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Darlington, Bojangles ink five-year sponsor deal

March 15, 2012, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A large portion of sponsorship security came to Darlington Raceway on Thursday, along with a side of seasoned fries.

Officials from NASCAR's oldest major speedway announced a title sponsorship with the Bojangles chicken franchise for the facility's iconic race, which will now be known as the Bojangles Southern 500. Most important, from Darlington's perspective, is that the deal is for five years, which is a longer initial agreement than anyone associated with the track can remember.

"This is probably the most natural sponsorship ... since Dale Jr. and Budweiser."

--CHRIS BROWNING

"This is great for us," Darlington president Chris Browning said at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, the city where Bojangles is headquartered. "With the economy the way it is, to have a five-year deal is unheard of."

The track's previous title sponsorship, with the pay cable network Showtime, expired after last season. With Darlington's May 12 event fast approaching, officials at parent company International Speedway Corp. made contact with Bojangles executives to let them know what sponsorship inventory was still available at its member tracks. The Southern 500 clicked, and negotiations progressed rapidly from there.

"Literally, it took a total of about 12 days from the first time we talked to having a signed contract, which is absolutely unheard of in this business," Browning said. "I think that's really a result of all of us just having the same approach, the same philosophies, the same beliefs about our product, our brand, how you promote it and who you want to be partnered with. We were just tickled to death it came together so quickly. I think each side realized, whenever we got together on the phone and talked, this is just more of a perfect match than we ever thought. So we're excited."

As part of the announcement, Browning unveiled a pace car bearing the race's new orange and yellow logo. "This is probably the most natural sponsorship ... since Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. and Budweiser," he said.

As part of the deal, Bojangles president and chairman Randy Kibler said his company now has rights to sell concessions at five ISC venues -- Martinsville, Richmond, Talladega, Daytona and, of course, Darlington. Both sides say their customer bases mirror one another, making the agreement an easy fit. For the race track, the deal brings a substantial degree of sponsorship security.

"We live and die by our budgets, and we plan by our budgets, and this is one of the largest revenue line items that we have," Browning said. "To know that we have that secure for five years, to know what the number is, is huge."

Although Dodge backed a Darlington race for eight seasons, that partnership started as a three-year deal. Browning went into the negotiations with Bojangles lobbying for a similar initial agreement, and said it was the sponsor's side that proposed extending it to five.

"We were looking for a three-year deal, and they came up with the idea of, 'Well, lets do this thing right. Let's stretch it out. We have a good comfort level with you guys.' And that's what we did," Browning said. "I can't remember the last five-year deal that was done."

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