Hendrick Motorsports press conference 2010-10-27

Hendrick Motorsports Sponsor Announcement October 27, 2010 Hendrick Motorsports Team Center (Concord, N.C.) Oct. 27, 2010 PARTICIPANTS: RICK HENDRICK -- OWNER, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS JEFF GORDON -- FOUR-TIME NASCAR SPRINT CUP CHAMPION JO ANN ...

Hendrick Motorsports Sponsor Announcement
October 27, 2010

Hendrick Motorsports Team Center (Concord, N.C.)
Oct. 27, 2010

PARTICIPANTS:
RICK HENDRICK -- OWNER, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS
JEFF GORDON -- FOUR-TIME NASCAR SPRINT CUP CHAMPION
JO ANN JENKINS -- AARP FOUNDATION PRESIDENT
WINSTON KELLEY -- EVENT EMCEE

WINSTON KELLEY: , EMCEE: I'd like to turn it over to the owner of Hendrick motorsports, Mr. Rick Hendrick. Mr. H?

RICK HENDRICK: Thank you, Winston. We appreciate everyone being here today. This is an exciting time for us, and I'd have to say in my 27 years of being involved in the sport of NASCAR, this is one of the most exciting things I've been a part of so I'm really excited about today, and I think you will be too when you understand what we're up to today.

KELLEY: At this time, before we move forward with our press conference, I'd like to direct your attention to the screen to show a video that will help put what you'll hear today in proper perspective.

(VIDEO played.)

KELLEY: And now to share with you the exciting news about the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet for 2011, the driver Jeff Gordon.

JEFF GORDON: Thank you very much, Winston. It really is a pleasure to get to make this announcement today. I really am excited about this. So for the next three years I'll be behind the wheel of the Drive to End Hunger No. 24 Chevrolet. To me this is a really unique opportunity for our sport, for us at Hendrick Motorsports, certainly for all of us at the (No.) 24 team to be able to have a cause-driven sponsorship like this. It certainly has always been important to me to give back, but this is a way that we're going to be able to get awareness out there in a way that's never been done before and make a huge impact. I think the words say it the best -- Drive to End Hunger. It's not just about the fight; it's really a goal to end hunger. I think not only Americans are going to be shocked to hear these numbers and to be made aware of what's happening with hunger out there in America, but I think our race fans are going to be excited to get behind a program like this and make a difference and help. It's a great day. I'm really excited about this and really looking forward to these next three years.

KELLEY: Jo Ann if you can tell us a little bit more about the program and why this partnership is so important.

JO ANN JENKINS: Well as you just heard in the video, 51 million people in this country go hungry every day, and of that, 6 million of those folks are over the age of 60. This whole campaign is really not just about solving the hunger issue for today but how we solve it for the country so that no one in this country goes hungry. We're just delighted to be joining with the Drive to End Hunger car and with Hendrick Motorsports and Jeff about how we can bring an end to this issue. In a country as rich as ours, no one should go hungry every day.

KELLEY: Jeff, when you found out there are 6 million Americans over the age of 60 who are forced to choose between food, utilities and medicines -- that's staggering. What was your initial reaction?

GORDON: I was absolutely shocked to hear that number. I think that everyone has had to make tough decisions in their lives, but I don't think anybody can grasp that kind of decision. To know that that many Americans are having to do that on a day-to-day basis absolutely got my attention, and the first thing I thought was, 'How can we help?'

KELLEY: Rick, you've seen firsthand what the NASCAR community is capable of accomplishing. Elaborate on why NASCAR is such a good fit for this program.

HENDRICK: I think there's a lot of reasons. We have such a loyal fan base and our fans support any program that NASCAR and our drivers are involved in. Jeff has been a spokesman for different foundations including his foundation. If you go back to the Hendrick Marrow Program and what a difference that's made, whether it's Katrina or Haiti or whatever. We have been the first to step up and brainstorming this opportunity it's something that I personally am real excited about. I feel like we've helped people all over the world. We've been leaders in stepping up and stepping out first, and I just think with Jeff's following, the respect that everyone in the sport has for him and the way we can maybe move the needle. I take this as a personal challenge. We've got two championships we want to win. We want to win the championship in racing with the points and get the trophy but if we can do something that has moved moved more and solved more of an issue in our country to feed the hungry then I think it will be more of a blessing and a feel-good and a positive at the end of the day than all those banners hanging in the back so I'm taking this as a real challenge for our company.

KELLEY: Jo Ann, Mr. H just touched on the real focus is on raising money to end hunger. Can you elaborate on how drive to end hunger is going to raise money.

