Sunday, October 26, 2008

Made-For-TV Story Comes With The Camping World CEO


NASCAR may have just struck pay dirt in more ways than one with the announcement of the new Camping World sponsorship of the Truck Series. This multi-year deal puts a new brand out in the marketplace and brings with it a story that is almost made-for-TV.

The Camping World CEO is named Marcus Lemonis. Rather than being just another corporate figure, Lemonis is one of the most dynamic young executives in American business today. This is just a slice of a Lemonis profile from Chicago Magazine:

It wasn't just any family that adopted Marcus Lemonis from a Beirut orphanage when he was nine months old. His new father and grandfather ran the largest Chevy dealerships in Miami and Tampa. After graduating from Marquette University, in Milwaukee, Lemonis returned to Florida and started selling cars at his grandfather's dealership.

At 22, he made a change. "I decided that if I wanted to be successful, I had to get beat up, learn from others rather than from my family," Lemonis said. He took a job at AutoNation, the country's largest car dealer, and worked his way up to regional manager.

Then he took some advice from a family friend, Lee Iacocca (the former head of Chrysler Corporation), who told him the path to long-term success lay in finding an industry that was ripe for transformation. Lemonis sniffed opportunity in the fragmented recreational vehicle industry. At the time, most RV dealers were small independents who typically sold only one brand and offered poor customer service.

Lemonis poured most of his limited savings into a business plan, inspired by the AutoNation model, for a national chain of RV dealers that sold and serviced multiple brands. His new company, FreedomRoads, began buying up independents and, in less than three years, has become the country's largest RV dealer, selling 18 brands and racking up more than $1.5 billion in revenues.

In June of 2007, FreedomRoads merged with the existing Camping World company to form a "super-power" RV corporation. This past June, only one year after the formation of the new Camping World franchise, Lemonis was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the year for a Midwest-based business. Camping World now has over 100 retail locations and over 4,000 employees.

Mr. Lemonis is just 34 years old.

As the CEO, Lemonis has come a very long way from the Beirut orphanage. If there was ever a time when NASCAR needed a shot-in-the-arm and some fresh blood, this is it. To announce a sponsorship deal for the Truck Series in this economic climate goes a very long way toward putting aside a lot of negative rumors that have been circulating.

Friday morning, the Trucks take to the track in Atlanta for practice at 11:30AM on SPEED. Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip will be the TV team. John Roberts will be along with the news-oriented NASCAR Live at 1PM. Since the entire Truck Series is televised on SPEED and Fox Sports, you can bet that we will all become better acquainted with Lemonis over the next several days.

Krista Voda will host the pre-race show for the truck race Saturday afternoon at 1PM. It would certainly make sense to either have Lemonis on-hand for an interview or make sure that he is interviewed sometime before the show.

His life is just the type of story NASCAR fans love and the way this year is going a little love could go a very long way.

Click here for the Camping World sponsorship announcement at TruckSeries.com.

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36 comments:

Lou said...

Yes, Mr. Limonis is a feel good story of success and hard work. Glad to see it is a 7yr agreement w/the truck series, Brian is lucky and I as a fan am thankful. Now if the teams can get and or keep their sponsorship, we can contunue to see good racing on SPEED.

Anonymous said...

Thank heaven the truck series has a sponsor. They've showed us the best racing of the season, even better than Cup.

Dot said...

Brian France needs to take a lesson from Mr Lemonis. NASCAR needs a good business plan and Emperor Brian has not provided one. I hope Mr Lemonis has some say so on how the CWTS is promoted. Like Lou said, let's hope the teams can still race.

Rockin Rich said...

This certainly flies in the face "conventional wisdom"! Today's economy must be impacting the RV sector. I would assume pretty heavily. Yet, this guy is coming in spending, (I assume), a ton more of money than he already was to keep his empire thriving, (or just afloat). Add to this the fact that the truck manufacturers are dramatically reducing their support, and it really presents a grim scenario.

I hope we aren't seeing another Bobby Ginn!

Good luck, and truly best wishes to Mr. Lemonis, and to the Truck Series fans. To Brian France, and the Beach Bozos, not so much.

In my IBM marketing career, oh so long ago, we called this a "bluebird", as in a bluebird flying in the window with a huge unexpected sale just in time to make quota when it looked like there was no way that would happen.

Gymmie said...

YOUPPI! Mr. Lemonis!

