Supercheap Auto has a rich history in Australian motorsport, most significantly surrounding its 16-year association with the Bathurst 1000.
That arrangement came to an end last year but the next chapter hasn’t taken long to secure, with Supercheap Auto this morning unveiled as naming rights partner of the TCR Australia Series for the next five years.
Supercheap Auto managing director Benjamin Ward discusses with Speedcafe.com exactly why he is so delighted with the new deal.
Speedcafe.com: First of all, congratulations are in order. What was it about TCR that proved an attraction?
Benjamin Ward: Supercheap Auto is really excited to be a part of the TCR series. It’s a diverse range of turbocharged touring cars; the diversity of brands that are in there gives fantastic racing. It’s obviously in its infancy still in Australia but we’re really excited by the fast pace of the racing itself but also the fact that the broadcast of every race will be on free-to-air television. This makes it really accessible to all Aussie motorsport fans.
Speedcafe.com: TCR does have a truly global presence too, like we saw Dylan O’Keeffe appear in WTCR last year…
Benjamin Ward: I think TCR is in 30-plus countries now and as I said, I think one of the things I’m excited by most is the diversity of brands that are on offer, and it’s the most market relevant racing in Australia. So the racing is fantastic and the cars are well-linked to people’s daily drives to a certain extent. Financially it’s accessible as a driver and as a race team so you can’t get more exciting than that.
Speedcafe.com: So, how long has this naming rights partnership been in the works?
Benjamin Ward: We’ve been discussing with them for quite some time, back to last year certainly. The deal is still quite fresh but we’ve been having these discussions and looking for opportunities to be involved with TCR for quite some period of time.
Speedcafe.com: And to have a five-year period locked down gives some serious stability to the partnership, doesn’t it?
Benjamin Ward: We’ve inked a five-year deal but as we’ve done with our Bathurst 1000 sponsorship – we were the longest running partner to the Bathurst 1000 – we see this continuing for decades.
Speedcafe.com: Yeah, you do have that history of long-term arrangements…
Benjamin Ward: Yeah and I think activations, one of the things that we have done with race fans for Bathurst is activate really, really well. It takes some time to build up a head of steam with that and that’s what we’re hoping to do with TCR as well, is build that activation factor for the fans whether they are interacting via the free-to-air television broadcast or actually attending a race in person.
Speedcafe.com: We’re a bit over two weeks out from the season-opener. What can fans expect on that activation front at Boost Mobile Race Tasmania?
Benjamin Ward: I’ve got to say the ink is still wet on this contract so a lot of work is still to be done in that area. How much we can get up and running for Tasmania, we still need to see what we can do there, but in the longer term fans can expect to see the levels of activation, whether it be remotely or in person at the track, in accordance with what you would expect from Supercheap Auto. And for our Club Plus customers, we’re hoping to bring them great benefits in person and also whether that be digitally as well.
Speedcafe.com: Supercheap Auto will also support S5000 in 2021. Tell me more about that.
Benjamin Ward: It’s just incredibly exciting to be a part of both of those opportunities and I think as the sport grows in Australia the fans will really get behind it because it’s all about the racing. It’s a great mix of up-and-coming drivers as well as well-established drivers so we can expect to see some brilliant racing this year.
Speedcafe.com: Being still a pretty new category, I guess TCR Australia could look pretty different in five years’ time. How much does Supercheap Auto intend to be involved in the sport’s direction?
Benjamin Ward: We are entering into a partnership here with the Australian Racing Group and part of that partnership is to help them and for them to obviously help us build that sport into the best it can possibly be. And that’s one of the reasons we wanted to enter into a contract for five [years] and the optionality of extending beyond that period of time because we see this sport as growing into something that’s just incredible in Australia. It takes a number of partners to work together to make that happen and we’re just delighted to work with Matt [Braid, Australian Racing Group CEO] and the team to bring that to life in years to come.
Speedcafe.com: On the Supercars side of things, can we expect to see your brand stick around in some form, perhaps across various cars?
Benjamin Ward: I’ve read the rumours out there. We’re not ready to quite announce at this stage what our direction there is with Supercars but there is a huge fan base with Supercars in Australia and Supercheap Auto has been a part of Supercars for 23 years so we would love to still maintain a relationship there.
Speedcafe.com: So despite how things played out around the Bathurst 1000 naming rights, it’s not the end of the road between Supercheap Auto and Supercars?
Benjamin Ward: Not the end of the road at all. Supercars is still a really relevant category in Australia that we would love to be a part of. Today, we want to talk about TCR because we think that this is some of the most exciting motor racing in Australia and that’s what we’re committing to being a huge part of, to grow for motorsport all around the country and of course New Zealand as well.
Speedcafe.com: Yes, back to TCR. How are you feeling about the first round of the 2021 Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series being just around the corner?
Benjamin Ward: I’m very excited: An Australian-owned retailer sponsoring the Australian Racing Group on Australia Day long weekend. It’s going to be fantastic.
Supercheap Auto has been a Platinum Partner of Speedcafe.com for the past six years.