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BofA has big plans for driving home NASCAR ties

Charlotte Business Journal (North Carolina), December 04, 2006

By Erik Spanberg

Bank of America Corp.'s new ties to NASCAR will go far beyond pairing checkered flags with checking accounts.

BofA's deal to become the official bank of NASCAR, valued by an industry expert at $15 million to $20 million over five years, replaces NASCAR's expiring agreements with three finance companies: SunTrust Banks Inc., Home123 Mortgage and Centrix Financial.

BofA gets exclusive rights to a number of product and service categories, including mortgage provider and auto financial lender.

Jill Gregory, BofA senior vice president of NASCAR marketing, says the deal will help the bank cross-promote among its motorsports alliances with drivers, teams, tracks and NASCAR itself. "We'll use it in every facet, from business-to-business opportunities to wealth and investment banking, commercial and corporate banking -- there is a lot there."

At NASCAR, the sanctioning body's chief financial officer has begun scouring for ways to do more business with BofA, says NASCAR spokesman Andrew Giangola.

The allure of BofA's national reach and longtime allegiance to sports tie-ins made the deal attractive for NASCAR. "Our partnership with Bank of America reflects NASCAR's strategy to align with leading blue-chip companies," Giangola says.

The bank is still working on plans for 2007, including extensive advertising buys on NASCAR telecasts, consumer promotions and a continuation of an infield hospitality program at speedways targeting wealthy customers.

BofA jumped into NASCAR this year with sponsorship agreements at 10 tracks, including a five-year deal to put the bank's name on the fall Nextel Cup race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. In addition, BofA's purchase of MBNA Corp. earlier this year gave the Charlotte-based bank rights to use the NASCAR logo and the images of 80 drivers on racing-themed credit cards.

Now the company adds the imprimatur of the sanctioning body, signaling an even more aggressive motorsports marketing push.

"Bank of America is a smart sponsor," says William Chipps, senior editor at industry newsletter IEG Sponsorship Report. "They understand the importance of activating and getting behind a sponsorship with a lot of support. That's what they have done nationally with baseball and what they will do with NASCAR."

Along with a wide-ranging deal with Major League Baseball and high-profile franchises including the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the NASCAR sponsorship becomes one of the bank's largest sports marketing investments.

Despite a pronounced decline in TV ratings this season -- the season finale suffered a 20% drop from 2005 -- NASCAR remains attractive to corporate sponsors. Chipps says TV ratings are cyclical and shouldn't be interpreted as a sign NASCAR has lost momentum.

Officials at Atlanta-based SunTrust acknowledge the advantages BofA offers NASCAR, which has put an emphasis on reducing its official sponsorships to 30 companies from 50 while also increasing the promotional power of those partners.

NASCAR "should have partners whose marketing strategies reflect their national presence," Craig Kelly, SunTrust executive vice president, said in a prepared statement.



  • Official bank of NASCAR replacing SunTrust Banks, Home123 Mortgage and Centrix Financial.
  • Sponsorship at 10 tracks, including a five-year deal to put the bank's name on the fall Nextel Cup race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
  • Purchase of MBNA gave BofA rights to use the NASCAR logo and the images of 80 drivers on credit cards.
  • Bought advertising time on NASCAR telecasts during the 2006 season and was title sponsor of the NBC/TNT pre-race show.