Cause and Effect: Jeff Gordon proves success with AARP

By Guest Blogger and Race Fan Patti Rodisch

Patti is an experienced blogger on the  Fan vs. Fan Network.  Her favorite NASCAR race team is all of them and her favorite driver is Jeff Gordon. She also enjoys other sports including Alabama Football, Supercross, Indy Car and basketball.  And you can listen to Patti and her co-host Dustin Parks talk about racing every Saturday at 6 pm CT/7pm ET on Blog Talk Radio.

Jeff Gordon celebrates winning
the Subway Fresh Fit 500 in Phoenix in February 2011
(Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Late in 2010, Jeff Gordon announced he would be teaming up with the American Association of Retired Persons or the AARP who would become his primary sponsor in 2011 through the 2013 season. Media and fans asked why AARP would spend money on NASCAR sponsorship? Why would a then 38 year-old Gordon team up with an organization that supports those who are 55 or older?

The goal was simple, to end hunger for millions of senior citizens across the United States. It has never been done before in NASCAR. A cause-driven sponsorship deal and there was no guarantee it would work in the first place.

It cost millions to sponsor a race team and the AARP saw an opportunity with Gordon. The opportunity was to take the message of ending hunger to a sport with a target age group not even out of their 30’s yet.

Still, it is this age group with parents and other relatives who fit the AARP target age of 55 or older.

Jeff Gordon discusses his 2011 sponsorship with 
AARP and The Drive to End Hunger
in Concord, NC October 2010
(Photo by The Associated Press)
Gordon became the perfect spokesperson as he is widely respected for not only his accomplishments on the track but more so away from it.

Gordon’s own foundation, the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation, has worked to help find cures for children with cancer and other diseases. He has opened up a hospital, has held fundraising events every year and recently has taken his mission global to Africa.

Gordon was named ‘NASCAR Illustrated Person of the Year’ in 2011 for his philanthropic work. Gordon takes representing AARP and the Drive to End Hunger very seriously. Throughout the race season he visited food banks local to the track, getting hands-on and fully involved whether they are at the race track or not.

The partnership with AARP and Drive to End Hunger at the race track in 2011 opened the eyes of millions of race fans to the serious issue of hunger in the U.S.

Jeff Gordon’s 2011 ‘Drive to End Hunger’ Car
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Gordon and his team success on the track did not hurt the cause either. Gordon won at Phoenix in the spring with the DTEH colors on the car. The result of this is TV exposure, raising awareness not only in the racing community but outside of it as well.

By the end of the season over $12 million was raised through Gordon’s exposure. With fans texting HUNGER to help support the program, over 3 million meals for senior citizens were provided.

Gordon talked about his partnership with the AARP to, “For them to do it with the number of races and basically be the primary sponsor of the season and get behind these food banks every week and get to meet some of the older Americans that are dealing with the hunger issues as well as the people that are volunteering, it’s an amazing program.”

Cause-driven sponsorships have never been done in NASCAR. Usually it is only major corporations that are willing to pay for one of the best advertising packages available. Three plus hours on national TV with limited commercial break your product takes center stage.

In order for AARP’s sponsorship deal to be successful, fans have to buy-in. Not only did Gordon’s fans buy-in, many other NASCAR fans did as well.

In this type of sponsorship deal, success really lies on the fans and on-track performance to help keep the “AARP” brand in fans’ mind.

For Gordon in 2012, not only will he be looking to continue this successful cause-driven sponsorship program, he will be looking to capture his fifth title, Gordon’s first since 2001.

Patti will be posting more blogs periodically, watch for her again on Fan4Racing. 
Fans can follow Patti on twitter @nascar_lugnuts