Hisense is truly a NASCAR anomaly: a company that was attracted to the sport by its relatively clutter-free environment.
NASCAR and clutter free typically don’t go together, at least in most people’s perspective. But for the China-based company, NASCAR was the perfect fit because the space is relatively clutter free when it comes to consumer electronics companies, according to Erin Magee, director of marketing for Hisense USA.
Seeking to increase brand equity in the U.S. as part of its global expansion efforts, Hisense earlier this year purchased a pair of race title sponsorships with Speedway Motorsports Inc. as well as a two-race Xfinity Series sponsorship with Joe Gibbs Racing — the company’s first consumer-oriented marketing in the U.S. Denny Hamlin’s No. 20 Toyota Camry will feature the company’s paint scheme for the first time this weekend during the Xfinity Series ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway.
“From a consumer electronics perspective, it’s not so crowded for us, so that’s great,” Magee said of NASCAR. “I think we’ve got a really unique story — we’re a Chinese company coming into the space, and you don’t see a lot of Chinese companies in the space.”
Hisense, the No. 1 TV manufacturer in China but a challenger brand in the U.S. that is seeking to chip away at market-share leaders Samsung, Vizio, Sony and LG, is believed to be one of the first Chinese companies to enter the NASCAR sponsorship realm, though not the first, as China-based Haier sponsored driver Joe Nemechek in 2007.
It was wooed to the sport by Matthew Marsh, senior vice president of Asia for Just Marketing International, Hisense’s marketing agency of record. Convincing the company’s top executives was made easier, Magee said, because of the fact that Lin Lan, vice president of Hisense, “is a huge motorsports fan, so he got NASCAR immediately, understood it and was really the champion for it overseas in our home office.”
The allure of getting involved in the sport was heightened, Magee added, because Hisense’s two biggest retail partners in the U.S., Wal-Mart and Best Buy, “are very involved in NASCAR, so we knew they had either long-standing relationships with NASCAR or had done a lot of work in NASCAR.”
Hisense also recently revealed a team deal in Formula One with Infinity Red Bull Racing, but Magee said as far as U.S. marketing, NASCAR “was much more popular and a better fit for our brand than Formula One, which is a lot more high end and bigger in Europe.”
During its first year in the sport, Hisense is focusing on two products — its Chill brand, which is a personal home beverage vending machine, and its 4K ultra-HD TV line. Last month, Hisense was unveiled as being one of two companies whose laptop hardware will house Google’s Chromebook software. Magee said there are no current plans to push that product through the NASCAR deals, but she added that it could be considered in the future.
Magee said the company is eyeing other sponsorships in the U.S., both in motorsports and entertainment, though she doesn’t expect any announcements until at least the latter half of 2015.
Jerry Liu, CEO of Hisense USA, said the company also is in talks with NASCAR about how it can take aspects of the sport back to China. Magee added, “There’s a couple of activation pieces that we are discussing as part of our partnership, including possibly a simulator tour of NASCAR in China. I think there’s also some larger conversations … with our leadership and NASCAR leadership and JMI about maybe some other integrations overseas of NASCAR.”
Original title by Sportsbusiness Journal: China-based Hisense finds home in NASCAR