Mid America Mortgage is taking to the racetrack to promote its new consumer direct digital mortgage process with a NASCAR sponsorship of Richard Petty Motorsports.

The nonbank lender will sponsor the Petty team's No. 43 car in 2018, and inked a deal with the sanctioning body to serve as the "Official Mortgage Provider of NASCAR."

Image: Mid America Mortgage

Mid America's consumer direct brand, "Click n' Close," leverages digital mortgage automation in both the front-end application process and final closing. The company claims the average borrower can complete an initial loan application in eight minutes and that its closing process, which uses electronic promissory notes, can be completed in 15 minutes.

The announcement was made Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, the site of this weekend's races in each of NASCAR's three national divisions and near Mid America's headquarters in the Dallas suburb of Addison. Click n' Close will be the primary sponsor for the season-opening Daytona 500, as well as races in Phoenix and Fort Worth. Financial terms were not disclosed, but this type of sponsorship typically runs in the single-digit millions of dollars.

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Click n' Close NASCAR sponsorship

The Mid America sponsorship comes during a critical transition period for the Petty organization. Current sponsor Smithfield Foods is moving its program to another team, citing lackluster on-track performance. The race team is vacating its existing shop and may be switching its manufacturer alliance from Ford to Chevrolet next year. Details about the make of the No. 43 car were conspicuously omitted from the press release announcing the Mid America sponsorship.

Most importantly, the team is switching drivers next year, putting Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. behind the wheel of the No. 43 car made famous by hall of fame team co-owner Richard Petty. Wallace will be the first full-time African-American driver in NASCAR's Cup Series since Wendell Scott in 1963 (the 1977 Richard Pryor film "Greased Lightning" is loosely based on Scott's life).

Mid America's decision to align its brand with the social media savvy 24-year-old comes at a time when the organizations throughout mortgage industry are stepping up efforts to better engage with millennial and minority consumers and expand their use of social media.

The Click n' Close strategy is similar to the approach that Quicken Loans has taken with its Rocket Mortgage brand, though the two companies have taken distinct journeys to get here. Mid America began its digital migration by focusing on the electronic closings and e-notes, including a correspondent investor platform for smaller lenders to originate e-notes and sell them to Mid America. Meanwhile, Quicken Loans — the longtime poster child of tech-savvy mortgage lending and a NASCAR sponsor since 2011 — emphasized the upfront application process with Rocket and only just recently announced it would start closing mortgages electronically.

Mortgage industry NASCAR sponsorships were quite common in the years leading up to the housing crisis. Mid America and Quicken are among a number of financial institutions slowly returning to NASCAR, and sports marketing in general, after a long hiatus. Walter Investment Management Corp.'s Ditech brand sponsored a team from 2014 to 2016, before undergoing a massive restructuring effort amid mounting financial losses.

Bank of America, CreditOne Bank and Fifth Third Bank, as well as payments vendors First Data and Visa are all current NASCAR sponsors. And the co-owner of Richard Petty Motorsports is Andrew Murstein, the founder and president of Medallion Financial Corp., an investment company that got its start offering taxi medallion financing and has since expanded to consumer lending.

Austin Kilgore

Austin Kilgore

Austin Kilgore is the editor in chief of National Mortgage News.