Home improvement chains, discount stores and other types of retailers are filling up their shopping carts with new sponsorships.   

The category’s eight biggest players spent an estimated $245 million on sponsorship in 2014, up from roughly $220 million in the previous year, according to IEG research.

Four companies increased their sponsorship spend from 2013 to 2014: Lowe’s Cos., Bass Pro Shops, Macy’s, Inc. and The Kroger Co. Home Depot, Aaron’s and Menards kept spending flat, while Target Corp. decreased its sponsorship outlay by an estimated $5 million.

Retailers are doubling down on sponsorship to accomplish three primary objectives:  

Gain platforms for retail promotions. Retailers often use sponsorship to generate excitement around new and existing stores. Lowe’s, for example, hosts show car appearances for Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team, while Bass Pro Shops hosts meet-and-greets with Tony Stewart and other NASCAR drivers to generate excitement around new store openings.

Deepen strategic relationships with vendors. Retailers often turn to vendors to help activate sponsorship and/or offset rights fees. Target is leveraging its partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing in support of an in-store merchandising initiative that includes hundreds of products in plaid packaging—including Kyle Larson’s No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car.

Strengthen community ties through employee volunteerism. With hundreds of stores and thousands of employees, retailers frequently use sponsorship to support local communities through employee volunteer initiatives. Case in point: Lowe’s employees (Lowe’s Heroes) donate time and talent to help repair and refurbish Boys & Girl Club renovation projects across the country.

Lowe’s employees also repair community centers through the company’s presenting sponsorship of the NCAA Legacy Restorations program.