I look forward to "Camping with Ray" each week *giggle* I'll miss the Tool Tech segment...unless they find a way to keep it :)

rockin' rich--yes you do have a good point. I'd definitely hate to see something negative come out of this. I've enjoyed Mr. Lemonis--he's been on Fox Business Network promoting CWs involvement with NA$CAR many a time.

bevo said...

I agree with rockin rich. I think an even better cautionary tale would be the saga of Evan Knoll with the NHRA. Hope this works out for both NASCAR and Mr. Lemonis. Glad to see a fellow alumnus doing well!

Photojosh said...

I'm stoked about this announcement.

One thing that is encouraging (compared to the previously mentioned sponsorship failures) is that Camping World already has a history of sponsoring a NASCAR series. True, it's a lower tier series. But it's not like they went from nothing to sponsoring the trucks. There is some experience there and they should know what to expect in terms of investment vs returns.

jamie said...

dot is dead-on with her assesment of the camping world ceo versus brian france. also, this sponsorship must have really been 'on the cheap' for a deal to be struck this late. if the economy is on an upswing in 6 years, dont look for camping world to be back. nascar will again try to gouge a new sponsor.

Vicky D said...

Gymmie, I also was thinking of Ray's camping segment during the truck races when I read the press release. Can't wait to see those! This is very good news for the series and as long as the teams can get and keep their sponsorship it should do ok.

Rockin Rich said...

Okay, coming back, a little more positive this time.

Instead of Bobby Ginn, maybe I ought to be thinking more Bill Gates here. Maybe this guy really is what is needed to keep the Truck Series from failing. Hopefully, he will come in similarly to the way R.J. Reynolds came into NASCAR, and put some sound, reality grounded, management and marketing practices into the Series. In reading the article, he certainly sounds like the kind of guy that could shake things up.

It certainly should be fun to watch how Brian and the Beach Bozos react, and work with, (or don't), what appears to be a real business dynamo that seems to be able to put his money where his mouth is. I truly hope he doesn't flame out like the aforementioned Mr. Ginn. I also truly hope that the entrenched Beach Bozos don't stifle his enthusiasm. If that happens, we may see the scenario mentioned by Jamie @6:29AM come to pass when business turns up again, and we know business will turn up again in the future.

Again, Mr. Lemonis, and all you Truck Series fans, best of luck, and wishes for success.

majorshouse said...

I am really happy to see someone outside of the normal business model being hugely successful and I am also happy to see the truck series is not going to die because it is by far the best racing series out there.

Anonymous said...

I wish Mr Lemonis had bought the
series from the BEACH BUMS.
It's the closest thing to real
racing there is and shows a product that is closest to a showroom model.

chase said...

John - this is a great column! I am really excited that Mr. Limonis and his company have come onboard to sponsor the Truck Series. As mentioned above, racing in the Truck Series is as good as it gets, at least in 2008. Perhaps Brian France can do a stint at Camping World and see how a good company is run - God knows he has nothing better to do! Having attended my first truck race a few years ago it is truly exciting and the announcers on SPEED are pros -- let us hope the truck races have tons of people in the stands in 2009 - thank YOU Mr. Limonis!!!

Anonymous said...

What a great personal story. I like the fact that Mr Limonis does not look like he runs things by the seat of his pants.

It's not really a rags to riches story (Lee Iacoca family friend), but it shows somenone who used his college knowledge and applied it to the real world.

As smart as Mr Limonis is, he would not sign a long term contract if he thought NASCAR was going to hell in a hand basket under the France"s flag. He apparently believes this is the best thing for his company-- and he is willing to put his money out there for the next 7 years.

This is really a natural alliance. Camping World just announced it was going into the cargo trailer buisiness as well as the rv rental business. NASCAR is a gold mine for them, not just the fans but the drivers, crews, vendors, media, etc.

Goof luck to all.

Anonymous said...

JD

Goodness sake!! This is insanity! There is no way that Camping World will finish out the term of this contract. More "johnny come lately" to the sport with pie in the sky dreams of grandeur rather than a sober assessment of the marketplace.
Lest anyone doubt my position, just ask how many of your Planet "orbiters" who are overjoyed at this announcement will actually go out and purchase a recreational caravan (R V as you call them in the US). Then factor in how many of those folks will then seek out Camper World to buy their vehicle? 1 in 1,000??
Sorry. This fan thinks this is rubbish

Bray Kroter

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:35:

I think you're wrong with your comments regarding no ROI on the sponsorship. It's not just about selling $300,000 motorhomes. It's about selling pop-ups, small trailers, larger trailers, etc. And renting all of this stuff, including the monster motor homes. More importantly, the parts and service on all of these units. Just look at how many RVs you see at a track. And each and every one of those units need maintenance, usaually for each and every trip you take with them.

