With an estimated $55 million to $60 million sponsorship budget, Lowe’s Cos. is the biggest spender in the retail category.

Below, sponsorship spending, portfolio overviews and activation strategies for the six biggest spenders in the category.

Lowe’s Cos.
Estimated 2014 U.S. Sponsorship Spend: $55M-$60M
2013 Spend: $50M-$55M

Top Deals By Spend

  • Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR team
  • 77 Colleges
  • NCAA

The country’s second-largest home improvement retailer focuses on two national sponsorship platforms: the NCAA and Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team.

Lowe’s activates sponsorship to promote vendor products. The company in 2015 teamed with Jimmie Johnson and Mission—a manufacturer of instant cooling towels—on a public awareness campaign designed to promote the importance of heat safety. The campaign included a mobile tour, national TV ads, in-store promotions, digital and social media and job site visits. 

Lowe’s, which has sponsored Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports since 2001, this year extended both partnerships through the 2017 season.

Lowe’s also leverages the NCAA with retail partners. The company in 2014 passed through promotional rights to Scotts Miracle-Gro, which ran a March Madness promotion that dangled a trip to the NCAA Final Four. Scotts used the campaign to drive seed sales during the spring planting season.

Lowe’s dropped its partnership with IMG College in 2014.

Lowe’s Portfolio Breakdown by Spend / Activity
Lowe's Portfolio Breakdown by Activity/Spend

Target Corp.

Estimated 2014 U.S. Sponsorship Spend: $50M-$55M
2013 Spend: $55M-$60M

Top Deals By Spend

  • Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
  • Target Field
  • Major League Baseball
  • Target Center

Target has adjusted its sponsorship strategy over the past year to support key product segments and engage its evolving customer base, with focus on urban millennials.

One key component of the new strategy: promote products in the style, wellness, children’s and baby categories.

On the style front, the retailer is leveraging its partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing to promote an in-store merchandising campaign that includes apparel, grocery items, consumer packaged goods and other products with plaid packaging. The retailer is promoting the initiative via a plaid paint scheme on Kyle Larson’s No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car.

Target in 2015 dropped its sponsorship of a CGR entry in the Verizon IndyCar Series in an effort to increase engagement with NASCAR fans. The retailer invested the money in a marketing campaign that included broadcast TV, digital and social media.

The retailer this year also launched “Together We Win,” a marketing initiative designed to educate NASCAR fans about the role vendors play in sponsorship.

Target is the only company among the six biggest spenders in the retail category that reduced its sponsorship budget from 2013 to 2014. The company cut its sponsorship spend by estimated $5 million to $10 million after dropping a number of regional deals.

Target Portfolio Breakdown by Spend / Activity
Target Portfolio Breakdown by Activity/Spend

The Home Depot Inc.
Estimated 2014 U.S. Sponsorship Spend: $30M-$35M
2013 Spend: $30M-$35M

Top Deals By Spend

  • Joe Gibbs Racing NASCAR team
  • Habit for Humanity
  • Major League Soccer

After dropping its long-running partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing at the conclusion of the 2014 NASCAR season, the country’s largest home improvement retailer now focuses on two national platforms: Major League Soccer and College GameDay Built By The Home Depot.

Home Depot uses its seven-year-old partnership with Major League Soccer to engage Hispanic and millennial consumers. The retailer leverages the tie to drive engagement through soccer-centric conversations, strengthen preference and loyalty by inspiring consumers to tackle home improvement projects, and maximize ROI by using MLS assets to drive online and in-store traffic.

The retailer activates MLS with game day hospitality, vendor-driven consumer engagement programs, in-store player appearances and gift card giveaways.

Home Depot sponsors a handful of properties located near its Atlanta headquarters including the MLB Atlanta Braves, NFL Atlanta Falcons, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Peachtree Road Race and the Georgia Aquarium.

Home Depot Portfolio Breakdown by Spend / Activity
Home Depot Portfolio Breakdown by Spend / Activity

Bass Pro Sports
Estimated 2014 U.S. Sponsorship Spend: $25M-$30M
2013 Spend: $20M-$25M

Top Deals By Spend

  • Chip Ganassi Racing
  • Stewart-Haas Racing
  • Richard Childress Racing

Bass Pro Shops, which operates roughly 85 stores in the U.S. and Canada, uses sponsorship primarily as a platform to drive store traffic. 

