THUNDER BAY – Shake and bake – Heartbeat Hot Sauce is hitting the NASCAR circuit.
The Thunder Bay company, whose hot sauce has made its way to retailers around the world, has agreed to a one-race sponsorship deal with driver Ryan Ellis, a chance to showcase their wares to millions of viewers during the NASCAR Xfinity Ag-Pro 300 at the Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Ala.
It’s great exposure said Heartbeat Hot Sauce co-founder and president, Al Bourbouhakis, who plans to be track-side for the race, scheduled for late April.
“The car is amazing,” Bourbouhakis said.
“That was definitely the (most fun) part of this now, getting to work with the car designer. We basically had full carte blanche creative freedom to do what we wanted. They asked how we wanted our brand represented on the car. Obviously they have all the skills and knowledge of how to best position things for television and angles and that sort of thing.”
Like their current branding, Heartbeat Hot Sauce went for a streamlined look, a white, black and orange motif with the company’s pepper heart logo on the hood and name strategically placed around Ellis’ No. 45 Camaro car.
“We tried to stick with Heartbeat style and keep it pretty simple, clean, not cluttered up too much with all kinds of crazy graphics ... And we’ve got some cool, ghosted graphics in behind the logos that at a closer look you’ll see them there,” Bourbouhakis said.
The goal, of course, is to put as many eyeballs on the company’s name and brand – which has already been boosted by its sauce appearing on Hot Ones and promoted through a partnership with UFC favourite Dustin Poirier – as possible.
“Our products are available in the United States, not to the degree that they are in Canada. We’re just trying to gain a stronger position in the U.S. market. It’s a massive population of people that love hot sauce there,” Bourbouhakis said.
“We feel like NASCAR (is) one of the most visible sports in the country.”
Ellis, a fan of Heartbeat Hot Sauce before the deal was struck, said it’s an exciting opportunity for him too – with Poirier planning to attend April’s race.
“Any time you can get an opportunity at a superspeedway it’s exciting, but to do so with a new partner like Heartbeat Hot Sauce is amazing. It’s been great working with Al and his brand over the last few months and I’m really proud to be driving this car at Talladega. It’ll definitely be a massive opportunity. We’ve seen how small teams can succeed at these superspeedways and I know that we have a chance to do something really special,” said Ellis, who races under the Alpha Prime Racing banner.
The 32-year-old Ellis has a career best 30th-place finish on the NASCAR Xfinity Series and has run in sixth NASCAR Cup races, including last year’s Hollywood Casino 400.
Bourbouhakis, who has sponsored local stock car racers in the past, said if things go well, he may consider increasing his NASCAR sponsorships in future years.
The race is expected to be televised on Fox Sports.