With Tequila Patron serving as the title sponsor for the American Le Mans Series and Rolex having branded Grand-Am's top-tier category as the Rolex Series since its inception, one of the two companies was expected to align itself as the United SportsCar Racing series on its debut in 2014. Yet as Wednesday's announcement revealed, a new name will reside above the rebranded United SportsCar Championship (USCC) logo and, as Scott Atherton told RACER shortly after the partnership with the Tudor timepiece company was revealed at a NASCAR event in Chicago, an all-new marketing initiative will take place.
“It's a good day for sports car racing,” said the ALMS CEO/USCC president and COO. “We're traveling to New York right now where there will be a launch for the Tudor brand, and after announcing this at a NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase promotional event in Chicago, it's a perfect scenario to get the news out to a wide audience.”
As the ALMS did with the relatively unknown Patron brand, Atherton hopes the association between Rolex's Tudor subdivision and the USCC will result in increased awareness for both parties.
“The way this came about was that while merging the two sports car entities together, we had both entities sponsored by high-end, premium brands, and it was tough. We then began to get unsolicited inquiries, two very solid and substantial inquiries to sponsor the unified series, and we made the decision early on that until we had that discussion with [Patron and Rolex], we wouldn't pursue those opportunities.
“Long story short, the best opportunity for us was to align with, what at the time, was thought to be the Rolex relationship. It allows us to activate without any restrictions or limitations, which isn't always the case for [an alcohol company]. And then, it was their opportunity to accept, which came down to timing, and with their acceptance, the Rolex folks have been able to relaunch the Tudor brand in America and that has given us a new scope and scale to our relationship.”
Asked about the marketing plans between Tudor and the USCC, Atherton says to expect a high level of cross promotions as both brands attempt to build a name for themselves.
“Having a title sponsor is always a high priority: having one that is active in promoting the sport outside the confines of the sport is really the Holy Grail,” he added. “We have that in Tudor. The relationship here is vertically integrated. They don't just have their name attached to the championship with no other activation planned. It's a full immersion. You're going to see an unprecedented level of activity on their part to promote the championship, and an unprecedented level to promote Tudor on our part.”
With Grand-Am's sponsor taking the lead with the USCC, Atherton confirmed the ALMS' sponsor will also have a place within the promotional rotation next year.
“Ed Brown and Matt Carroll, who are the two decision makers within the Patron family, are fully aware of today's announcement, fully supportive of it and couldn't be more pleased about the decision we've made,” he said. “We're actively involved with them to confirm what role they'll have going forward. I don't think it's a question of if, but how big and to what scope and scale. We look forward to continuing that relationship.”
With the USCC title sponsor announcement completed, an even bigger news item will follow directly behind it.
“The next news we announce will be the schedule,” Atherton confirmed. “No one wants it out more than I do. Now that we have this news out today, we'll let that soak for a while and watch this space.”
Tudor branding will be seen on all USCC cars to some degree, although the exact placement and size has yet to be determined. An example of Tudor's vehicle branding will be revealed later tonight on an Audi during New York Fashion Week activities.
On a final note, Rolex-sponsored events like the Daytona 24 Hours will continue unaltered. The practice of giving class winners new Rolex watches will also continue at events where Rolex contracts are in place. Winners of regular Tudor USCC events, however, will not be adding to their watch collections.
“You won't see it on an every-race basis; that would be over the top, but you will see recognition of champions and the like of some beautiful watches,” Atherton said with a laugh.