I personally use Camping world over other dealer when I can, just because of their involvement with the Camping World series, and I'm sure many others will be doing so as well, especially now that they're in a much higher profile series. As a bonus, I've always found that Camping World has a much larger selection, and always has parts in stock that my local brand name dealer has to order, even though the local dealer is a dedicated dealer of my units brand.

Greg

Anonymous said...

Bray,

If CW does not pick this up who does? The line was not that long and if CW did not pick it up, say so long to the Truck Series.

From what I read about Mr. Lemonis, if he did not think this was a great place to spend millions in ad money and get a return, it would be somewhere else.

I for one am glad he stepped up.

L Randall

red said...

i am absolutely thrilled by this announcement and will go to the camping world website to drop a thank you note on mr. lemonis!

bray, i have to disagree with you, especially about camping world being a "johnny come lately." they have sponsored a lower-tier series (camping world east AND west) for a while now and been happy with the results as demonstrated by them still being sponsors. they "get" racing in a way that i doubt other series' sponsors can.

also, i say "bravo!" to him for waiting nascar out and coming in at the last moment: to me, that's good business sense. i would hope he got a better deal from nascar by making them worry over sponsorship for this series than if he had come to the rescue earlier in the process.

as we've often noted, the trucks are THE best racing at this level and have long deserved more attention and a more dedicated sponsor. my biggest hope is that camping world execs will see their involvement as more than just a series name, $$ and stickers. i certainly hope they become actively involved in the series and get these teams the attention they have earned!

and truck guys just announced that mr. lemonis will be on krista voda's "the set up" tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

West Coast Diane said:

This is great for the Truck Series and Camping World. What a great venue for them, at the track and on TV.

Camping World has had a tent at the last 5 Daytona 500's we've been to as well as a Bristol race we attended. They are also at the Indy 500. In every case their tents are in or near the major RV lots and always seem to have a crowd. They always have race specials. Last year it was Honda generators. With the economy the way it is maybe instead of flying trips to Disney World or where ever, families may rent a camper and take shorter trip, less expensive trips.

Anonymous said...

West Coast Diane said:

PS...left out an important point. I hope Mr. Lemonis finds a way to put pressure on NASCAR to make sure the Truck series gets better coverage on TV. Especially in shows like TWIN, NN, Speed Report. It's a shame because it is the best series for sheer excitement and side by side racing.

darbar said...

Mr. Kroter, you have a very myopic view of what Camping World is all about. It's just not RV sales, but it's ALL things camping, and not just $300,000 motorhomes. They sell everything from small camping stoves and GPS units, to sheets and dinnerware for tents and RV's. They also have things available for the hunter and fishermen of the world. Their inventory of camping products is huge just on their website alone.

And, may I point out, that with the economy, families will be replacing their expensive cruise/European vacations with things closer to home, and that includes camping.

I'm thrilled that someone stepped up and is sponsoring the Truck Series. Like others have said, the trucks have shown us the best racing this season. I hope everything works out for all the teams so this sport can continue.

Anonymous said...

Bray,
I guess you are getting a bit of an education as to what CW is about. But it is more than just that, they are into banking and finance, road side service 24/7, repairs, and business to business sales.

As a woman, I love to go to their tent and see what's new. It's sometimes boring to be stuck for days waiting for the action to start. CW is a one stop shopping.

A lot of people also mocked Sam Walton.

Anonymous said...

JD just a question about the tv schedule, why didn't ESPN put the horse race and sports center on classic and leave NASCAR on espn2?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 2:06PM,

ESPN is going through a phase where they have been trying to expand their college and professional sport product as far as events are concerned.

This has left the ESPN executives with three TV networks (ABC/ESPN/ESPN2) and four live events. Two college football games, one day of horse racing and one NASCAR race.

If this was Sprint Cup, things might be different. But ESPN sees things in a very different perspective than NASCAR fans.

The fact that this sport has been on ESPN2 live since February and there are only a handful of races remaining does not trump the fact that the other three events have overall higher TV ratings.

This was one key concern when NASCAR returned to ESPN. It has proven to be the toughest on the Nationwide Series. ESPN has been working hard to fix this problem and we hope that ESPN Classic turns into ESPN3 and provides another basic cable sports channel soon.

JD

Anonymous said...

