Castellini Co. revs up volume in NASCAR deal

03/19/2004 12:00:00 AM
Jim Offner


Castellini Co. has signed a licensing agreement with NASCAR and is shipping selected packs, bags and boxes of tomatoes, potatoes, onions and citrus that bear the NASCAR logo.

(March 19) Its longtime association with the tobacco industry now gone, NASCAR is shifting gears into a new arena: produce.

Castellini Co., a produce distributor in Wilder, Ky., a Cincinnati suburb, has signed a multiyear licensing agreement with the stock-car racing association and is shipping selected packs, bags and boxes of tomatoes, potatoes, onions and citrus that bear the NASCAR logo.

The first shipments went out to Food City stores in Bristol, Tenn., March 15. Shipments were scheduled to go to Wal-Mart Supercenters shortly afterward.

Thanks to agreements with Blackfoot, Idaho-based Nonpareil Corp./Idaho Potato Packers and East Coast Brokers and Packers Inc., Castellini soon will ship NASCAR logo-adorned products to retailers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, said Jack Bertagna, a sales and marketing representative with the distributor.

“We expect to do some pretty big numbers with this thing,” said Bertagna, who declined to provide specific volume projections. “We’ve gotten some pretty good feedback from the retailers all across the country.”

The deal is about 2½ years in the making, he added.

“I don’t know if it was a change from going from Winston Cup to Nextel Cup and all the sudden they got a change of heart or whatever, but they started talking to us last October,” he said. “We put the deal together and worked the contracts and came to an agreement and we’ve got an exclusive contract.”

STARTING SLOWLY

Castellini will start slowly with the program, including only certain commodities at first, Bertagna said.

The items include all bagged potatoes, grapes, 4-pack tomatoes, all bagged onions and selected citrus products.

Items will have specially designed bags in various colors.

The NASCAR logo is a powerful magnet to consumers, Bertagna said.

From a survey NASCAR conducted in February of last year, 89% said they think quality when they see NASCAR on a product, Bertagna said. Eighty-two percent said NASCAR products are a good value, and 72% said when they see NASCAR’s name on a product, they will buy that product before another similar item.

Participating retailers can get involved in contests and other program-related activities, Bertagna said.

“Since we’re a licensee, we have retailers who can run a contest with them,” he said. “We can get tickets to races for them in their areas, that kind of thing.”

NEW CATEGORY

Castellini is the only produce company involved with NASCAR, said Jay Jones, a liaison in NASCAR’s business and licensing office who helped put the deal together.

“We see an opportunity to embark on a different category,” Jones said. “It wasn’t a die-cast, it wasn’t a T-shirt or a jacket. It was just something different, a different way to reach the NASCAR fan and bring them a new product.”

Jones said that Castellini had previous marketing experience in the sports arena.

“The Castellini opportunity came about by looking at some old files,” he said. “They did some work with the Cincinnati Bengals as well as the Cincinnati Reds. I said, ‘Well, hey, it has worked before in one sporting arena, why not NASCAR?’”

NASCAR collects a royalty on products in the program, although Jones declined to provide information on royalties.

Jones said that NASCAR’s connection to a produce company would translate to profits for the latter.

“Honestly, in the licensing business, it’s more than exposure; it’s a way for Castellini to help them incrementally grow their business,” he said. “With a fan base of over 75 million and growing, and with 40 million of our fans spending money on our licensed products, it’s just a way for companies who produce and manufacture products to help them sell more products to our fans.”

Bertagna said that his company will align with additional packers as the company rolls out more items in the program.

As for NASCAR, does the new arrangement represent new territory, after years of affiliation with the tobacco industry?

“I’m gonna say yes and no,” Jones said. “Winston was a great, great sponsor over the last 20-some-odd years. At the same time, with the crackdown on tobacco and that industry, it gives us an opportunity to reach more markets that we were not able to before.”



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