JENKINS: Sure. We hope to make raise funds for the Drive to End Hunger campaign so we can help alleviate hunger in this country. Not only are going to be working with our text messaging campaign on 50555 and text the word hunger so every NASCAR fan -- even if you're not a NASCAR fan if you're supporting Jeff or want to end this drive for hunger you'll go on and make a donation using your text phone to do that. In addition, we'll be working with Hendrick Motorsports about sponsorships with other corporations and individuals who want to have a presence on the Drive to End Hunger car who want to help us solve this issue in the country. We hope to work with NASCAR racetracks around food drives and food banks and ignite the energy behind the 80 million NASCAR fans and the millions of AARP volunteers that we have around the country to really help the food banks and food kitchens around the country but also work to reach a solution so that no one in this country goes hungry every day. We've very, very excited about this potential partnership.

KELLEY: Jeff, how do you think your fans will respond to this endeavor?

GORDON: I think all NASCAR fans are very avid and loyal and very giving, but certainly speaking from my fans, I know that his is something as soon as this gets out there, our fans are going to react because my fans are just amazing. They love to get behind things that are important. They love to get behind things that are important to us. They've shown that through their support of our sponsors throughout the years but never I think will they be more excited to help out and be a part of our sponsor than this one. I think you're going to see our fans react in a big way and a very excited way.

KELLEY: Mr. H, what does it mean to bring a new sponsor in the sport? Bu this one is a very different concept. What does that mean to you and Hendrick and the NASCAR community?

HENDRICK: You know we were the first to bring packaged goods into the sport with Folgers and Tide and that was exciting. I think this opportunity for us and for our sport and for NASCAR --. I think it says a lot for NASCAR period. Not just for Hendrick motorsports and Jeff Gordon. I think it says we have a loyal following. We have people, who when they are involved in our sport, they step up and I think this is an opportunity for us to showcase our sport. Not just Hendrick Motorsports, but NASCAR, and I think Jeff has been kind of a, what did Bill France used to say? That you're the spear-toter?

GORDON (LAUGHING): He had a few...

HENDRICK: I just feel like when we started brainstorming this it just got bigger and bigger and as we talked to our other sponsors they wanted to get involved. We talked to other people -- just in the brainstorming session, the energy behind it is almost electric so I'm excited about it and I think it's a great opportunity for our company and our sport.

KELLEY: Jo Ann, talk a little bit about why the NASCAR community and why Jeff and Hendrick Motorsports for this initiative.

JENKINS: AS Mr. H said the energy behind the partnership around Jeff and Hendrick Motorsports and AARP is really something like the dream team. We're really trying to solve this issue of hunger in America. We were talking earlier about the 6 million people in this country who are older than 60 are hungry in this country -- 13 percent of the population here in North Carolina are food insecure. For a country as rich as ours, no one in this country should go hungry. We think with the fan base of NASCAR and the millions of Americans out there who want to help us solve this issue. We're delighted to be the partners with you guys to make this happen and solve this issue.

KELLEY: Now we'd like to open it up to members of the media here in attendance. We've got some folks with microphones so just raise your hand.

Q:\n In the course of NASCAR, we've seen a lot of cause-related sponsorships -- maybe a one- or two-race situation. You guys have made an enormous commitment over the course of three years. What would lead you to believe that doing this longterm commitment to a single cause would reap such benefits?

JENKINS: The work of the AARP Foundation is really focused on the folks who are 50-plus, low income and vulnerable, and as we think about the basic needs of that population that we're trying to serve, hunger is one of the top four issues in this country that they're suffering from. The relationship we have with Jeff and the Drive to End Hunger car is at here year partnership. But we're in it till we solve this issue of hunger in America so it's not just say an initiative but it really is what we believe at AARP Foundation -- the work we're trying to do. We're in it for the long haul.

Q:\n This is the first time we have seen a full season cause sponsorship. Are you getting it at full price and can you talk about how spending that much money, how you hope to get the return to justify spending that; do you hope by enlisting other companies that then they would buy space on the car and that would kind of cover your costs?

JENKINS: This isn't really just about the money. Certainly we want to raise the money, and we expect to raise far more money than we are investing in this if we are going to solve this issue of hunger in America. But it is also about raising awareness. As you saw on the video, the people in this country don't realize how many seniors or older people in this country are going hungry every day. So we not only want to raise funds to help solve the issue but we also want to raise awareness and use the power of Hendrick Motorsports and Jeff and the Drive to End Hunger car with AARP to solve this issue.

KELLEY: I would say before walking in here today that I doubt anyone would have guessed that number of 51 million. I know that I wouldn't have come close.

Q:\n How will you judge at the end of three years whether this has been a success or not?

