National outdoors retailer Gander Mountain. Co. said Wednesday it will sponsor Bowyer's car for the NASCAR Sprint Cup NRA 500 in Texas next week with a paint scheme that includes the words: "With Rights Comes Responsibility; Secure Your Firearms."
Bowyer, an avid outdoorsman who keeps his guns locked up, said it is "a great message" he fully supports.
"We know there's a lot of debate around firearms ownership and it's very significant right now in our country," said Steve Uline, executive vice-president of marketing for Gander Mountain. "But the one thing that we feel very strongly is that it's the personal responsibility of everyone that owns a firearm or is thinking about owning a firearm. That responsibility is paramount, and it's not something that's optional."
Gander Mountain's partnership with Bowyer is part of an initiative the company is also launching in its stores and through newspaper ads in markets where its stores are located. Uline said Gander's partnership with MWR and Bowyer provides an ideal stage, with a prime-time race with a national television audience, to deliver its message of responsible firearms ownership.
Bowyer drives the No. 15 car for Michael Waltrip Racing, which for the season-opening Daytona 500 had Waltrip driving a Toyota with a paint scheme supporting a relief fund for victims of the Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, Conn.
Texas Motor Speedway announced last month that the National Rifle Association would be the title sponsor for the April 13 race. TMS president Eddie Gossage said then that the NRA's sponsorship was "not about politics. It's about sports marketing."
Uline said the "NRA has their own messaging" and that he believes it is important for Gander to stay on point with its own message.
"Ours is 100 per cent around personal responsibility and keeping firearms out of the hands of underaged, untrained and unauthorized people," Uline said.
Uline said Gander Mountain, a St. Paul, Minn.-based company with 119 stores in 24 states, knew it would be in position to launch their initiative in April. He said the company looked at different avenues, and NASCAR made a lot of sense with Bowyer a perfect partner.
"The fact that the NRA was on that (race) was not by any means the deciding factor," he said.
Bowyer said part of the personal responsibility is making sure that firearms are securely stored with gun safes and trigger locks.
"A lot of the people that have guns say that they're practicing these things," Bowyer said. "Truth be told, if you go and check yourself, you can usually do a lot more. That's the biggest thing."
Beginning Friday, Gander Mountain is encouraging firearms owners to take a responsibility pledge on the company's website and use (hashtag)responsibilitypledge in social media to encourage responsible gun ownership.
"The race track and racing fans are the perfect environment in which to launch our responsible ownership initiative," Uline said.