Citizens Bank to Sponsor NASCAR Race

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Citizens Bank hopes to steer some customers its way by becoming the title sponsor of a NASCAR Nextel Cup series race this summer at Michigan International Speedway.

The Citizens Bank 400 will be run June 17 at the track near Brooklyn.

Flint-based Citizens Bank has a one-year sponsorship contract with an option for three more years. Citizens also gets to call itself the "official bank" of MIS and will have ATMs at the track, which draws upward of 145,000 spectators for NASCAR and Indy Racing League events.

"Now we're aligned with the biggest sports venue in the state," said Jim Sykes, a spokesman for parent company Citizens Republic Bancorp, told the Jackson Citizen Patriot for a Saturday story. "It's a great opportunity to get in front of a huge market segment."

A title sponsorship can be an effective way to make a company more recognizable, said Michael Smith, motorsports business writer for Charlotte, N.C.-based Sports Business Journal.

"Their name is going to be all over the track," he said. "People that walk away with the name of their bank in their head is what they are counting on."

Neither MISS or Citizens Bank would say how much the title sponsorship costs. Smith said it is likely in the "seven figures."

Citizens Bank might want to consider the example of Bank of America, the first bank to sponsor a NA SCAR race, Smith said.

"They basically purchased an entire section in turn four," Smith said of the Bank of America 500 held last October at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte. The bank bought 800 seats for employees, clients and contest winners and decorated it with signs and banners.

Citizens Bank has 270 branches around the Midwest, with $14 billion in assets.

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