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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Pilot Flying J can add a new title to its repertoire: “Official Travel Center of the SEC.”
The travel center operator entered into a four-year multimillion dollar sponsorship agreement with the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and ESPN to be the “Official Travel Center of the SEC.” The initiative with the SEC represents the largest sports sponsorship deal the company has executed in its nearly 60-year history.
"This relationship with the SEC is a great fit for our brand — we have deep roots within the region, and it represents a third of our network," said Whitney Haslam Johnson, chief experience officer for Pilot Flying J. "As an official sponsor of the SEC, we'll execute a fully integrated marketing plan and leverage the network's national exposure to build strong brand presence and further position our travel centers as roadside destinations of choice.
“We're excited to be part of fans' gameday experiences while traveling to see their favorite teams, and continue to fuel life's journeys for all drivers on the road,” she added.
The sponsorship provides exposure for Pilot Flying J on SEC Network programming and within the SEC footprint through SEC Nation, the network's traveling football pre-game show. Pilot Flying J will also serve as presenting sponsor of three SEC Nation broadcasts this season.
Additionally, it will activate on-site at SEC FanFare at both the football championship and men's basketball tournament, as well as have a marketing presence within all the major SEC sports championship events. The company will have category exclusivity and rights to SEC and SEC Network marks and logos for use in all marketing and promotional efforts, including in-store displays.
"The SEC is pleased Pilot Flying J has now joined our official sponsor program. The sponsorship of the Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol for last year's football game featuring Tennessee and Virginia Tech is evidence of their commitment to college sports and their ability to provide support in a demonstrable way. We welcome them to the SEC family of sponsors,” commented SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey.
Pilot Flying J will amp up its SEC sponsorship and enhance its current media inventory on ESPN by working with SEC Network analyst and radio personality Paul Finebaum, the “Voice of the SEC.” Finebaum will drive campaign and product messaging through the football season with a focus on Fridays leading into game and travel weekends.
"Early in my career, I did a piece on professional drivers and spent four days on the road job shadowing. Ever since then, I've greatly respected that profession and the important role they play in our country," said Finebaum. "I'm thrilled to be working with Pilot Flying J, who serves both professional drivers and passionate SEC fans traveling to games."
The company's first major sports initiative was the title sponsorship of the Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol, an iconic college football "border battle" played Sat., Sept. 10, 2016, between the Virginia Tech Hokies and Tennessee Volunteers. The event at Bristol Motor Speedway shattered the NCAA single-game college football attendance record with a crowd of 156,990 and was later nominated for the 2017 Sports Business Awards "Sports Event of the Year."
"There is a great sense of family and tradition that comes with college sports," Johnson concluded. "You have multiple generations connected by their alma mater, experiencing these events with the same passion and enthusiasm. This new sponsorship with the SEC allows us to speak to them all, and showcase what Pilot Flying J has to offer when they travel."
Based in Knoxville, Pilot Flying J operates more than 750 retail locations in 43 states, serving more than 1.3 million customers daily.