BY: MITCHELL BREUER
An athlete’s brand can sometimes be worth more than the skill he possesses in his given sport. This is something that is seen across every league, especially in NASCAR, where the more marketable you are will actually help you in competition.
Just ask NASCAR Xfinity Series driver, Ryan Vargas, whom has learned quickly in his young career.
“It is no secret funding, sponsorships, all that stuff is what makes the world go round. It allows me to drive race cars,” Vargas told News From The Pits. “It allows me to have tire and fuel money.”
At 20-years-old, Vargas has already done a lot of business work to not only gain a ride in NASCAR but also a reputation. There’s his ability to make sponsorship deals with the social media platform, TikTok, and most recently with one of the top NFL players in the league, Alvin Kamara.
The resulting recognition is something Vargas says he continues to build on and believes is giving him a level of credit with fans. For example, Vargas competes with JD Motorsports, a mid- to lower-tier team without the funding of a Gibbs or a Penske; meaning, there is a better chance that he may be outside the top-10 than in it. However, with the work he is putting into his brand off of the track, he believes fans are more likely to believe in him than they would otherwise.
“People are going to see that and say ‘oh, that is just an unfortunate deal, we know Ryan, he is a hard worker, he deserves what he’s doing,’ versus somebody who is not putting in that time and effort to build that brand and build their presence on social media, people are not going to know that, and they are going to write them off,” Vargas said. “It all about being present. Being engaging with the people that support you and, just making sure you have a presence in the sport that is so loud that you cannot be ignored.
This is something his sponsor, Kamara resonated with, saying that building a brand for himself and showing what he can and does do off the field is everything to him. This is also why he chose to invest in Vargas.
For Kamara, whose interest in NASCAR has grown rapidly since attending his first race last year at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it was not about the car or where it would finish, instead the person. He was impressed with who Vargas was and his story of how he got there, saying that hit him harder than any stat.
“That speaks volumes past whatever you are doing on the track and on the field because what you are is a person,” Kamara said. “Ryan is not in his race car from when he wakes up till he goes to sleep. That is a small part of his life obviously that is career but everything else he is doing. He still has to walk around and be Ryan Vargas.”
Vargas will look to continue to impress Kamara, as well other potential sponsors this weekend at the Daytona International Speedway road course, where he start 12th on Saturday, looking to build off an 18th place finish last week.