GORDON: I think, and this kind of goes back to the last question as well, there is not a sponsor that gets involved in NASCAR these days that doesn't do a tremendous amount of research. It is a big commitment. But they are not going to make that kind of commitment if they don't feel confident in what the return is going to be so they have already created the measuring tools that are going to be there -- from an awareness standpoint, from a dollar standpoint and then ultimately those numbers of those who are hungry going down. So I don't know all the details because that's really their business, but I know that from my standpoint and from Hendrick Motorsports' standpoint, we're excited about the collaboration of getting involved with our other sponsors and really being able to make a huge impact in that number. We're just excited about the opportunity they have given us to be able and go out there and do that. That's what makes this arrangement or sponsorship deal so unique is it's so easy to get behind, it's so easy to talk about and exciting to talk about, but it's a much bigger problem than anyone's really aware of. I think that that collaboration has already gotten going in a big way, and it's only going to pick up from there, especially if we can reach out to the millions of NASCAR fans and even beyond that to just Americans in general with this campaign.

HENDRICK: I'll take one other shot at that. Every major corporation in this country has some kind of program, but it's fragmented, and this is going to give our sports and Jeff and the (No.) 24 car an opportunity to pull a lot of that together. Just like the people we surveyed inside the museum, they had no idea that there's a need out here and usually people, if you bring it their attention, they step up. So from all the other corporations we just mention it to, they are doing something, but if they can get behind something large and there can be more energy, more exposure, and then all the fans and individuals. I mean as a company, we support three or four soup kitchens in different cities now. We give van; we're already doing things along those lines as a company. So when you make it a national announcement, and then you let everyone get behind it with a cause that is not going to be a one-week, a one-day situation, then I think we've never had a sponsor or a program, whether it was the Marrow program, or anything else, that we couldn't quantify the exposure was greater than what was spent. Again, I take it as a challenge, but history says and all of the deals we've ever been involved in, when you look at the exposures rated by independent agencies, dollars spent, you get five or 10 times that in exposure. Then the real measure is going to be the tracks are excited, NASCAR's excited, the people we've talked to are excited. If we get all of that behind it, then we are going to see what it can do. I'm betting that it will be major.

JENKINS: I would just add also that we are going to be kicking off this effort with the 2011 racing season on the DrivetoEndHunger.org website. We will have a transparent fundraising model there so that donors and corporations who are working with us, you will actually be able to see who is giving funds to us, as well as how we are spending it in the local community. So we want to be as transparent as possible and hopefully by the end of the day, the measurement is going to be that there are going to be less people hopefully in this country that are going hungry.

Q:\n Jeff, your plateau has always been bigger than NASCAR at a national level, with Regis and Kelly and things like that, do you see this as an opportunity and how much of an advocate you could be to really take this to a national scale. And when you lay down and think about it, what sorts of thoughts have you had, will you be an advocate like a Sean Penn is with say Haiti or you can actually make it much bigger than a sponsor on a car.

GORDON: Absolutely, like I've mentioned, this is a really exciting opportunity and it's something that I've become aware of fairly recent. Each day that goes by, hearing more and more and reading more about the numbers and getting into it as we have as this sponsorship has come together, it's just really driven me to 'What can I do to make a big impact?' Like I said, this is something that's really easy for me to try and help other people be aware of this, as I have become aware of it. It's easy to get behind, it's easy to talk about and we know it's not an easy thing to solve. But there is no doubt that I am going to get behind this in a big, big way. Just already in the short amount of time that I've become aware of it, I'm asking, 'What can we do?' I like doing things that are within the sport, because the sport has given me the opportunity to do all these great things. But I would also like to see if we can take that opportunity and see where it can go. First, you have to impact the sport, but then you have to think as far out there as you possibly can, whether it's nationally or globally.

Q:\n Rick, if you could talk about how this sponsorship all came together. When you knew DuPont was going away, you probably began contacting a lot of companies, consumer products, things of that nature. When did this one enter the game?

HENDRICK: Well, number one, DuPont's not going away. This started back about Richmond (Va. in September) or a little bit before, just a brainstorming. We kinda came together. We were out looking and talking to a lot of people, we thought we had several deals done. But what happened here was we just met and started talking about what could we do together and it just exploded. In just a few weeks, it just gained so much momentum that it just happened in a hurry. But it started with just our company and AARP talking about what they wanted to do and the goal they had and how NASCAR could help.

Q:\n Jo Ann, I'm curious, AARP foundation is going to get plenty of exposure with this as well. Do you anticipate that this will deliver business and membership at all to AARP in addition for driving awareness to the hunger campaign?

JENKINS: This campaign is about solving the issue of hunger in this country and whether or not AARP gets more business, I think is irrelevant in this issue. We're here to raise awareness about the issue of hunger in this country and raise funds and really ignite all the fans with NASCAR and with all the many, many volunteers that we have across the country.

Q:\n Rick, I saw this was for 22 races, so that leaves 14 left, what are you doing with those 14? And this is the first time you've really had to shop Jeff around, and I'm wondering what was that like and what kind of interest did you have in this ole guy?

