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NASCAR Sprint racer sets pit stops in Toledo

Fifth Third is co-sponsor of Kenseth's No. 17

The-car-is-to-be-parked-outside-Fifth-Third-Field

The car is to be parked outside Fifth Third Field Monday and to visit two bank branches Tuesday.

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In a little more than a week, Matt Kenseth will be gunning for his third career NASCAR Sprint Cup win at Michigan International Speedway. Before he hits the track, one of his Fifth Third Bank-sponsored cars will make a few pit stops in Toledo.

On Monday, one of Mr. Kenseth's race-driven No. 17 Ford Fusions is to be parked outside Fifth Third Field. The car is to visit two Fifth Third Bank offices in the area Tuesday.

"We've really had a lot of fun with the program," said Larry Magnesen, Fifth Third Bank's chief marketing officer. "It seems to generate a good deal of excitement wherever it goes, and Roush Fenway is a team that has been always successful, and really focuses on teamwork and integrity. From an overall value standpoint, they've been a good fit and a good partner for us."

Fifth Third Bancorp announced a sponsorship deal with North Carolina-based Roush Fenway Racing in May to make the Cincinnati-based bank the primary sponsor for one of Roush's cars in select races for three years. This year, Fifth Third has sponsored Kenseth at races in Charlotte, Sparta, Ky., and Indianapolis. The final race for the bank will be the Pure Michigan 400 at MIS on Aug. 19.

Fifth Third had established a banking relationship with Roush Fenway after entering the Charlotte region several years ago. With NASCAR huge business in that area of the country, Fifth Third officials saw sponsorship as a good way to interact more with other motor sports companies. Sponsorship in NASCAR has changed somewhat in recent years, with more teams taking on multiple main sponsors rather than one for the entire season.

"You can take a car that carries the Best Buy name one week and the Zest soap name one week, and can be the Fifth Third Ford Fusion the next week," Mr. Magnesen said.

Doing that allows regional companies such as Fifth Third an opportunity to target their sponsorship to areas in which they operate. In addition, because of big television audiences, the bank still gets national exposure.

"You never know down the road where expansion might take you," Mr. Magnesen said. "Getting the bank's name out there is something that's historically been hard for us to do, but this is a way for us to do it."

A major part of the sponsorship is attracting business from other companies involved in motor sports, but bank officials also feel NASCAR fans fit well into their target segments -- and that they notice who's sponsoring the drivers they root for.

"The NASCAR fan really understands that without the sponsors, they don't see more than 30 races a year. This is not a cheap sport. Those brand names are what ensures those races can take place every weekend," Mr. Magnesen said.

The car is to be at the ballpark from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday. Tuesday it will be at the branch at Byrne Road and Glendale Avenue from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the 3355 Secor Rd. branch from 4 to 6 p.m. Bank officials are still in discussions with Roush Fenway to decide which races they'll sponsor next year, although a similar number is expected.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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