AJ Allmendinger: In Love at First Sight?
Even if you haven’t been lucky enough to experience it first hand, we’ve all heard stories about love at first sight. How you look across the room and see something that you like very much. Your pulse starts to speed up and there is just that feeling – something deep inside your soul that tells you this is it, this is the one.
I can’t help but wonder if AJ Allmendinger felt that way the first time. No, not when meeting his wife Lynne. I mean the first time he walked into the Richard Petty Motorsports race shop and saw that newly wrapped Ford Fusion with the famous #43 on the side, electronics giant Best Buy on the hood, and his name above the driver’s door. I know as a fan it certainly struck a chord in me when it first took to the track in Daytona this year.
There are undoubtedly some very well known driver and sponsor pairings in the sport of NASCAR – a list too lengthy to delve into here. There have also been some very personality appropriate matchups in the past, as well. Avid fisherman and hunter Martin Truex Jr. being sponsored by Bass Pro Shops, for example. Looking through the current list of sponsor and driver affiliations though, I have a hard time coming up with one that is as perfect as AJ Allmendinger and Best Buy.
There are a lot of great corporations that have stepped into NASCAR sponsorship recently, but the interests of the driver aren’t necessarily represented well. Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano don’t exactly strike me as the do-it-yourself types that typically roam the aisles of Lowe’s and Home Depot. Juan Pablo Montoya may occasionally shop at Target, but it’s difficult to imagine Tony Stewart browsing through Office Depot for paper clips and copy paper. And Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, and Matt Kenseth seem like three of the unlikeliest guys to be peddling alcohol products.
There are a few that aren’t too far off the mark. Scott Speed and Brian Vickers are good promoters of the Red Bull product, as was AJ back in the day. Red Bull and AJ went very well together, because there is such an energetic air around the 28 year old that he almost seems to be in motion even when he is sitting still. But no Red Bull athlete is THE guy for Red Bull. You are just one of many spokespersons for the company, which is its own branding machine. When you think of Brian Vickers, you may think of Red Bull. But when you think of Red Bull do you automatically think of Brian Vickers? Or do names like Travis Pastrana or Shaun White jump into your head first?
So it is understandable that AJ has expressed in recent interviews how much he is enjoying the prospect of being branded with one particular company for the first time in his NASCAR career. He wants to become THE Best Buy guy – the person that you think of when you walk into one of their stores for whatever electronics, multimedia, or appliance needs you might have. But besides just being the Best Buy guy, he is and has always been a big fan of the store itself.
When I recently had an opportunity to visit with the Allmendingers at the track in Las Vegas, I was discussing with AJ’s mom Karen how the sponsorship pairing seemed to be a match made in heaven. And what I learned was that it was even more so than I imagined. Any guesses on what AJ’s first ever credit card was? According to Karen it was a Best Buy card. After moving from his native California to Colorado in 2003, where his new Toyota Atlantic RuSPORT team was based, Best Buy was the store AJ chose in order to outfit his new place with the electronics that he deemed his biggest necessity.
So while you may occasionally spot Jimmie Johnson heading to his local Lowe’s for a new lightbulb, my guess is that you will see AJ at a Best Buy store much more frequently. In fact, just the other day AJ’s wife Lynne posted the following on her Twitter account – “Heading into Best Buy to have our laptop upgraded to Windows 7.” And I’m sure she was met with Best Buy’s customary good service when she did.
Not only is Best Buy a perfect sponsor for AJ, who is a self-avowed lover of electronics, but Best Buy seems to have found a kinship with the new spokesperson for their stores, as well. Paul Zindrick, motorsports director for Best Buy Racing, had this to say about their driver. “AJ is a great fit for Best Buy. Our employees and our customers can relate to him. He has such a natural passion for our products and the services that we provide.”
Now I’m obviously a very loyal fan, as evidenced by the fact that I choose to spend the little bit of free time I have promoting my driver with self-satisfaction being my only return. And that loyalty carries over to the brand of products that are on AJ’s car whenever it’s possible. I’ve drank my share of Red Bull in the past simply because of his association with them, but I have to say that I enjoy supporting his current primary sponsor more than any other.
That kind of support isn’t necessarily easy for me in this case because my "local" Best Buy store is a 100 mile drive away and not even in my state. But I have always shopped at Best Buy – it’s one of my favorite stores to wander through. I’ve purchased computers, stereo equipment, appliances, and many CDs, DVDs, and video games over the years, and have always gotten top-notch quality.
There’s a difference when I walk into the store these days, though. It isn’t just the Best Buy store anymore. It might as well say AJ’s Store above the doors. And when I walk out I may be a little bit lighter in the wallet, but there is a definite sense of satisfaction in supporting my driver’s sponsor. In a couple of years when I’m looking at investing in a new computer or home theater system, I know where I’m going to get it – AJ’s Store, Best Buy!
So was it love at first sight for AJ? Well, I’m not the one to answer that question. I hope it was, and I hope that the marriage between this driver and sponsor lasts for many years. And in toasting to the new union, let me not forget to add wishes for a very fruitful relationship by way of numerous trips to Victory Lane. So here’s to AJ and Best Buy. Cheers!