Food Lion was named the official supermarket of NASCAR in 1995 and has never looked back, deepening its promotional involvement with the sport each year since then.
ng NASCAR-related promotions, as well as good customer support for the promotions," said Chris Ahearn, Food Lion's director of communications. "If there's a product that's also affiliated with NASCAR that's part of our promotions, we're able to track their effectiveness as well -- and [NASCAR promotions] have been very effective."
Cindy Sisson, president of Agency Won, which specializes in NASCAR promotions, said, "Food Lion has activated its sponsorship better than just about any other sponsor in the entire sport. They've done a great job of integrating their marketing."
The chain's NASCAR-related programs include its associate sponsorship of Bobby Labonte's Interstate Batteries car as well as the annual SuperFan Challenge Game, a sweepstakes in which the top prize is $250,000, but which also includes prizes such as recreational vehicles and sports cars. There are SuperFan Festivals in 14 cities that host Winston Cup races, including racing simulator games sponsored by Kellogg and Coca-Cola, a "mini-raceway" for kids sponsored by General Mills and other activities.
And earlier this year, Food Lion launched the Food Lion/Cartoon Network Wacky Racing Kids' Club, a joint venture with the Time-Warner cable channel, which awards young members decals, notepads, a diecast NASCAR car -- and Food Lion coupons for their parents.
The alliance with Cartoon Network -- itself a sponsor of a Winston Cup car -- "reinforces Food Lion's commitment to our customers and also provides unique marketing opportunities for our vendors," said Jay Abraham, Food Lion's vice president of marketing.
The chain's involvement in NASCAR may seem not only very deep and very wide, but perhaps redundant. But Food Lion executives insist that the financial outlays, the multiple activities and the extremely close affiliation with NASCAR pay off.
"Each activity is designed to appeal to a different audience and has a different objective," Ahearn explained. The sweepstakes, for example, "are intended to build excitement with customers and merchandising excitement within the store in the way we display the products." SuperFan festivals are "local events that are designed for specific markets, and those are for race fans who may or may not be going to the race itself."
Some of Food Lion's competitors, notably Winn-Dixie Stores, are crazy about NASCAR tie-ins, too.
"We've noticed our competitors doing more promotions with manufacturers who are involved in the sport," Ahearn said.
But they're back at the turn while Food Lion is zooming down the NASCAR straightaway. "NASCAR serves as one point of differentiation for us so we can appeal to the NASCAR fans who might shop with us as well as appeal to the NASCAR fans who might do some of their shopping somewhere else," he said.