The red, white and blue car from the A.J. Foyt Racing team sporting the ABC Supply logo has become a fixture on the IndyCar circuit, and this year Takuma Sato went into the Indy 500 as the points leader. The ABC Supply car didn’t win at Indy this year, but it took the checkered flag at Long Beach on April 21. It marked the first time the ABC Supply Racing team had topped the podium, but according to David Luck, ABC Supply’s CEO, the investment has been a winner since the company joined forces with Foyt nine years ago.
At this year’s Indy 500, ABC Supply hosted approximately 750 people, including ABC Supply associates, customers and a group of military personnel who had been wounded in the line of duty; the 50-strong group of active-duty military personnel and their guests was coordinated through Wish for Our Heroes. Luck took time out after the race to talk to Roofing Contractor about the motivation behind sponsoring an Indy racing team, the special relationship between ABC Supply and A.J. Foyt, and the benefits the sponsorship brings the company, its associates and its customers.
According to Luck, sponsoring the racing team helps unite far-flung branches across the country. “One of our rationales for looking at something like Indy was, first and foremost, we wanted to differentiate our company from the competition in the eyes of our associates,” Luck said. “So, we did this first for our people. What this does is it provides a unifying branding of our company nationwide. It gives our people pride, it gives them a sense of being different — or the best — in step with our values.”
The race events also provide great opportunities to connect ABC Supply associates with customers. The company estimates that it has hosted approximately 42,000 customers and associates and their families at IZOD IndyCar Series races since 2005. “There are about 19 races this year, and at each of those events, we invite all of our local associates and their families, and we typically have a big tent and entertainment,” Luck said. “We also invite local customers and their families. We give them their own track experience, take them through the garage and the pits, and up close and personal with the team — A.J. Foyt, Team Director Larry Foyt, and the driver this year, Takuma Sato. It’s a great experience, and it has benefits for our customers along with our associates. Behind all of these individual racing events is really the idea of creating a large, extended family with ABC and our customers — that personal experience.”
Luck noted that if it weren’t for the opportunity to sponsor a living legend, ABC Supply might not have made the decision to sponsor an Indy car. “One of the reasons that pushed us over the edge was when A.J. Foyt’s team became available,” said Luck. “The reason I was interested in A.J. was because everything about A.J. and his team is consistent with ABC’s core values. A.J. Foyt personifies what’s great about America — pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. And that’s consistent with most of our customers, who are entrepreneurial, self-made people — along with our company and this industry. So it was a perfect marriage of being able to connect with the legend — truly an American legend — and make that experience up close and personal to all of our people and our customers.”
ABC Supply also recognizes some of its customers as “honorary sponsors” of the car with the “Your Name Here” program, which is featured at every domestic race with the exception of the Indy 500. “We put two customers’ names on the car, free of charge,” noted Luck. “They get to be in the garage and get their picture taken with the car, and this is their opportunity to show that car off in their office in a big portrait with their name on it. So it’s really been a fun thing for our customers and our people locally.”
The race events are complemented by Indy show cars that travel around the country. “If we’re doing an open house or a barbecue or something for a customer, a big attraction is to bring that show car in and set it up,” Luck said. “People just line up to get their kids in it and take a picture with the car. One Indy show car typically travels in the community where the race is that week, and another goes around to all the branches ahead of the race. We’ll set up customer events around the car and the race, and that’s another way we leverage that going around the country.”
Race merchandising and community outreach events extend the impact beyond the track. “We create a lot of pride nationwide by having our employees and customers wear ABC Racing gear,” Luck said. “We have all the ABC racewear — ABC Supply hats, T-shirts and other items, so we leverage that very well.”
The company also strives to support worthwhile programs like Wish for Our Heroes. “One of our core values is giving back,” Luck said. “We’re pursuing a program to leverage our racing as a way to give back, and we’re looking at veterans and a military connection and to have a marquee on the car going forward to draw attention to a giving program that we like.”
These high-profile events are also great ways to attract top talent during college recruiting, noted Luck. “One of our core values is ‘Work hard and have fun,’” he said. “We use this as a way to have fun. We use it as a way to differentiate us as a company to come to work for and make a career with. We use it as a way to differentiate us from the competition — and be a red, white and blue company.”
Luck stated that the company gets tremendously positive feedback about the race events, and contractors we spoke with who attended this year’s Indy 500 were no exception.
“It was an awesome race,” said Nathan Sasse with Commonwealth Roofing Corp., Louisville, Ky. “I just can’t appreciate ABC more for putting this on. It’s a very special event, we enjoy it, and we’ll be back next year.”
Brian Messer of Coomer Roofing in Indianapolis attended the race with his wife. “My boss, Doug Miller, gave me the tickets,” he said. “ABC is a great distributor. They take care of our company, and it’s all a big family. It’s great.”
Tony Angell, a superintendent with Jagoe Homes, headquartered in Owensboro, Ky., attended the race for the first time with his wife. “We had a really good time,” Angell said. “I’m based out of Louisville, Kentucky, and Sean Bridges is my rep. He gave me a buzz and said he had a couple of tickets for us, so here we are. And it was our anniversary yesterday, so it worked out perfect.”
Charlie Winkle, sales manager for Allen Home Improvement in Louisville, has been coming to the race since 1977. “They do it first class, no doubt about that,” he said. “I got invited through Greg Allen, the owner of the company. It was a great race — a record number of lead changes, a record pace, perfect weather.”
ABC Supply’s sponsorship of A.J. Foyt Racing is the second-longest relationship in the IZOD Indy Car Series, and earlier this year the parties entered a long-term contract that will extend at least through the 2015 season. “We’re staying with them. It’s been great for us,” Luck said. “Our people really take a lot of pride in it — especially when we are winning, and when we’re competitive.”
It’s all part of ABC’s overall business strategy. “We believe this investment has had an amazing return for us in terms of accomplishing what we wanted to accomplish,” Luck said. “It certainly has solidified our brand in the industry, and it has certainly given our people great pride. It differentiates our company. In terms of employment, in terms of the industry, in terms of customers and helping us be an extension of their businesses — it gives them pride in being associated with us. When you add in the world-famous A.J. Foyt Racing — being a part of that and having our people experience that — it’s just been incredibly good for us.”