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By Linda Lisanti
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With four races left in the chase for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup, it’s still unclear which driver will take home the trophy and the glory this season. But newbie NASCAR sponsor Hunt Brothers Pizza is already deeming its rookie year in the racing series a victory.
As previously reported by CSNews Online, the Nashville, Tenn.-based company began a sponsorship test earlier this year with Haas/CNC Racing, which included being a secondary sponsor for the Samsung 500 on April 6, at Texas Motor Speedway, and a primary sponsor at the Aaron's 499, which took place April 26, at Talladega Speedway.
That test soon turned into a full-season commitment. In July, Hunt Brothers announced that it would serve as primary sponsor of the No. 66 and No. 70 cars in multiple races for the remainder of the year, and be an associate sponsor on the No. 66 in each 2008 event.
Earlier this month, Hunt Brothers—a distributor of fresh dough pizza to the c-store industry with more than 6,000 locations in 27 states—invited CSNews to tour the Hass/CNC Racing facility in Kannapolis, N.C. and get an update on the partnership.
For Hunt Brothers, this NASCAR sponsorship has provided the company with an opportunity to increase its brand awareness and recognition among consumers, ultimately driving sales at its retail locations, said Scott Hunt, senior executive for Hunt Brothers. Previous research showed that while consumers were buying Hunt Brothers pizza, they didn’t know it was the Hunt Brothers brand—or any brand, for that matter, he noted.
"We realized we needed to build a strong brand, and thought NASCAR was appealing. There are 75 million NASCAR fans, and 20 million of them are crazy loyal and think NASCAR is the only thing in the world. These fans are very brand loyal, and a 100-percent match from a demographic standpoint to convenience store customers," Hunt said.
Some of the ways Hunt Brothers is activating the sponsorship at the store level are:
-- Free Fill-Up Sweepstakes -- from Aug. 23 through Oct. 27, visitors to www.freegasfreepizza.com can sign up for a chance to win free gas and pizza for a year. As of Oct. 10, 35,000 unique entries were received, with a 25 percent opt-in rate. The sweepstakes is allowing the company to develop a database of people interested in receiving future e-mails and offers from Hunt Brothers.
-- Show car appearances -- the Hunt Brothers Pizza show car is currently on a 25-stop tour visiting convenience store operators across the country. Several store owners have been building larger community events around the car’s appearance.
-- Point-of-purchase materials -- Hunt Brothers provides its retailer partners with promotional materials to display in their stores, from pizza boxes showcasing the race car, to a life-sized cardboard cutout of No. 66 driver Scott Riggs.
"It’s a real positive for us," said Dale Turner, director of operations for Fast Track, a Gainesville, Fla.-based chain of 25 convenience stores, 10 of which offer Hunt Brothers Pizza. He told CSNews Online the Hunt Brothers NASCAR sponsorship has especially resonated in its stores located in the heart of NASCAR country."We have stores where a display of NASCAR hats and key chains will blow out."
Looking ahead, no concrete plans are in place yet for 2009, but based on this year’s results, Hunt Brothers intends to once again be a presence on the race track.
"Every time they fire the car up, it’s a magnet," Hunt said. "People are drawn to it."