This week, the retailer announced it will continue its Nascar sponsorship of the No. 20 car, with newcomer Joey Logano taking the wheel. A decade ago, Home Depot signed on with another rookie, Tony Stewart, and struck marketing gold. The 18-year-old Mr. Logano, who makes his Nascar Sprint Cup debut on Sept. 6, will step into the void left by Mr. Stewart's departure from Joe Gibbs Racing.
Raring to go
"We're very enthused about Joey Logano," said Frank Bifulco, senior-VP, chief marketing officer at Home Depot. "When we think about our brand promise, 'You can do it. We can help,' helping Joey get his credentials and begin winning in the Cup Series is something we're very excited about."
Mr. Bifulco said the company is planning a fully integrated and comprehensive marketing program around Mr. Logano, although the specifics are still being finalized. Television advertisements, something the retailer did with Mr. Stewart, will likely still be a part of the mix, he said.
"We're going to be activating Nascar in a very large way," he said, "because we feel it benefits our brand and our business. Otherwise, we would have taken this as an opportunity to exit the sport."
Star machinery takes time
Still, building up Mr. Logano in the eyes of consumers will take time. Mr. Bifulco noted that Home Depot put "substantial" resources behind building the Tony Stewart brand during the nearly 10-year relationship.
The retailer first entered the Nascar arena in 1999 as the sponsor of the No. 20 car and Mr. Stewart. That partnership quickly paid off, with Mr. Stewart being named Rookie of the Year soon after. He went on to become Nascar Cup Series Champion in 2002 and 2005.
As Mr. Stewart gained prominence in the racing world, so did Home Depot. Legions of fans donned the retailer's logo and color scheme, making many races a veritable billboard for the brand.
"We have some legitimate brand building to do with Joey Logano, and we're anxious to start that story," said Mr. Bifulco. "We feel as a marketer you always want to start with a great product. ... We think we have the product. Now we can start marketing much more earnestly and do it in an exciting manner that raises Joey's profile both on the track and off."
Stewart roars off
In July, Mr. Stewart announced he would be leaving Joe Gibbs Racing and the No. 20 car in favor of Haas CNC Racing. Mr. Stewart will be both a driver and owner for the renamed Stewart-Haas Racing beginning in 2009. Coincidentally, another depot will be sponsoring the racing star -- Office Depot. The retailer and Old Spice will serve as co-primary sponsors of Mr. Stewart's No. 14 car.