The company leverages its five-year-old partnership with Professional Bull Riders with in-arena and in-store activation in PBR Built Ford Tough Series markets. Retail activation includes meet-and-greet autograph and photograph sessions with PBR riders and bullfighters, fishing demonstrations hosted by PBR announcer Clint Adkins, mechanical bull rides and live bull displays.

Bass Pro Shops hosts an annual PBR day at more than 50 Bass Pro Shops locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. The two-day event includes bucking bull and rider appearances, cowboy and cowgirl costume contests for children and Bass Pro Shops PBR-themed sweepstakes.

In-arena PBR activation includes Bass Pro Shops branding on arena video boards and a video that features PBR Ring of Honor bull rider Luke Snyder shopping at a Bass Pro Shops store. Select fans that guess the price of the combined items in Snyder’s cart (within a certain price range) win the items.  

The retailer activates NASCAR with in-store appearances by Tony Stewart and other drivers. The company will expand its NASCAR program in 2016 with title of the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Bass Pro Shops also uses NASCAR to promote Tracker boats, a brand owned by the retailer.

Bass Pro Shops Portfolio Breakdown by Spend / Activity
Bass Pro Shops Portfolio Breakdown by Activity/Spend

Estimated 2014 U.S. Sponsorship Spend: $20M-$25M
2013 Spend: $20M-$25M

Top Deals By Spend

  • Michael Waltrip Racing
  • 30 NCAA Colleges
  • International Speedway Corp.

The rent-to-own retailer will cut back its NASCAR program when Michael Waltrip Racing closes its doors at end of the 2015 season. The company reportedly plans to maintain a presence in the sport through media and track activation.

Aaron’s uses sponsorship to cultivate leads via consumer sweepstakes. The company activates the MLS Chicago Fire with the “Create Your Own Stadium” sweeps that dangles a “home stadium” (a 55-inch high-definition TV, recliner, coffee table, etc.) in exchange for contact info and an opt-in for promotional offers.

The retailer is activating the NFL Atlanta Falcons with a sweepstakes dangling tickets to the team’s Jan. 3, 2016 home game against the New Orleans Saints. The promo includes pre-game sideline passes, a tunnel experience and Falcons apparel.

Aaron’s in 2015 inked a one-year sponsorship of Virginia Motor Speedway and the Aaron’s King of the Commonwealth Pro (Crate) Late Model division race. The sponsorship affords designation as the “official sales and lease ownership partner” of VMS.

The retailer also sponsors the NBA Atlanta Hawks, MLB Atlanta Braves, MLB Houston Dynamo and New York City FC.

Aaron’s Portfolio Breakdown by Spend / Activity
Aaron’s Portfolio Breakdown by Activity/Spend

Menard, Inc.

Estimated 2014 U.S. Sponsorship Spend: $15M-$20M
2013 Spend: $15M-$20M

Top Deals By Spend

  • Richard Childress Racing NASCAR team
  • Auto Racing Club of America presented by Menards
  • Menards 200 ARCA race, Toledo

Menards focuses sponsorship activity on the No. 27 Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team driven by Paul Menard, the son of Mendards founder John Menard.

The home improvement chain leverages RCR with vendors. Pittsburgh Paints cosponsors the No. 27 car, while Kimberly-Clark Professional this year activated the Scott 150 ARCA Racing Series race at Chicagoland Speedway with Menards, the series’ presenting sponsor. The two companies ran an in-store promotion that offered a rebate with the purchase of a 200-count Scott Rags In-a-Box.

Menards this year expanded its motorsports portfolio with naming rights to the weekly Manufacturers Chevy Series telecast on Velocity TV. The retailer leverages the sponsorship with vendors: True Science pet food presents the show’s Minties Top Dog Award.

Menards Portfolio Breakdown by Spend / Activity

Menard's Portfolio Breakdown by Activity/Spend