Lemonis: Gander series switch made sense

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World and Gander Outdoors, said the decision to re-brand the NASCAR Truck Series with Gander as the entitlement sponsor wasn’t what he had in mind when he purchased the bankrupt company in 2017.

But as with most sponsorships, there eventually becomes a time of “diminished return,” when the name is still on the product but it’s taken for granted or overlooked and the newness of it all has faded.

“I think what happened for Camping World, maybe it happens for some other sponsors, there is some diminished return after a period of time,” Lemonis said Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, site of Friday night’s season-opening Gander Outdoors Truck Series race. “You’ve made your message, people have it. They almost auto tune you out at some point.

“We felt like the series needed a jolt.”

That “jolt” comes at a convenient time as the Truck Series is experiencing something of a revival – at least here at Daytona. The entry list for Friday night’s Nextera Energy 250 featured 40 teams vying for one of 32 starting spots. Last year there were full fields for all races, something that hadn’t happened in several years.

“First time that’s happened in a very long time,” Lemonis said of the 2019 entry list. “I joked and said maybe we should change series sponsors every year.”

Camping World was the entitlement sponsor for the series from 2009 through 2018. The company replaced Craftsman, which was the first to jump behind the series in 2005 as the SuperTruck Series by Craftsman in 1995 and the Craftsman Truck Series from ’96-’08.

The series has evolved, the schedule has changed somewhat, but one thing has remained – it continues to provide some of the most exciting racing in NASCAR.

That’s helped keep Lemonis and his companies wired in. And why that will remain the case for his company going forward – now with new branding.

“When we first made the acquisition of the bankrupt assets from Gander Mountain, in that moment we didn’t think about the NASCAR connection,” Lemonis said.

“What we knew we wanted to do was to create a competitor to Camping World, which we owned. We felt like the marketplace needed to have more than one option to buy an RV or their outdoor stuff.

“As the concept evolved, as we picked the locations, as we decided that Gander was going to be in the RV business, it did make sense to transition the Truck Series to Gander.”

Had the acquisition not come about, there was no reason for concern, he said.

“Had we not done Gander, Camping World is committed to the sport,” Lemonis said. “Our company is committed to the sport.”

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