Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Ballad of Insider Interests and NASCAR Racing at Aaron Rents

Aaron Rents (RNT-$27.77), a leader in the sale and lease ownership of residential furniture, consumer electronics and home appliances, believes sponsorship of sporting events, such as arena football 2, NBA basketball, and various college sports, is an attractive medium by which to boost brand awareness with its low-income customers. The company's premier partnership, however, is sponsorship of professional driver Michael Waltrip's team in NASCAR racing. While the 10Q Detective concedes that the rent-to-own retailer boasts a strong record of beating earnings expectations, we wonder whether the company's patronage of motorsports has more to do with insider interests than the purported customer loyalty garnered from NASCAR-related initiatives.

To help promote its
Dream Products program [think “dream” consumer durables like large-screen televisions and home-theater systems] the company established a relationship with NASCAR in 1999. The initial deal was the title sponsorship of the NASCAR Busch Grand National Car Race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway- the nationally televised "Aaron's 312,” named for Aaron's three ways to obtain merchandise and its unique 12-month plan. The following year, in 2000, the company began a limited sponsorship of driver Michael Waltrip's #99 Aaron's Dream Machine in the Busch Grand National Series.

In 2005, as a part of its NASCAR marketing program, Aaron Rents expanded its relationship with Waltrip by financially backing a driver development program implemented by Waltrip’s company. The two drivers participating in the driver development program that year—
Ken Butler and Brett Butler—the sons of William Butler, the current Chief Operating Officer of Aaron Rents. He has also served as a Director of the company since 2000.

Although the company is reticent about detailing the annual advertising costs associated with its NASCAR purchasing rights and other initiatives, a review of past regulatory filings shows that stockholders footed bills totaling $890,000 in 2005 and $983,000 in 2006--so Butler’s two kids could learn to drive stock cars.

“It's because it's what you love, Ricky. It is who you were born to be. And here you sit, thinking. Well, Ricky Bobby is not a thinker. Ricky Bobby is a driver. He is a doer. And that's what you need to do. You don't need to think. You need to drive. You need speed. You need to go out there, and you need to rev your engine. You need to fire it up.” ~ Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (actress Amy Adams, “Susan”)

In 2009, the company will sponsor Ken Butler as a member of the
Robert Richardson Racing team in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at an estimated cost of $1.6 million, according to the 2009 proxy filing. The 10-Q Detective did not bother to query management if they would be willing to sponsor our sports fantasy of being Ricky Bobby, handling 33 degrees of banking in the turns at the Talladega Superspeedway.

Editor David J Phillips does not hold a financial interest in any stocks mentioned in this article. The 10Q Detective has a Full Disclosure Policy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ticker has changed from RNT to AAN.