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Baltimore Grand Prix signs a presenting sponsor

Maria Zilberman//Daily Record Business Writer//August 15, 2012

Baltimore Grand Prix signs a presenting sponsor

By Maria Zilberman

//Daily Record Business Writer

//August 15, 2012

Organizers of Baltimore’s second annual Labor Day weekend street racing event have surprised themselves, snagging a presenting sponsor just two weeks before motorsport enthusiasts and drivers descend on the city.

Andretti Sports Marketing and Race On LLC announced Wednesday that Chrysler Group’s Street and Racing Technology (SRT) brand will be the presenting sponsor of the event, which will officially be known as the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT.

“In the short term, this event financially was never predicated on having a presenting sponsor, a title sponsor, this year,” said John Lopes, president of Andretti Sports Marketing. “If it happened, it was gravy, but we weren’t planning on it because we knew the short time frame was against us. That being said, we absolutely never stopped selling and we knew all along that Chrysler was in the running to come on board with their SRT brand.”

Lopes and Andretti Sports Marketing were in conversation with Chrysler about motor racing-related business before the group took over the Baltimore race in May. Once Race On, which owns the race, contracted Andretti Sports Marketing to run operations and promote the event, sponsoring the Baltimore race “went to the forefront of our dialogue,” Lopes said.

Though details of the deal were not disclosed, Lopes said there are contingencies for a multi-year deal. Presenting and titles sponsorships for motorsports racing events are typically valued “in the strong six-figures to low seven-figures,” he said.

SRT will be the official car and official truck of the event and has been incorporated into the event’s logo. SRT is behind such brands as the Viper and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

“These are iconic brands, and you’ll see these brands at the event and you’ll see the brand new Viper leading the field for the start of the race this coming Labor Day,” Lopes said.

The 2013 SRT Viper and 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 will start each of the three racing days. Saturday’s American Le Mans Series race will now be known as the “Baltimore Sports Car Challenge presented by SRT,” and two SRT Viper GTS-R race cars will also be competing in that event.

“We’re excited to showcase our performance portfolio of SRT vehicles to a discerning crowd of motorsport enthusiasts and the Baltimore Grand Prix is the perfect location,” Beth Paretta, director of marketing and operations for SRT Brand and Motorsports, Chrysler Group LLC, said in a statement.

This is the first deal between Chrysler and Andretti Sports Marketing, which also operates the Milwaukee IndyFest.

Signing a presenting sponsor is a “seminal moment,” Lopes said, adding that “when these things start happening, there’s a follow-on effect, and a halo effect.”

Andretti Sports Marketing in July announced multiyear sponsorships with Sunoco, Giant Food and Dr Pepper Ten. A sponsorship agreement with CBS Radio had been announced in May.

Doubts about the future of Baltimore’s Grand Prix loomed after the race’s first organizer, Baltimore Racing Development LLC, left the city with about $1.5 million in unpaid bills and accrued a total of about $12 million in debts, including to vendors that were never paid. The city terminated its five-year contract with BRD at the end of 2011.

Downforce Racing LLC, led by two Baltimore financiers and an Indianapolis-based contractor, took over the race in February, but lost its five-year contract after failing to meet deadlines.

Just shy of four months before the event, in May, Race On took over. Led by J.P. Grant of Columbia-based Grant Capital Management and Greg O’Neill of Baltimore-based BMW Construction Specialists Inc., Race On hired Andretti Sports Marketing to run operations and promote the race weekend.

Grant, who has said he doesn’t expect the race to make a profit until 2013, has also pledged that all vendors and taxes will be paid.


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