Drive across the country, especially in the South and Midwest, and you’re sure to see small, round bumper stickers with number in the middle. They either slant to the left or the right, but they are clearly recognizable. These are the numbers of that car owner’s favorite NASCAR driver. A NASCAR driver, specifically the Sprint Cup, represents a multi-billion dollar business that reaches out and has a fan base larger than most (if not all) professional sports. And while the speed and sexiness of this sport is a driving factor, its corporate sponsors are the bread and butter for each team. Look at Dale Jr. This guy’s so savvy that even though he hadn’t won a race in 76 tries (until last week), he’s been the fan favorite driver for probably the past four or five years running and has sponsorships with Amp energy drink and the National Guard to name a few, plus has developed relationships and partnership with giants like Adidas. Junior’s not the only one reaping the benefits of good strategic partners and sponsors. Most of the top drivers have done the same, just like most top athletes. By aligning yourself with corporate partners, you’ll elevate your brand to a different stature and your customers have a different view of who you are amongst the competition. But pick your partners smartly however. Budweiser, Junior’s corporate partner prior to his changing teams last season, clearly needed a new driver who was appealing to its core market (who also would be of age). Budweiser did not change teams with Junior, and I question its new alliance. Its new sponsored driver is one who has appealed to younger women (that’s appropriate) but also to younger girls (not so appropriate). Aligning yourself with a partner that shares the same message as you with your stakeholders is the key to the success or failure of how you will be perceived by your customers so go forth and choose wisely.