In Recession, Fortune 500 Turns to NASCAR

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Despite recent high-profile Army and Dodge sponsorship withdrawals from NASCAR, new research from the auto racing outfit finds that more than one in five Fortune 500 companies is a NASCAR sponsor.

The research from NASCAR found that 114 Fortune 500 companies are involved in sponsoring NASCAR teams, tracks and the sanctioning body. This number has risen since the recession hit in 2008. To be eligible for the Fortune 500, a company must be based in the U.S. and be publicly traded.

NASCAR's chief sales officer Jim O'Connell attributes the increase in top sponsors to the sports brand's loyal fans.

"One in five Fortune 500 companies invests in NASCAR because they recognize the value in being associated with our teams, racetracks and the sanctioning body," O'Connell told BusinessNewsDaily. "NASCAR has become a critical and powerful part of the marketing mix for these companies."

According to NASCAR, more than three out of five of the sport's fans say that even in tough economic times, they will continue to support NASCAR sponsors over other brands.

"Our fiercely loyal fans understand the need for sponsors, are familiar with the sponsors in the sport, and in turn become loyal supporters to these sponsors," O'Connell said.

This year alone, more than 24 brands have become sponsors of the sport, including a handful of Fortune 500 companies.

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"NASCAR is a critical and powerful part of the marketing mix for Fortune 500 companies, such as Mars, Coca-Cola , Ford Motor , Sunoco ,and UPS " O'Connell said. "We can create exclusive assets that are customized to help drive our partners' unique business needs."

One example O'Connell points to is their exclusive business-to-business platform called NASCAR Fuel for Business, which brings together more than 50 official NASCAR sponsors in order for them to buy and sell products to each other. In 2010, O'Connell said Ford generated more than $200 million in vehicle sales from their participation in the program.

Over the next five years, O'Connell said in addition to pursuing traditional advertisers, NASCAR plans to focus on attracting new environmentally friendly sponsors.

"Those partners are not only setting new benchmarks with sponsored initiatives across the sport, but they're also doing their part by helping to educate our fans on the importance of sustainable behavior."

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