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Publication: NASCAR News
Johnson wants to expand marketing

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         NASCAR NEWS - Thursday, December 13, 2007

Johnson wants to expand off-track marketing reach
By Sporting News Wire Service

Jimmie Johnson and Gillette have severed ties on the 
"Young Guns" program as the back-to-back Cup Series 
champion goes in search of an agency to help him market 
his on-track success. 

Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet at Hendrick 
Motorsports and an original member of Gillette's "Young 
Guns," hopes to capitalize on his consecutive titles with 
the type of off-track deals that will broaden his appeal 
and take his endorsement reach beyond the racetrack. He 
has met with as many as eight agencies, from motorsports 
marketing to full-service talent representation, and two 
finalists have emerged: CAA and Wasserman Media Group. 

It's uncertain when Johnson might make a final decision 
on an agency, but he is believed to be poised to choose 
one in the coming week. 

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Johnson's business manager wouldn't comment on specific 
agencies, saying only that the process has been unfolding 
over the past six months but that Johnson's profile with 
a second consecutive title has created even more buzz on 
the agency side. 

"We could maybe guess what Jimmie's brand is, but we want 
to know what the fans think," said John Lewensten, vice 
president of operations for Jimmie Johnson Racing Inc. 
"We're looking for an agency to do the research, to give 
us the hard data on that and take it to sponsors that 
match up well with what Jimmie's brand is and create those 
long-term relationships. 

"We're also looking to be more proactive in seeking those 
sponsorship partners instead of waiting for them to come 
to us." 

Judging by merchandise sales, Johnson's popularity among 
the fans hasn't quite caught up to his success on the 
track, although it's gaining. His licensed goods are 
generally listed as the fourth-best-seller behind Dale 
Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. NASCAR.COM 
reported that Johnson ranked fourth most of the season but 
jumped to third in the last month since claiming his second 
consecutive championship. 


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Since winning the Cup title last month, at least one ad, 
featuring Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus in a Kobalt 
Tools commercial, has been running on ESPN during other 
sports programming, including college basketball. Lewensten 
said the goal was to partner with more sponsors who are 
willing to use Johnson beyond the realm of racing. 

Johnson currently has personal services agreements with 
Levi's (which like Gillette, ends this year), Tylenol, 
Gatorade, Gargoyle Sunglasses, XM and Elizabeth Arden. 
His team sponsors through Hendrick are Lowe's, Kobalt 
Tools, Quaker State, Time Warner Cable, Siemens, Top 
Choice Lumber, UGS and Chevrolet. 

"We want [Jimmie's commercials] to be on during racing, 
but we also want to grow Jimmie's brand and introduce 
NASCAR to other potential fans through a guy like Jimmie, 
who has the ability to transcend the sport," Lewensten 

Breaking away from Gillette and its stable of six Cup 
drivers became part of that strategy at the end of the 
season. A Gillette representative called the breakup a 
mutual decision. 

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"We're looking for the ability to have Jimmie in more 
national commercials, and one of the challenges with 
Gillette was the focus on multiple drivers as well as 
our intent to grow outside the sport," Lewensten said. 
"We're looking to get national exposure across multiple 
platforms, and Gillette couldn't guarantee that would be 
an option for Jimmie." 

Lewensten added that Johnson, who will be a seven-year 
veteran next season, just didn't fit the "Young Guns" 
persona any longer. 

Gillette, which began shooting for its 2008 campaign 
last week in Charlotte, is adding at least one driver to 
the "Young Guns" program, but the new driver prospects 
could not be identified yet, said Mike Norton, Gillette's 
chief of brand communications. There might be a "Guess 
the driver" promotion to help kick off next season. 

Johnson was among the original "Young Guns" when the 
program launched in 2004. 

"We hope there might be some other opportunities with 
Gillette or another [Procter & Gamble] brand," Norton 
said. "But within the framework of 'Young Guns,' both 
sides looked at it and decided it wasn't going to work. 
We don't expect the drivers to sign for life." 

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