Perhaps it’s the speed. Or maybe it’s the cars. Or, perhaps, the popularity of stock car racing among PCOs is simply that, as Mike Rogers says, "There is one thing that everyone can identify with, and that’s the car."
Rogers should know. He is president of Killingsworth Pest Control, Charlotte, N.C.; owner of Mike Rogers Motorsports; a racer himself; and the father of USAR’s Hooters Pro Cup Southern Division Series stock-car No. 18 racer, Andrew Rogers. And this dual focus between racing and pest management is a trait that runs in the family bloodline and contributes to its success and that of Andrew’s primary sponsor, BASF Termidor.
"Racing has been in my family since before I was born," Andrew says. "It’s been a hobby since I was eight years old," and now at the age of 21, he says, "I get to do it for a living!" But racing isn’t the only bug of experience that Rogers passed on to his son.
A LONG HISTORY. Andrew worked at his father’s pest management company as a telemarketer during his teen years. After graduating from high school, he became a service technician. Holding this position for almost two years, Andrew says he enjoyed the job, particularly working with customers. His experience now works for him, enabling him to fully endorse his sponsor product to both PCOs and customers because of his hands-on knowledge of its application. "I’ve been under the houses; I’ve crawled on my belly, I’ve had to do all that," Andrew says. Unlike other racers or celebrities who promote products they know little about, he says, "I have actually used and like [Termidor]."
BASF Professional Pest Control Senior Marketing Manager Karl Kisner sees it as a real positive to have Andrew racing "with Termidor across his chest." Often, a spokesman will say a product is great when he or she has never actually used it, he says, but with Andrew representing Termidor and signing autographs in the booth area after the qualifying heat, BASF gets a spokesman who can talk positively about the product from an actual usage vantage point.
The partnership began with Rogers’ approach toward BASF. "Over the years [Rogers] had mentioned to our local sales representative the possibility of doing something with BASF and Termidor," Kisner says. Then when things got more serious, "he gave a good presentation of what he wanted to accomplish with someone and what it could mean to Termidor."
"The old racing adage ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ not only applies to the cars in the sport but also to the products," Rogers says. "NASCAR fans are the most loyal there are." And this loyalty, he says, carries over to all racing arenas.
BASF is involved in a number of sports sponsorships including major, minor and collegiate league baseball, basketball and football. It had always wanted to get into NASCAR, Kisner says, but it is expensive to even get logo placement on a car at that level of racing. But in a sport where a car is identified as much by its major sponsor(s) as by its number, sponsoring the Rogers’ stock car allowed for high exposure and recognition without the high price tag. "This gave us a chance to have the car be a Termidor car," he says, "and allowed us to help the [pest management] industry."
While an actual return on investment of the sponsorship is difficult to measure, the Termidor-logoed car placement does bring more awareness of termites, treatments and Termidor to homeowners who don’t always have such topics top of mind. The televised broadcasts of the races also help to show the company in a positive light, Kisner says, "we hope it is enough of an impression on viewers that they ask for it from PMPs."
Kisner says a strong point in the sponsorship is the support of the Rogers not only for Termidor but for the local pest management professionals at each race.
As part of the sponsorship, the team invites a local pest control firm to set up a booth alongside the Termidor booth and race car simulator, which are taken to each race. Because BASF does not sell Termidor directly to the public, the affiliation creates a mutually beneficial partnership, with Termidor representatives, the local PCO and the Rogers family all promoting the product, and the PCO given the opportunity to gather termite and other pest service sales leads. "A nice thing that happens here is that Mike Rogers leaves the Killingsworth hat behind. He fully supports Termidor and the local PMP. He just truly takes outstanding ownership," Kisner says. "It’s easy for anyone to put a logo on a car and a driver; it’s those additional steps that raise the bar."
RACING SUCCESS. Being successful in racing is similar to being successful in pest management. A lot of work, training and knowledge go into it, Andrew says. You need to know everything about the car, then when you are on the track, it is a matter of "being aware of what the car is doing at all times." With crawling on his belly nothing new for the termite-technician-turned racer, Andrew has crawled under his own race cars, doing work on the vehicles, and getting to know them inside and out so once he gets on the track, the car is simply a part of him.
In his 2006 races Andrew drove cars numbered 81 and 18 (having changed team ownership mid-year). He is preparing for the 2007 season, which begins in early March. He will continue to be sponsored by Termidor, Aaron’s Rents and Forshaw Distribution and will race the USAR Hooter Pro Cup in his updated Laughlin-chassis Chevrolet, with the new USAR composite body.
Having a racing family — with dad, Mike, as manager who raced for almost 30 years himself, and uncle, Chris, as crew chief noted in Southeast racing circles as a "set-up wizard" — has helped him, Andrew acknowledged. "Dad has done everything for me," he said. "Everything I’ve got I owe to him." But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had to earn his placements. Winning is a combination of "natural ability and how much time is spent in the car, Andrew says. "Dad has given me my opportunities, but I’ve had to work for them."
While many may see the life of a race car driver as being all glamour, with the toughest part being standing around to sign autographs, there is actually a lot of work that has to go on between the races, Andrew says. "It’s pretty stressful." Being a family team can make this even more difficult at times — "If I get into a fight with my boss, it affects the whole family"; but it can also pull them together – even when he doesn’t have a great run, the team is there to support him.
His dad is in agreement. "The biggest challenge is getting along with your family," Rogers says. "The race cars are easy. The bugs are easy. It’s the people that are hard."
THE RACING LIFE. Andrew’s racing career began in his early teens with go karts, where he competed in World Karting Association regional and national events for three years. He then advanced to the 600 Racing system, competing in the Bandolero division in 2001, then moving into Legends the following season. Andrew won in both the Bandolero and Legends divisions while competing in the Summer Shootout programs. These Lowes Motor Speedway races then led him into the 600 Racing Thunder Roadster division where he again was a front-runner before taking a turn in a late-model stock car at Hickory Motor Speedway in late 2004.
Following this successful performance, his team purchased a championship-winning car from Bobby Gill and Andrew moved into the Pro Cup stock car in 2005 as a rookie driver, qualifying at seventh in his first USAR race in Lakeland, Fla. Andrew will continue with the series in the 2007 season.
Andrew’s goals now are to continue winning and moving up the racing track. In part because he understands that his wins are not just his own, but affect his team, his sponsors and his supporters as well. "We try to make it a win-win for everyone." His dad is in agreement, echoing the exact phrase, then adding, "No matter what we decide to do, my goal for everyone is to come in at the end of each year and feel you got a bargain."
But Andrew is also driven toward NASCAR, because, as he says, "Everybody wants to be in NASCAR. I think it’s every race car driver’s goal."
With only 43 available spots, it’s not an easy goal, but Andrew has confidence: "Right now, in my mind, I’m better than anyone," and an attitude that could just as well be applied to any track in life: "Don’t go to the racetrack unless you think you can win."
The author is a frequent contributor to PCT. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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