ECU, race team have unique partnership
By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector
Sunday, June 4, 2017
Bryan Clodfelter’s connections to NASCAR and East Carolina go back more than 20 years.
When Clodfelter, the marketing director for Rick Ware Racing, was putting together an idea to have the team field a car in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series sponsored by various universities, it only made sense that he would pick up the phone and place a call to Greenville.
Today’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway is the first of three races this season in which ECU’s logos and colors will adorn RWR’s No. 51 Chevrolet SS. Driver Cody Ware will start 38th in the event.
The endeavor is part of a larger plan by RWR to feature multiple universities on its car this season. But tying East Carolina into the equation was a business decision that carried a little more personal weight for Clodfelter, a 1991 graduate of ECU.
“My family had a Busch Grand National car back in the early 1990s and we had East Carolina on the car back then,” said Clodfelter, referring to the circuit now known as the Xfinity Series. “For this, me and some people that I work with kind of brainstormed and I came up with the idea of trying it again, but this time instead of having one school on it for many races, what we’ve done is set up several different schools — about eight schools have signed on — and then limit the number to two races each.”
In addition to today’s race at Dover and the Sept. 9 event at Richmond International Raceway, ECU was able, through added conversations with Clodfelter and RWR, to get the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway added. That will be the school’s next race on the car on July 23.
Rick Ware Racing has made more than 650 starts in NASCAR’s three national touring series, but has never captured a victory. Driver Timmy Hill has made nine Cup starts for the team this season, with a best finish of 28th at Kansas last month. Cody Ware, son of team owner Rick Ware, is making his second start in the No. 51 today after finishing 39th in the season’s second race at Atlanta.
RWR and East Carolina announced their partnership in a news release last Sunday morning ahead of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. Within minutes, Clodfelter said the team was being inundated with feedback and requests for information about merchandise from ECU’s famously passionate fan base.
“The reception has been fantastic,” he said. “We couldn’t get this much publicity with a huge sponsor, so it’s been very rewarding and glad that we were able to help out and promote East Carolina University.”
Clodfelter said the response was so overwhelming that the race team had to start a new email address to accommodate it. That address is RWRECUracing@gmail.com, where fans can email to request a hero card (an 8.5x11 card designed to promote the team) featuring the car.
That same card, which features information about East Carolina, will be handed out to fans far and wide at Dover this weekend. That’s exactly the kind of exposure that ECU’s athletic department jumped at when Clodfelter called with this opportunity.
“It’s priceless,” said Greg Herring, ECU assistant athletic director for marketing and sales. “Certainly, there are sponsor dollars that you can put on this opportunity, but for us, it’s a priceless opportunity to get that brand awareness nationally, not just here regionally and across our state. One of our important pillars in our plan “Undaunted” that we put out was to really increase our brand awareness and institutional reputation. This certainly hits to that point.”
Herring and Clodfelter each said East Carolina is in talks with its licensing partners to produce merchandise for fans to purchase, but offered no specifics as to when that could be available.
As soon as this week, however, a unique opportunity will be available for fans of the Pirates to be even more involved with their foray into NASCAR. In advance of the race at Indianapolis next month, fans can get their name on the ECU car that will race at the Brickyard in exchange for a $100 donation, as well as be entered for a chance to win the hood decal from the car and two VIP passes to the race.
Clodfelter said the team hopes to have that up and running in the next week, and that fans will be able to access it from the race team’s website and various social media pages. He also said a portion of the money made will go back to East Carolina’s athletic department, which means a profit for the department since the deal to sponsor the car came at no cost to the university.
Based on the response the car got on social media in the week leading up to its first laps on the track, it appears the deal will be a prosperous one for both sides in terms of exposure.
“This opportunity was going to be a special one. We knew it,” Herring said. “We knew it would give our fans an opportunity to talk and brag with their friends, so we jumped all over it.”
Contact Jordan Anders at email@example.com, 252-329-9594 or follow @ReflectorJordan on Twitter.