jr. in the offseason to run the No. 56 NAPA car.

JMI, a motorsports-specific agency based in Indianapolis with a client list that includes Subway, LG, UPS and Verizon, will be a non-exclusive consultant with the race team. JMI has hired Craig Amhaus from Dover Motorsports Inc. to be the agency's day-to-day point person with MWR.

Zak Brown, JMI's chief executive, said the deal will permit the agency to continue to work with other teams, and MWR will remain open to deals that come from other agencies. The arrangement calls for MWR to pay the agency a retainer and a percentage from the deals that close, although financial specifics were not available.

"If we come across a company and MWR is not the right fit, we're not bound to steer them there," Brown said. "But we will be bringing our sales and marketing expertise to the team to find them the companies that are the right fit."

This is not the first time an agency and a team have joined forces. IMG and Joe Gibbs Racing struck a partnership last year that includes not only sales and marketing, but also an in-depth branding analysis of JGR's drivers.

Norris believes JMI will help the race team deepen its sponsor base, which could help MWR grow beyond its two-car operation.

MWR's primary sponsors include Aaron's (with driver David Reutimann) and NAPA, which along with Toyota signed new long-term deals with the team. Best Western and Coca-Cola renewed, and the team added New Balance, Tums and Insurance Office of America.

"The one thing you see happening a lot is that all the teams and agencies are bumping into each other within the U.S.," Norris said. "We'd like to have the capability of looking internationally for more sponsorship opportunities, and that's one area where JMI can certainly help."

JMI has offices in Germany and England, in addition to its U.S. operations.

by Michael Smith
Michael Smith is a reporter with SportsBusiness Journal