Sponsoring race car driver opens new avenues for agency

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Kayton Travel's logo prominently displayed on Salvatore Iovino's car.
Kayton Travel's logo prominently displayed on Salvatore Iovino's car. Source: Salvatore Iovino

Before she connected with Nascar driver Salvatore Iovino on Instagram less than a year ago, agent Wendy Sung, owner of Kayton Travel, wasn't exactly a fan of the sport. 

The Nexion Canada affiliate, based in Edmonton, Alberta, was aware of Nascar but didn't know much about it. She was interested, though, and attending a race was on her bucket list.

Fast forward to today, and attending a Nascar race isn't just a bucket-list item anymore. In fact, it's one of Sung's must-dos this year -- specifically, one of Iovino's races.

She was a primary sponsor of the driver for four races in the 2018 season, and Kayton Travel's name was prominently displayed on Iovino's car. She is currently in negotiations to sponsor more of Iovino's races.

Wendy Sung
Wendy Sung

"Nobody in Nascar could race without the sponsor support from companies like Kayton Travel and Hardcore Hammers and Denrich Apparel," Iovino said of his sponsors.

Iovino said what a sponsor pays is confidential, but it helps cover the high cost of racing. Most teams budget about $50,000 for each race, he said, with some spending more than $100,000.

Iovino is a driver in the K&N Pro Series, Nascar's regional stock car racing division. He started his career in the telecommunications industry, climbing cell towers across the U.S., until he started his own business, Integrated Tower Services, after 10 years. He still owns the business today.

Founding his own company gave Iovino time to devote to hobbies, and he chose drag racing. He eventually switched to a stock car and worked his way through the ranks to a Nascar level. His rookie year was 2016, and thanks to his social media following, he was named Most Popular Driver by Nascar fans (more than 55,000 people like his Facebook page, and he has more than 49,000 Instagram followers).

The sponsorship paid off for Kayton Travel. Since it was officially announced on March 9, Iovino participated in four races with Kayton Travel's logo featured prominently on his car; he also mentioned the agency frequently on his social media accounts.

Nascar driver Salvatore Iovino mentioned Kayton Travel frequently in his social media posts.
Nascar driver Salvatore Iovino mentioned Kayton Travel frequently in his social media posts. Source: Salvatore Iovino

Before the partnership with Iovino, Kayton Travel's Instagram account had 185 followers. Today, the account has more than 2,800 followers.

Indications are that the sponsorship will prove to be a savvy marketing move by Sung, but she stressed that marketing wasn't the primary reason she decided to partner with Iovino.

"For me, at the end of the day, a relationship is most important, friendship is most important," Sung said. "I just have trust in him after talking to him. It just felt right to work with him."

Sung was born in Brunei but has lived in Canada since 1989. She has always had a love of traveling and had a career in construction. But in the past two years, she decided to devote more time to her young children. Last year, the opportunity to become a home-based agent presented itself, and since then she has seen "exponential growth" in her business.

Her travel business led her to start an Instagram account, through which she connected with Iovino. She found his posts both inspirational and motivational and reached out to him. To her surprise, he got back to her, and the two struck up a friendship. Sung did her due diligence on sponsoring Iovino, reading his business plan and calling his other sponsors.

"At the end of the day, it really felt right for me and Sal," she said.

In addition to a good working relationship that helps build both Iovino's team and Sung's business, Sung also benefits from networking with other sponsors.

Wendy Sung, shown here on a family trip in Miami, said she has benefited from exposure to Iovino's fans and his other sponsors.
Wendy Sung, shown here on a family trip in Miami, said she has benefited from exposure to Iovino's fans and his other sponsors. Source: Wendy Sung

"Being able to connect with all the fans and supporters that Sal has, it's phenomenal," she said. "And now he's helping me, as a sponsor, to build my business in return. It's teamwork."

It also opens her up to a new market and potential client base in the United States, where Iovino races.

Iovino said helping sponsors and making sure their partnership is mutually beneficial is key to himself and his team.

"I do everything in my power to make sure that they are happy, satisfied," he said. "And I find ways to help expand and grow their company so we can have a long-lasting relationship."

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