CLEARWATER — Ethan Low will spend much of his last semester at Clearwater High School on racecar tracks around the nation thanks to a hefty sponsorship by his hometown tourism agency, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater.
The 18-year-old will advertise the sunny destination where he grew up with the agency’s logo emblazoned on the hood of his Porsche Cayman as he speeds down 10 tracks in many of this area’s biggest tourism markets, such as New York and Toronto.
The $20,000 sponsorship helps Low compete in this year’s IMSA Continental Tire Series, a professional racing circuit the teen expects to launch his career as a driver.
For Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, supporting a rising star born and raised in the community was a unique marketing opportunity that could get attention from scores of fans in stadiums in every corner of North America.
“The weather is always great here. You have a bunch of events always going on that are family-friendly. You can go relax there, take your mind off a lot of things and you can also go have fun,” Low said of his home in Clearwater.
“At the moment, I’m chasing the dream. VSPC has been awesome enough to make that happen,” he said.
While the agency routinely puts dollars behind big sports events in the local area, such as the Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg and the Outback Bowl, which garner large crowds and national media coverage, sponsoring an aspiring local athlete is a new endeavor.
“He’s young. He’s eager. He’s got a great reputation and he’s getting on the radar in places like Sebring and Daytona,” said David Downing, the agency’s executive director.
“He’s our local guy. This is his hometown. His circuit goes through some of our key feeder markets.”
Low’s chosen profession also taps into the agency’s new marketing campaign called “Live Amplified,” which is aimed specifically at a younger demographic.
“The guy drives 150 to 170 miles an hour in a Porsche; that’s about as ‘Living Amplified’ as you can get,” Downing said.
The Continental Tire Series isn’t directly related to St. Petersburg’s well-known race, the Grand Prix, which brings IndyCars onto a track that runs along the downtown waterfront.
It was that race, though, that really sold a then 11-year-old boy on pursuing a professional racing career.
“Most of my years growing up, I’d always ask my mom and dad, can I go racing? No,” Low said.
Mom and dad finally yielded after that experience at the Grand Prix.
Their son’s early success as a champion go-kart driver shifted to sports cars in 2013.
Now he is entering his rookie season of pro racing after wins on tracks across the country in a form of competition called “endurance racing,” where cars circle the track for more than two hours.
Low and his manager sought out the tourism agency several months ago and determined a sponsorship would be a “win-win” by supporting the young driver’s career financially and promoting the destination to new audiences at stadiums and on television.
His season currently is in progress, with a race coming up Friday in Sebring, and it will run into October, meaning he has got a lot of homework to catch up on.
Clearwater High has been “fantastic” about working with him to keep up even with all the travel and 12-hour practice days, Low says.
After graduation, he has no immediate plans to leave his home as he continues to pursue his career.
“I plan on staying in Clearwater as along as possible, as long as I can,” he said. “Why move?”