WELCOME, N.C. -- Budweiser announced Tuesday it will sponsor Kevin Harvick for three seasons beginning in 2011, and the Budweiser logo will be on the hood of the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing car for 20 points races and two non-points events.
The beer company has been on the hood of a car since 1983, most notably with Darrell Waltrip, Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Budweiser's current contract as full sponsor with driver Kasey Kahne and Richard Petty Motorsports ends after this season.
"The reduction in the number of races doesn't mean we're going to diminish our presence in the sport," said Mark Wright, Anheuser-Busch vice president of media, sports and entertainment marketing. "It gives us an opportunity for the brand to just do some different things, whether it's stuff like the party porch at Daytona that we did on the backstretch, or more sweepstakes, more promotions.
"We're really looking forward to trying to connect Budweiser to some new fans out there and even the current fan base, so not having every race allows us to do that."
Even though Harvick is 34, Wright said he believes Harvick can connect with the young demographic. He said the company will try to bring young people to the sport and the garage and use social media as part of its sponsorship activation.
"He has a young attitude," Wright said about Harvick. "His approach is what we need. Some of the things we were going to do with him, we were going to do anyway in terms of investing in those platforms."
Even with the new ownership of the company, the criteria in selecting a driver did not change, Wright said.
"We wanted a guy with a proven track record, which Kevin has, a driver with the kind of personality and charisma that Budweiser was looking for and then you couple that with Richard Childress and what he means to the sport and what his organization can bring in terms of winning and that's what we're looking for," Wright said.
The company considered remaining with Kahne, but Wright said the uncertainty about Kahne for 2011 -- Kahne had signed a contract in April with Hendrick Motorsports for 2012 and did not sign a 2011 deal until last week with Red Bull -- pretty much ended any chance of continuing the relationship.
That led the company to RCR, which was losing Shell/Pennzoil as Harvick's sponsor to Penske Racing and driver Kurt Busch.
Earnhardt's move in 2008 to Hendrick ended Bud's eight-year sponsorship of NASCAR's most popular driver, and the company launched an expensive re-brand with Kahne.
Now it moves to Harvick, who along with RCR is on an impressive resurgence. His victory Sunday at Michigan was his third this season, and after a rough 2009, RCR is a force both on the track and in the sponsorship race.
"Budweiser is one of the most respected sponsors in our sport," Harvick said. "They do a lot to market their teams and the sport in television broadcasts and away from the track. I'm looking forward to driving the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet, taking it to Victory Lane and winning championships."
While other teams are searching for funding -- Hendrick's Jeff Gordon doesn't have a primary sponsor lined up for next season -- RCR last week announced Paul Menard would join the organization next season with sponsorship from his father's home improvement company.
"Throughout his career, Kevin has shown he can win at any level in NASCAR," Childress said. "Combining his talent with Budweiser's NASCAR lineage and proven track record of innovative sponsorship activations makes this an exciting pairing for fans everywhere. RCR prides itself on its heritage and authenticity, so working with a brand like Budweiser, which has built their reputation on those same values, is a very special opportunity."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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