Bruce Delahorne explains CDW's sponsorship in Champ Car
by Mark Cipolloni

 July 10, 2006

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Bruce Delahorne
Mark Cipolloni/AutoRacing1.com

CDW, a large retailer of computers, components, software, and electronics, chose Champ Car as one of its primary platforms to market itself and to develop better relationships with its customers. On Saturday in Toronto I had the opportunity to meet with Bruce Delahorne, who is the senior manager of national advertising, and learn more about why CDW is activating their sponsorship with Champ Car while other sponsors fail to 'get it.'

MARK CIPOLLONI: Bruce, thank you for taking the time to be with us today.

BRUCE DELAHORNE: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity.

CIPOLLONI: I've observed CDW doing more in this paddock in terms of a sponsor than anybody else, yet you're new to the sport. Tell us how you got involved, how this all came about and why.

DELAHORNE: We really got involved with Champ Car as an opportunity for us to extend what we are doing in a lot of the rest of our national advertising to try to build awareness of CDW and our product offering, our service offering, to business customers. We have struggled with getting our story out and have had a very active program in a lot of other kinds of advertising.

After doing a bit of analysis and being pitched quite effectively by Henry Rischitelli and the rest of the RuSPORT team, we understand that advertising and marketing, via a sponsorship in Champ Car, was a very efficient way for us to reach people who we know from other work are excellent customers, excellent prospects for our business. I must also give proper credit to Champ Car for their aid and guidance in helping us get off to a good start. They deserve a share of the credit for the strong start we've made.

For us, it was a very logical and rational way to do a better job of speaking to the right prospects.

CIPOLLONI: Your company sells technology products, computer technology products. Why racing?

Bruce Delahorne
Mark Cipolloni/AutoRacing1.com

DELAHORNE: Well, I think that there's a lot of inherent benefit that we offer to customers. We are very well organized to try to deliver product and service to them very quickly. And for us, the essential connection was that with the sense of urgency we try to bring to our customers is essential to racing, and we saw a great connection, a great match-up in that way. It was a great way to extend and emphasize what we're trying to do.

CIPOLLONI: What kinds of things are you doing to activate the sponsorship? There are some sponsors we've seen in racing come in and put their names on the side of a car and that's all they do, whereas you seem to be doing a lot more.

DELAHORNE: Well, I think we are doing a lot more. I think one of the things that we're doing is to really try to emphasize that for us this sponsorship is not just putting our name on the side of the car. We have approached working with RuSPORT as a small business, which in essence they are, according to the way we would categorize them.

We have worked with them to help analyze how do they use technology to accomplish their business objectives. In this case it's to make the car go faster and win races. So our field engineers worked with them, went to races to see how they use technology right at the point of the track, how they use technology back at the race shop, and made a series of recommendations for things they could do differently and better, some of them might seem simple, others were much more complicated and complex, to help them do a better job with the car and with winning races. So that has been one essential aspect.

CDW's RuSPORT Lola Ford
LAT for Champ Car

The other is that we've tried to do those things that we think that a racing sponsorship can do to help us do a better job talking to our prospects and our customers so we're advertising in the Champ Car broadcasts, we're bringing a lot of customers who are local to the race, to the race to get an inside view of the sport.

In many cases, these are people who aren't in advance race fans, but they're good customers of ours and they're willing to attend a race. I think they get turned into race fans when they not only see the excitement of the racing itself, but they end up seeing the involvement that we have with the team and with the car and get a better sense of how important the technology is as a part of Champ Car.

That's really one of the things I think that led us to being interested in being in Champ Car as opposed to many of the other race series, is that there is a higher level of technology that gets employed into setting the cars up and making them go fast.

CIPOLLONI: We've seen in F1 and NASCAR the drivers featured in advertising a lot, with the cars that sponsor those teams or drivers. I think I've seen you doing some of that with Justin Wilson, is that correct?

DELAHORNE: We have done some things with Justin. He's a wonderful spokesperson, very appealing character. We have ads ready to run as soon as we get back up on the top step of the podium again. We've used Justin and some other aspects of the race team in some catalog work that we've done and some direct mail pieces and some other things that we're doing online. We have an extensive section on our website now about our racing involvement, and it gives us a chance to tell the story of how we're working with RuSPORT.

So I think that we have -- for us, the activation aspect of the sponsorship has seemed to us like we're not doing anything in excess of what we should be doing. We wish in many ways, you know, we were able to do more. But I think we're trying to approach this with a learning perspective and saying, okay, we want to continue to do a little bit better and a little bit more. It feels like we're learning with every race.

CDW's driver Justin Wilson
LAT for Champ Car

CIPOLLONI: One of the things I've commented on over the years is that NASCAR and F1 have been able to make heroes out of their drivers by getting the drivers out there in front of the public on TV and in print ads and so forth. We don't see too much of that in Champ Car. I feel their TV ratings are suffering because the drivers are not what I term heroes because of the sponsors not being on board with the big picture and understanding their role, not only in bringing money to the sport, but by making the driver popular, that drives TV ratings, which in turn drives exposure for their product.

NASCAR seems to get that. F1 seems to get that. Some of the other series still have to get there. So I think what you're doing, what I see so far what you're doing is definitely more than others. For being your first year, it's fantastic from my perspective.

DELAHORNE: Well, thank you, I appreciate that. And I think that we would like to be able to do some more and we have plans for our involvement for going forward this year and next year to increase and broaden what we're doing. I think there's clearly an opportunity for us to do some more in making Justin a more publicly well-known figure. He'll turn himself into a hero without any help from us.

CIPOLLONI: Winning races will help that.

DELAHORNE: It will help, exactly. And I think that, you know, he's clearly one of the finest drivers in the series. You know, in short order, he'll be on the top step, and people will learn more about him.

CIPOLLONI: Very good. I wish you a lot of luck with your sponsorship.

DELAHORNE: Thank you.

CIPOLLONI: Hopefully it's long-term. I thank you very much for your time.

DELAHORNE: You are quite welcome.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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