Novo Nordisk and Indy Driver Charlie Kimball: Perhaps the Longest Lasting Celebrity-Pharma Partnership! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Every racecar driver has sponsors. But not every driver depends on its car sponsor the way Charlie Kimball does: He has type 1 diabetes and uses Novo Nordisk ($NVO) meds daily. And not every sponsor gets the articulate marketing backup that Kimball provides.


Last weekend, Kimball finished his 100th race in the Novo Nordisk IndyCar with no signs of slowing down the successful partnership.


Kimball first met with Novo Nordisk in 2008, introduced by his endocrinologist a year after finding out at that he had Type 1 diabetes. He was already using Novo treatments, and so his doctor thought the pharma might be interested in the young race car driver's story. The company was. Novo Nordisk and Kimball struck a partnership in 2009, starting with the brand on his racing suit and a few speaking engagements.


Novo first signed on as Kimball's primary car sponsor in 2011 under the Chip Ganassi Racing team. While details of that deal aren't public, Bloomberg estimates that the cost of a primary Indy car sponsorship starts at $5 million to $9 million for the side pod, another $1 million to $2 million for the front wind and $300,000-$900,000 for the cockpit and tail.


But the team-up soon expanded beyond paint colors and car logos. Impressed with Kimball's combination of driving grit and genuine dedication to fans and diabetes awareness, Novo rolled out the “Race With Insulin” education campaign in 2013 [This is incorrect. Pharmaguy blogged about the @racewithinsulin campaign back in 2009. See here; Also, listen to this 2009 interview: “Novo Nordisk's Race With Insulin Campaign: It's Not Just About Twitter”; ]. That same year, Kimball became the first driver with Type 1 diabetes to win a major IndyCar race.


Celebrity endorsements are not always so cohesive and effective. Brands can run into issues that cause celebs to disavow them, as Sarah Jessica Parker recently did with Mylan's EpiPen amid the company's pricing debacle. Other times, as Novo knows, celebrities' behavior can cause a rift: The Danish drugmaker faced negative publicity and a split with Paula Deen after she admitted to using racist language [read “Should Novo Nordisk Dump Deen?; - They did!].


Meanwhile, November is Diabetes Awareness Month, coming just after the season ends, and Kimball will spend the month traveling with Novo Nordisk and other ambassadors, including basketball player Dominque Wilkins, country music singer RaeLynn, actor Ben Vereen and rapper Rev Run, sharing their stories at speaking engagements and events.