- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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Sports marketing doesn't need another player, another guy in an already tapped-out space trying to help an athlete become a brand.
But when I heard that Daymond John was getting into sports, I was immediately interested.
Most of you probably know Daymond from "Shark Tank," or as the president and founder of FUBU, which was doing $350 million in annual business in the late '90s. Some may even know him as the guy who managed the Kappa USA brand (one of my favorite logos of all time).
Aside from his work in the fashion world, John pushes companies and individuals to break through the clutter with his Shark Branding consulting company.
John liked sports, but nothing ever really stood out for him, save for briefly sponsoring boxer Lennox Lewis and licensing the Harlem Globetrotters for a FUBU line. That was until a 19-year-old race car driver named Alex Bowman, who drives for RAB racing, called him last year to help him sell sponsorship on his new Nationwide car.
"First of all, I liked the fact that he was successful, because if the product isn't good, everything else goes out the window," John said.
Bowman would be entering his first year on the Nationwide circuit, one below NASCAR's top Sprint Cup Series, having won rookie of the year in the ARCA division.
"It's also a fun challenge, because this is what I do," John said. "I take content and cross-pollinate it. I've worked with Pitbull, who people said was just for the Latin crowd, or the Kardashians, and helped them become part of pop culture."
Bowman says he's thrilled to have a nontraditional partner in John looking to score him some deals, but the responsibility will fall on him to prove he can get a return on investment, perhaps before a big company signs on.
"Instead of the teams scoring sponsorship deals and giving it to their drivers, you now see the best drivers who are determining who they want to be with," said Bowman, who expects to compete right away.
Just as he has studied what the best drivers do on the track, Bowman says he has looked at what the best do off the track.
"This past year, I watched [NASCAR Sprint Cup champ] Brad Keselowski and watched what he did for Miller Lite," Bowman said. "It definitely helped me understand the game more and how committed you have to be to give sponsors their return on investment."
Bowman says he hopes John’s impact can re-energize the typical sponsor marketplace.
"You see the same companies just rotate to sponsor different race teams," Bowman said. "With Daymond, I'd imagine we're creating a new market for some companies to be on the track."
Bowman's No. 99 car in Saturday's DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona will be sponsored by the Florida Lottery. Sponsors that have previously worked with Bowman include eBay Motors, Las Vegas-based airline Allegiant Air and the Port of Tucson, a rail facility in Tucson, Ariz., where Bowman is from.