Ganassi’s plan is on Target

Sponsors come and go in auto racing, where the strongest partnership can unravel due to financial issues, a difference of opinion or a change in corporate strategy. None of these issues has arisen for Chip Ganassi Racing and sponsor Target Corp., which celebrate 25 years together this season. The relationship has developed beyond the funding of race cars, and to this day Ganassi credits Target for the growth of his race team and how he has developed as a team owner.

Upon completing his brief driving career, Ganassi formed a one-car Indy team in 1990 with Target as his sponsor. That partnership has turned into four full-time IndyCar Series teams, two full-time Sprint Cup teams, a full-time entry in the Tudor Sports Car Series and a NASCAR driver development program.

“Professionally or personally, no way I’m where I am today without Target,” Ganassi said last week at a 25th anniversary celebration in Las Vegas. “You aren’t around people 25 years, a great company like this, and not have some things rub off on you.”

Ganassi was raised around Pittsburgh and attributes his upbringing with giving him the same values as Minneapolis-based Target.

The sponsorship of two cars in the IndyCar Series and one in NASCAR’s top Sprint Cup division is Target’s longest standing marketing partnership. It exists even though racing might not seem a natural fit for Target the same way the sport is for car-related companies.

But it works for Target for a variety of reasons.

“Sports are inherently social, and being part of the conversation is very important to us,” said Dan Griffis, vice president of experiential marketing and alliances for Target. “You want to be around things that people are passionate about, and sports brings up passion. And the thing we’ve noticed in motorsports is that people are actively rooting for Target. There’s no such thing as the Target Lakers or the Target Yankees.”

The relationship is so secure that Griffis said the auto racing sponsorship is not being re-evaluated as part of any fallout from the recent data breach that exposed millions of Target customers’ credit card numbers.

Winning might have something to do with their partnership remaining intact. Ganassi has formulated a winning method that produced its first CART title in 1996 with Jimmy Vasser, and has added 16 more titles across IndyCar and sports car racing since. Ganassi drivers have also won four Indianapolis 500s and the Daytona 500.

Although the success with the Target car hasn’t come in NASCAR, the organization is excited about the addition of rookie Kyle Larson, who replaced Juan Pablo Montoya this year in the No. 42. Montoya won the Indy 500 and the CART title for Target, so parting with him wasn’t easy, but in Larson the organization gets a 21-year-old who will resonate with younger NASCAR fans.

Ganassi is one of the mainstays of motorsports. The organization’s drivers share his values on pit lane, the family home and with their sponsors.

Contact Eddie Thomas at