Blair Revs Up Its Marketing

“Ladies, start your engines.”

You might not think that a cataloger of apparel and housewares could benefit from an association with NASCAR. But Warren, PA-based Blair Corp. is betting that affiliating itself with the auto racing association will propel sales into overdrive.

Since 1990, attendance at NASCAR events has grown 91%. Attendance at National Basketball Association games, by comparison, has grown 21%. Last year, 70 million fans — 40% of them women — flocked to NASCAR races or watched them on television. And sales of NASCAR merchandise topped $1 billion in 2001. Such impressive numbers led Blair’s subsidiary Blair.com to establish a motorsports division in April 2001.

Through a joint sponsorship with Diamond Cut Jeans, Blair.com has a logo emblazoned on the #5 Dodge Ram Truck, owned by Rick Ware Racing, of the NASCAR Craftsmen Truck Series. Fans can purchase shirts and hats embroidered with the Blair5.com and Diamond Cut logos from the Blair Website.

Blair also sponsors the #99 car, owned by Sam Schmidt Motorsports, on the Indy Racing League circuit. Again, IRL devotees can click on the Blair Website and buy embroidered apparel featuring the Blair99.com logo and Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

And in June, Blair.com sponsored America’s Most Wanted Chevrolet (#89) in the Busch Grand National Series at Dover International Speedway. “It was phenomenal exposure for us,” says Blair vice president/general manager Jeff Parnell, who was raised in the racing hotbed of North Carolina.

While the average customer age for the company overall is 65 years old, Blair.com buyers are on average 15 years younger than Blair’s mail order buyers — closer in age to the typical NASCAR fan. That affinity, Parnell says, makes Blair’s participation with NASCAR “a great prospecting tool for us.”

Though he declines to provide sales figures from the motorsports division, Parnell hopes that NASCAR’s vast exposure is one way the $580.7 million Blair will achieve its corporate goal of becoming a $1 billion company by the end of the decade. “We’ll keep looking for ways that are synergistic and opportunistic, and if it opens doors for us all the better,” Parnell says. One possibility is Blair Customer Wear, the company’s work apparel division, outfitting NASCAR’s pit crews and team members with logoed T-shirts and hats.

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