At Daytona International Speedway in January, a high-performance Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport car made its global competition debut as it reached speeds of nearly 170 miles per hour on its way to a third-place finish and a place on the podium.
The sleek racing machine, with its metallic black hood and gunmetal body with a brownish tint, is peppered with advertisements from the types of companies that typically sponsor racing events, such as Champion spark plugs, Continental tires and the French oil company Total. But a prominently displayed sponsor of car number 33—with its name festooned across the hood, grill area and doors—is One Capital Management LLC, a Los Angeles-area independent wealth management firm.
For One Capital, its sponsorship of one of the two Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport cars owned by CJ Wilson Racing that compete in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge circuit is a bold, non-traditional attempt to reach a certain market demographic. But it’s also uncharacteristic of One Capital’s usual operating philosophy.
“We as a firm don’t usually do sponsorships like this; it has not been a part of our corporate culture,” says Brad Barrett, managing director at the Westlake Village, Calif.-based firm. “This is our first season with them and we have done three races, and it has progressed from there as a business development angle.”
Specifically, One Capital’s presence in the IMSA paddock has helped the firm forge relationships with key people in the motor sports and automotive industries, and appears to be opening doors for potential business opportunities down the road.
One Capital’s high-profile partnership with CJ Wilson Racing will ultimately produce a sponsorship in the six-figure range. It’s a pricey gambit that most independent wealth management firms wouldn’t be willing to take.
But on a smaller scale, other registered investment advisors have participated in lower-cost sponsorship deals for teams or events as a marketing tool to appeal to specific demographics and, hopefully, attract new clients. A small sample of them suggests the results have been mixed.
One Capital’s path into the world of motor sports was greased by its sports and entertainment group, one of several practices within the firm that also include retirement plans, insurance services, subadvisory work for broker-dealers and a family office, all under the umbrella of holistic private wealth management. The company’s founder, Donald McDonald, is a Canadian who came to the U.S. in the late-’90s to open a private client practice in the L.A. area for Assante Asset Management, with a focus on catering to sports and entertainment clientele. He eventually started One Capital in 2001. Today, the firm has about 1,800 clients with more than $920 million in assets under management.
One Capital maintains a strong cross-border financial planning business in Canada, and its presence both in that country and in the world of professional sports led to an introduction to Danny Burkett of Winnipeg, one of the drivers on the CJ Wilson Racing team. A mutual connection brought together One Capital and Burkett to help with his finances, and it was during a discussion in mid-2015, which also included team owner C.J. Wilson and his attorneys, that things clicked and a lightbulb went on for One Capital.
“It was one of those meetings where it hits you that there is a lot of synergy that you can somewhat quantify but you know it would be a great partnership based on how we do business and how they do business,” Barrett recalls. “Add in C.J. Wilson’s enthusiasm for racing, and it was something we wanted to be a part of.”
Baseball fans should recognize C.J. Wilson’s name: the 35-year-old southpaw pitcher appeared in two World Series with the Texas Rangers before signing a huge free-agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He was recently on the disabled list with shoulder problems and was making rehab starts in hopes of rejoining the team by midseason. Fans also might know him from the Head & Shoulders commercial where he’s in his Angels uniform and a pretty woman is enraptured while sniffing his thick brown mane.
For Wilson, his racing team is a way to promote his post-baseball career plans in the automotive retail business, which includes the recent opening of his McLaren dealership in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge where CJ Wilson Racing competes is overseen by the International Motor Sports Association, the NASCAR-owned sanctioning body of sports car and endurance racing in North America. According to CJ Wilson Racing’s spokesman, the team competes in what is effectively the second tier of professional sports car racing, or the “AAA” level in baseball terms.
Porsche’s Cayman GT4 Clubsport cars that power the CJ Wilson Racing team are the racing version of the Cayman GT4 line, which is a mid-engine car that’s important to Porsche’s longer-range plans as it expands beyond its long-standing rear-engine 911 platform. The IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge is where automakers—Porsche, Audi, BMW, Aston Martin and others—race their high-performance sports cars.
One Capital’s involvement in this milieu of high-powered cars is letting it rub shoulders with high-powered individuals. “Auto racing is like horse racing in that it’s a ‘sport of kings,’” Barrett says. “The sponsors are corporate businesses who have relationships with the team, and it’s not just the sales guys who are there but the CEOs, too—it’s a hands-on interest sport, so the connection points in the paddock are amazing.
“For example,” he adds, “we have been in discussion with a company regarding their retirement planning, and a major sponsor of IMSA—which is the race series—happens to be the parent company. So when it comes to seven degrees of separation, this happened within the first month of being involved with the race team.”