Lemonis: Camping World in NASCAR for long haul
May 05, 2014, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
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In racing terms, it might have qualified as a jumped start when Camping World Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis let slip in March that a long-term extension of his company's entitlement sponsorship with NASCAR's truck series was in the works. His explanation now makes it hard to knock his eagerness.
"Why not tell someone you want to renew your vows if the marriage is good?" Lemonis said.
The renewal, a seven-year extension of the company's sponsorship, was officially announced Monday morning, meaning the tailgate tour will remain the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series through 2022. The extension affirms the RV and camping company's commitment, continuing a relationship as title sponsor that dates back to 2009.
"(It) is a long time, but as I told somebody earlier, I don't want to be one of those companies that is a fly-by-night advertiser," Lemonis told NASCAR.com. "You see a lot of people show up on a car or sponsor a race, and they're in for a year or two and then they're gone. They make a huge splash, and then they're gone. I want the fans to know, and I want NASCAR to know, that's just not us. We've paid our dues and now we're here to stay."
The dues Lemonis mentions pre-date the truck series' entitlement. By his count, Camping World has sponsored 19 NASCAR drivers, most notably four-time truck series champion Ron Hornaday Jr., and has participated as a race entitlement sponsor 14 times across all three NASCAR national series.
In the time since Camping World increased its buy-in to the sport, Lemonis' company has enjoyed significant growth. Camping World has opened 35 new stores to bring its total to 100 and has expanded its reach to a younger demographic, widening the low end of its average customer age from 45 to 35 years old.
"For me, it really just comes down to economics and I always tell people that the numbers don't lie," Lemonis said. "When I look at the return on investment that I've gotten over the last five, six, seven years, with my association with NASCAR, I don't want to call it a no-brainer, but it was a very easy decision."
Lemonis gave an early indication of his decision in March before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' second race of the season, sponsored by the CNBC show he hosts -- "The Profit." The 40-year-old businessman said later that he merely wanted to curb fruitless speculation about the partnership's direction.
"I felt like we needed to put an early rubber stamp of commitment and endorsement on a business," Lemonis said. "I wanted people to know that we fully support it, and I didn't need to create some sort of unneeded drama or an uneasiness."
The deal comes with added incentive for Lemonis' other business interests. Good Sam Roadside Assistance and two of Lemonis' newer acquisitions -- CarCash and AutoMatch USA -- will be among official NASCAR partners.
While the renewal comes as a strong show of stability, Lemonis is fully aware of NASCAR's recent wave of change. From last season's introduction of the Gen-6 car to this offseason's switches to a revamped Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup postseason and multi-car qualifying, the sport's top series has undergone dramatic changes. But the Camping World Truck Series has seen its share of freshening, too, from this season's new body styles to the infusion of new driver talent.
The openness to try new company strategies, Lemonis said, was another persuading factor in reaching Monday's agreement.
"I always worry when I do business with anybody or partner with them if they believe in the status quo," Lemonis said. "I think we all know that the status quo is the formula for extinction, and I think NASCAR, the teams and the manufacturers realize that in order for this business to survive, but more importantly flourish, it has to evolve.
"Of course, in any business we're going to try things, and not everything is going to work. I think the willingness to admit when they don't work and fix them is the right thing, but I'd rather die trying than wait for something to happen."