February 06, 2014
AP Auto Racing Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Rapper 50 Cent is bringing his headphones and audio line into NASCAR via a partnership with Swan Racing.
The rapper — born Curtis Jackson — will have branding for his SMS Audio line on both of Swan Racing's cars. The logos will also be on the uniforms for Parker Kligerman and Cole Whitt, and the drivers will be featured on Swan-branded SMS Audio headphones.
The partnership also calls for 50 Cent to make appearances at races throughout the 2014 season, although the rapper is no stranger to the Daytona 500. He made headlines when he awkwardly attempted to kiss Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews on the starting grid for the Daytona 500.
But NASCAR seems to be a fit for Jackson, particularly this partnership with Swan Racing, which is owned by Brandon Davis, the CEO of independent oil and gas company Swan Energy.
Jackson is an admitted former crack dealer turned rapper who has built an empire beyond entertainment. He invested early in Vitamin Water and has expanded his business interests into clothing and now audio equipment.
"I'm an entrepreneur, 50's an entrepreneur and it's a good fit for both of us," Swan Racing team owner Brandon Davis said Tuesday. "This partnership broadens our reach and gets us into a whole new market and I believe that holds true for them, as well. If we both do this correctly, it should be a mutually beneficial relationship."
The deal is the latest for Davis, who is transforming the organization he purchased in late 2012. A former start-and-park team, he set a goal of racing in every event. Then he signed Bill Romanowski as an investor, and most recently added Iowa businessman Anthony Marlowe as a minority owner.
Davis has also expanded to two cars for the 2014 season and hired a pair of young drivers in Whitt and Kligerman.
The relationship with SMS Audio was put together by Illinois-based Pegasus Marketing Group, which works with the race team and 50 Cent's company. Davis has yet to meet the rapper — their discussions have on the telephone because of scheduling conflicts — but Jackson said in a statement he's excited about the venture.
"Swan Racing and its up-and-coming drivers are the perfect match for SMS Audio," the rapper said. "They are as passionate for the sport of racing as we are for our audio products, and we're confident that the music-loving NASCAR fan base is going to enjoy our headphones."
Davis hopes Swan's partnership with the prolific rapper can bring attention to his fledgling race team. Davis said he spent "10 times the amount of money I planned" on his inaugural NASCAR season, and has been trying different avenues to bring in more marketing opportunities for his team.
"We did everything we said we were going to do, and paid all our bills. It was just more difficult than I expected," Davis said. "NASCAR is an entrepreneur's dream. It's a good platform because you can be creative with the way you bring money into your team and work partnerships. The structure opens the door for entrepreneurs to come in and use this platform for different kinds of marketing opportunities, and this is one of them."
Swan Racing was a one-car team last season, primarily with David Stremme. The team had five top-20 finishes. Expanding to two teams has required doubling the team personnel, and a larger investment, which Davis is still doing without steady sponsorship.
"It's been a lot of fun for me, a lot of pleasure, but from a marketing standpoint it has been very hard," he said. "I would grade my experience as an A, but my performance as a D and we are working hard to improve that. The hope is that in partnerships with Anthony Marlowe and SMS Audio, we are doing a better job and making some inroads."