50 Cent partners with Swan Racing
February 04, 2014, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
SMS Audio to serve as associate sponsor for both of team's entries
They may hail from different parts of the country and work in vastly different fields, but Brandon Davis sees plenty in common between him and his new partner Curtis Jackson -- better known as 50 Cent.
"I'm an entrepreneur, 50's an entrepreneur. That piece is it, is the synergy that pulled it all together," said Davis, the owner of Swan Racing. "You have two entrepreneur-minded people coming together. … NASCAR's structure, it really allows for and opens the door for entrepreneurs to come in and use this platform for different kinds of marketing opportunities, and this is one of them."
Davis' two-car entry in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has a new partner in a company owned by 50 Cent, the rapper whose business interests have expanded into beverages, boxing promotion, film production and beyond. SMS Audio, a line of headphones and accessories founded by Jackson in 2011, will appear as an associate sponsor this season on the cars of Swan Racing drivers Parker Kligerman and Cole Whitt.
Davis said the deal is for multiple years, and envisions it expanding to eventually become a primary sponsor. The scope of it all, though, exceeds the logos that will appear on Swan Racing's two cars.
"It's huge. Absolutely, it's by far the biggest deal that we’ve ever had," Davis told NASCAR.com by telephone.
"My vision when I started this team was to build a marketing machine. And having this relationship is a key component in that," he added. "Whether it turns into a primary for a car for the full season, which is what we’re shooting for, or not, the marketing power that this gives us, and the diversity it gives us from a marketing standpoint, it's huge for our team."
For 50 Cent, car sponsorship in NASCAR is another step in a career built on breaking from the predictable. His early investment in the brand that became Vitamin Water netted him millions, and funded his growth into other areas such as clothing and audio equipment. A former crack dealer who was once shot nine times, the native of Queens, N.Y., has branched out into an entertainer and businessman whose interests go well beyond the music that launched his career in 2003.
The relationship between Swan Racing and SMS Audio was conceived and negotiated by Pegasus Marketing Group of Lake Forest, Ill. Although Davis and Jackson have spoken only over the telephone -- conflicting schedules have prevented a face-to-face meeting to this point -- Davis said the rapper plans to be at the Daytona 500. Jackson attended the Great American Race last season, when he famously attempted to kiss television personality Erin Andrews on pit road prior to the event.
In a statement announcing the deal, Jackson called Swan Racing "the perfect match" for his audio company. The official release also said 50 Cent would be making appearances at races throughout the season in support of the drivers and the partnership.
Kligerman, 23 and a professed hip-hop fan, is "pumped up for this partnership to say the least," he said, adding that being part of the deal is "an honor." Davis, who is chairman of an oil and gas exploration company based in Denver, said the agreement shouldn't come as a surprise.
"He's a car guy," Davis said of Jackson. "He's into cars, into muscle cars, into fast cars, high-end cars, exotic cars. And one thing I've learned with people in different areas is, once they experience a race, if they're already into cars and speed, you go to a NASCAR race and you're hooked. I'm sure that had something to do with it."
Founded in late 2012, Swan Racing competed last season as a one-car team with David Stremme primarily behind the wheel. The team recorded five top-20 finishes last year, the best being 12th in the spring race at Talladega. The organization expanded to two full-time entries for the 2014 campaign, and Davis summed up the growth process so far in one word.
"Hard," he said. "It's going the way I expected it to. We're pulling our hair out. Hopefully everything goes smoothly and we're over prepared. At the least we'll be prepared for Daytona. But it's been difficult. It's a lot more work than it was."