Chip Ganassi needed a sponsor for his star IndyCar driver and refused to compromise the value of Scott Dixon simply to slap any company name on the side of the car.
Little did the team owner know he only had to look in his own hometown for a solution.
PNC Bank on Tuesday announced an increased partnership with Ganassi in which the Pittsburgh-based institution will be the primary sponsor for Dixon. The car was unveiled in Indianapolis.
Ganassi still lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh, went to the same high school as PNC Chairman Bill Demchak and opened his first account with the bank as a teenager.
“Chip has a few years on me, I won’t say how many,” Demchak told The Associated Press. “We’ve known each other 30 years or something.”
That relationship led to an initial partnership between PNC and the Ganassi organization that began in 2014. PNC brought corporate clients to IndyCar races.
“Frankly, we were pleasantly surprised at the reaction we got from clients, the business we got from clients, and the potential for sponsorship,” Demchak said. “When (Dixon) came up as open this year, much to my surprise, it was a pretty easy decision to step up and sponsor the car.”
Terms were not released.
Ganassi used patchwork sponsorship on Dixon’s car last year after Target left IndyCar after nearly 30 years with Ganassi. Target also pulled out of NASCAR to concentrate on soccer at the end of last season.
Ganassi didn’t panic, used three different sponsors on Dixon’s No. 9 car last season, and Dixon won one race, the pole for the Indianapolis 500 and finished third in the championship standings.
“We had plenty of opportunities to give it away, and I have to say that I was not overly joyed with that prospect,” Ganassi said. “We maintained some sort of level of competitiveness throughout the transition and here we are now set for 2018 and forward.”
Dixon is a four-time IndyCar Series champion and will finish his career as one of the best racers in American open-wheel history.
Dixon is coming off a class victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, which was the 200th win for the Ganassi organization. Dixon is ranked fourth on IndyCar’s all-time win list with 41, one victory behind Michael Andretti. He trails only A.J. Foyt and Mario and Michael Andretti in career victories.
“I was on the phone with the bank one day and they said ‘It’s interesting that Dixon’s car is open. It’s an interesting opportunity for someone,“’ Ganassi said. “It took me by surprise to hear that. I’ve never had any sort of partnership or major sponsor based here in Pittsburgh.”
Ganassi doesn’t want the focus of this new sponsorship package to be on a merger of two Pittsburgh-based companies.
“Our brands are a little larger than Pittsburgh,” Ganassi said. “It’s nice to bring these two brands together, and it’s nice we are both from Pittsburgh, but it’s not the meat of the deal.”
The IndyCar season opens in March and PNC Bank plans on having a strong presence throughout the season. Demchak sees the value in activating at IndyCar events and the potential for both PNC and the Ganassi organization.
“We bring businesses and corporate executives to the races, and the emotion, if you target the right clients, the emotional attachment to Indy is really strong,” Demchak said. “It’s a client event that is not typical. It’s not taking them to the Masters, or a golf tournament. It’s something totally different, and it’s powerful. It appeals to our broad-based consumer client across the country, and with Scott in the car, there’s going to be a lot of television coverage showing our name.”
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