Bubba Wallace, Columbia Sportswear sign sponsorship deal

Driver Bubba Wallace stands during the national anthem before a NASCAR Cup Series auto race, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Driver Bubba Wallace stands during the national anthem before a NASCAR Cup Series auto race, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Corporate interest in Bubba Wallace has picked up momentum and NASCAR's only Black full-time driver has signed a new sponsor that includes funding for his Richard Petty Motorports team.

Columbia Sportswear Co. on Wednesday announced a multiyear sponsorship with Wallace as a brand ambassador that will also put the company on the No. 43 at Dover later this month and one to two other races not yet announced.

Wallace, in his third full season at NASCAR's top Cup Series level, has gained national attention over the last several months as an activist. He successfully pushed NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at its events, promotes a message of “compassion, love, understanding” in his quest for inclusivity and has led the conversation among his peers about racial equality.

Joe Boyle, Columbia Brand president, told The Associated Press the company took notice of Wallace during the coronavirus pandemic when NASCAR was one of the first sports to return to competition in May. It gave Wallace the spotlight during national unrest over racial inequalities.

“With COVID there's not a lot of sports that have been on and with popular culture and everything Bubba has stood up for, we had really been watching him as he rose to national attention,” Boyle said. “Everything he stood for, in terms of his fortitude, courage, conviction around what he is standing up for, that's what really Columbia has stood up for all these years, as well.”

Wallace is an outdoors enthusiast and budding photographer. As discussions on sponsorship began, Wallace sent the company photographs of himself wearing a prized bright yellow ski jacket that was his first Columbia apparel purchase.

“It wasn't the (activism) that stood out for us, it was that he grew up in the outdoors,” Boyle said. “His favorite activities to do outside the track is photography, hiking, biking, golf — it's just a natural fit.”

Columbia is an established brand in active outdoor lifestyle apparel, footwear, accessories and equipment. It plans to use the deal with Wallace — its first NASCAR driver and team sponsorship agreement — to promote its product lines.