GORDON: Leave that to Jenna to ask that question.

HENDRICK: What was that question again, Jenna (LAUGHING)? We'll be making an announcement pretty quick, and we're all covered and we're excited about the future. We're excited about the people that have been partners with us, and hopefully in the next day or two or week, we'll be finalizing all of that.

GORDON: I don't know if Winston mentioned it, but this does start at Daytona (Fla.), and it's 22 races that will all kick off at Daytona so there is going to be a lot of excitement and build-up to the Daytona 500 for the program as well as our race team.

Q:\n The interest in Jeff, what was that like?

HENDRICK: I think I need to answer that by saying in '08 and '09 with the economy like it was, things were fairly quiet. But there's always been a tremendous amount of interest in Jeff since he's been here, if there was ever an opportunity. One of the things we had is, none of our sponsors went away, they just wanted to throttle back and if we had the flexibility to put someone together that would fit, it would work. Tremendous amount of interest in Jeff, but the good news for our sports is that there's been much more activity this year then we've seen since '07. So, there are a lot of companies out there now starting to get interested and getting back into NASCAR or getting involved in NASCAR. That's really good news for our sport.

Q:\n For Jo Ann, I don't know much about AARP, could you discuss maybe is this kind of benevolent gesture typical of your organization and maybe where does it rank in your philanthropic efforts? And kind of an extension of that, I'm sure there might be people who would say you have to spend money to make money, but this is a really significant multi-million dollar investment. How do you justify spending it on that rather than just spending it on the cause?

JENKINS: The work of the AARP Foundation is really focused in four areas. It's around hunger, housing, income and isolation. So the hunger issue for us is in the forefront of the work of the charitable arm of AARP. So we are very excited about the partnership that we have, to be able to raise the money and raise awareness around this. We fully expect that AARP's initial investment in this will not only be recouped as we bring in potential sponsors with us to have a presence on the car, but that we are going to raise far more money than we're investing in this to help solve this issue.

Q:\n Two questions for you real quick. It's no secret that attendance has been down, TV ratings have been challenged; do you think having a cause-driven opportunity could really re-engage fans who have maybe been absent from NASCAR lately and really raise NASCAR's visibility again? And No. 2, what's the car going to look like?

HENDRICK: I think having Jeff as a spokesman, along with NASCAR, I think this will bring in a lot of new fans. I think that of 35 million members, hopefully a lot of them will become fans if they're not already. I hate to say it, but I'm one of those over-60-kind-of-guys myself. I think that's going to be important. Jeff, and he won't say this and I'm not gonna announce some things for him, but there are some of the major people in this country and in this world who have gotten together and tried to help poverty and hunger, and he was handpicked to work with them. I'm talking past presence in very important situations, so his reach will be very good for AARP. But if you look at their list of people that are involved, corporations that are already involved, I think that this thing in just this short period of time has snowballed to the point that it's going to be good for everybody. It's going to be really good for our sport. I think it will bring in new people, I think it will show once again that you can be creative to have a cause, and I think, as you said, so many of these are one shot deals -- 30 days, 60 days, or an event somewhere -- and the racetracks want to get involved. I think this is something that can stimulate our sport, and we can really do good, but I think it's going to be good for everybody. The interesting part is, everybody I've talked to, and I've talked to some of the CEOs of major corporations in this country, are saying this is a terrific idea and I want to know more. So, I think not only are our sponsors that are here and a lot of them are already involved, they're already involved with AARP. I know Chevrolet's really excited. I talked to them just a few weeks ago, and they're already getting ready to step up. So it's an exciting time.

GORDON: I'll just follow that up a little bit too, Tom. I hear from the media all the time about how commercialized our sport has gotten, and we recognize how important sponsors are and taking care of those sponsors and making sure that we are making fans aware of a new product or whatever it may be. When you do see these one-off races that we have seen in the past with charitable organizations, I think it makes the team, the driver, NASCAR more human and more down-to-earth. And I think it does make an impact, but again that's only a one-off here or there and to do it in this way, this big. I think this is going to allow us to reach out to the fans and really speak of how down-to-earth and human and real NASCAR and our race team is. So, I think that can attract new race fans as well as re-engage old fans or get the current fans more excited about something. I think it's going to be more impactful than we can imagine.

KELLEY: You've heard the term collaboration a lot, and Mr. H, we would like to get in line and on behalf of the NASCAR Hall of Fame to sit down and talk to you guys about how we can engage and maybe have a drive at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Because I do think it has the opportunity to get so many more involved, so we'd just like to get in line with the three of you and sit down and talk about how we can help as well.

HENDRICK: We appreciate that Winston.

-source: hendrick motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , CIP