Good luck with that JD. ESPN News and Classic USED to be basic cable offerings, but more often than not, cable owners are placing those channels on a higher tier. I have the feeling that ESPN3 would be relegated to a top tier of programming, and not basic cable.

Robyn said...

Good to see Johnny Benson on Trackside last night. And another truck driver is scheduled for next week. That with the added truck highlights in TWIN (although they could be a little longer), shows that SPEED is stepping up on the coverage issue. Thanks!

RAEckart said...

I'm with Truck Series fans; this sponsorship will undoubtedly increase traffic in Camping World stores nationwide. And they'll sell plenty of gear for campers (RV, tent, etc.)

This may even start the ball rolling for at least a half-hour TV show dedicated to the Truck Series.

As discussed in JD's previous columns, the Truck Series needs a support show. Something like "NFL Films Presents". High quality, a variety of topics about the series, teams and/or individuals. Something that gives the sponsors on the hoods more TV time than just Saturday afternoon.

And it looks like Camping World will be able to leverage its vendors like Target does its vendors with Chip Ganassi. Work with brands like Coleman, Winnebago, Thetford, etc. to sponsor events in-store, at-track and then on TV.

It would really elevate this series, and Mr. Limonis track record is what the Truck Series is looking for.

Game on!

- RA Eckart -

jojaye said...

I want to thank Mr. Lemonis for keeping some of the best racing sponsored for the next 7 years.
Camping World has been in our sport a few years now so I'm not worried about another Ginn situation. Hopefully Mr. Lemonis influence, enthusiasm & work ethics will rub of on Brian France. We can only hope.

Thank you again Mr. Lemonis for sponsoring the truck series.

Anonymous said...

When will you write an article critical of SPEED for its treatment of the Truck series. Looking at the TV schedule, there is NO coverage of any practice session, or qualifying. How do they expect the series to survive?

You are all over ESPN when they do that to the Nationwide series. SPEED deserves equal treatment.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 11:08PM,

Both sessions of practice were to be televised by SPEED from Atlanta but rained-out. NASCAR turned the Saturday morning qualifying into a practice session and started the trucks on points.

The practice and qualifying is normally shown on SPEED for almost all of the truck races, except for when SPEED is handling the Cup Series.

Thanks, nice try.

JD

Anonymous said...

Take a look at the Texas schedule. NCTS practice and qualifying is on Thursday.

10/30 1:30pm Practice ... Where is SPEED?

10/30 3:15pm Final Practice ... Where is SPEED?

10/30 8pm Qualifying ... Where is SPEED?

With only 31 points seperating the drivers at the top of the table this late in the season, these sessions are vitally important.

It is obvious SPEED does not care about promoting the Truck series, and a slap in the face to the devoted fans that these sessions are left in the dark.

If this happened in the Nationwide Series, you would be blating ESPN for a full week.

SPEED is failing to adequitely cover the NCTS series at a race where the championship is on the line in Texas ... where is your column?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Talk about grasping at straws!

SPEED is live from Noon to 3PM on Thursday, do you ever check SPEEDtv.com?

Unfortunately, Thursday night on SPEED has a regular programming line-up so highlights of qualifying will be seen on Friday.

SPEED will also handle the Nationwide Series practice and quals as ESPN has no room on the schedule.

Get a grip dude!

Anonymous said...

I did check speedtv.com prior to posting. SPEED is showing the Atlanta Sprint Cup race replay from noon-3pm on Thursday, NOT NCTS practice.

12:00PM ET Sprint Cup Replay Atlanta

Also, you can check NASCAR.com schedule for this week.

SPEED is skipping practice and qualifying.

You wouldn't let ESPN off the hook with highlights of qualifying. Why does SPEED get a pass?

Daly Planet Editor said...

ESPN uses SPEED to cover qualifying and practice on most weekends for one or both series.

SPEED has this issue with TX every single time Eddie Gossage puts the Trucks on Thursday.

If you have not noticed, SPEED is stepping in and handling the Nationwide practice and quals again this weekend.

But, that would twist your already twisted logic.

Anonymous said...

I'm not defending ESPN's actions. They screwed things up enough times already.

Though, if its bad when ESPN skips over practices and qualifying, its bad when SPEED does the same thing.

You weren't cutting ESPN any slack back in the spring Texas race, when Nationwide ran on thursday.

Daly Planet Editor said...

I see where you are going now. Let me help. The SPEED TV trucks are going to be parked and powered for Friday, but they will not be available for Thursday's truck stuff.

Geez, you could have just asked about that one. We went through the exact same deal last season with this track insisting on Thursday.

JD