By Jeff Pappone - TheGlobeandMail.com
Few racing fans have likely heard of Michael Bennett and Larry Deas, but the pair of Axalta Coating Systems executives may just been given the toughest job in motorsport.
Bennett, Axalta’s North American marketing manager, and Deas, the manager of Axalta Racing are the point men for the company’s rebranding of the sponsor relationship between four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and the former DuPont operation that goes back more than two decades.
“While we as a company have a challenge of re-branding, we see this as an opportunity – having an established racer like Jeff with our new name and logo on the vehicle is a tremendous asset,” Bennett said.
“Not only does Jeff have name recognition and a huge presence but as a person, he is very, very good in front of customers. He is very personable and engaging and if wasn’t a race car driver, he would be a salesman. He is one of the best in the business.”
Last August, DuPont sold its car paint business – DuPont Coating Systems – to investment firm Carlyle Group for $ 4.9-billion (U.S.). It was then renamed Axalta.
Although the company and marketing team around the NASCAR sponsorship remains essentially the same ones that have been synonymous with the No. 24 Chevy since Gordon broke into NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series late in 1992, trying to get fans to identify with the new entity may take a bit of work.
The original deal that was signed two decades ago because DuPont wanted to capture the Hendrick Automotive Group’s business has transformed into a two-decade relationship that is one of the company’s key business development tools. In addition to running a hugely successful four-car NASCAR team that includes Gordon, Rick Hendrick’s car dealership network is the sixth largest in the U.S.
Axalta’s plan is to focus more on the existing products that customers and fans recognize, and then ease them into getting acquainted with the new moniker. So far this year, it has been using the No. 24 to show off its Cromax Pro product, which was the primary sponsor on the car a week ago in Texas.
“We are the same people, our products are the same products and our customers are the same customers, and Jeff is the same champion,” Deas said.
“I see this as a..."
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