Spirit Rises at PMAA

Association gasoline brand adds turnkey backoffice services

Published in CSP Daily News

LAFAYETTE, La. -- Nearly six years after forming its Spirit Petroleum brand to give its members a gasoline-brand alternative, the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA) has licensed more than 300 sites, selling more than 150 million gallons of fuel in 2007. And the association is now offering a broad range of ala-carte services to its licensees, expanding its offer beyond Spirit-branded gas stations.

Spirit president Vera Haskins announced a partnership with U.S. Bank Voyager Fleet Systems yesterday. The deal enables Spirit to provide turnkey options such as low-rate credit-card [image-nocss] processing, a Spirit Fleet Card, gateway networking services, ATM, inventory management, accounting and wholesale solutions, tank monitoring and check verification.

Haskins told CSP Daily News the agreement was the result of a year-long search. The announcement coincides with the launch of the Spirit website, www.spiritpetroleum.com.

“This is probably the most exciting time for us since the creation of the company because it indicates we have reached that growth level where we can bring these kinds of programs to our licensees,” Haskins said. “On day one, when we had our first station, our negotiating powers were limited, but now we have people coming to us wanting to do business, and that 's a nice feeling. Spirit 's getting people 's attention now.”

Spirit was created in 2002 to present a positive alternative to qualifying members of the nonprofit PMAA 's 46 state associations. More than half of the licensees have branded multiple locations. Haskins said the number of locations is less important than the fulfillment of Spirit 's mission.

“Spirit was created to meet a need that marketers have,” she said. “If that meant one station or 10,000 stations, as long as we were meeting those marketers ' needs, we were happy. It 's definitely designed and created for people who want to control their destiny, meaning the marketer who wants to make his own decisions.”

Spirit has no strict criteria for potential licensees, and none of the turnkey solutions are mandatory.

“Is it a place you would like your mother to go?” Haskins cited as a light-hearted standard for the brand. “Basically, it 's clean. The image has to be maintained, freshly painted. It doesn 't have to be a big, flashy site. We 've got one site up in northern Michigan that in a really good month might get a couple loads [of gasoline], and we 've got a site that does over a million gallons a month.”

Acknowledging that not all locations are right for the Spirit brand, Haskins said marketers can use the new programs, without taking on the full Spirit offer, by signing up for a special license. Among these new services is a credit card processing agreement with National Bankcard Services (NBS), through which Spirit has negotiated for a competitive rate significantly lower than the industry average. Other highlights include the new Spirit Fleet Card featuring “easy implementation, cards accepted inside or pay-at-the-pump, a variety of optional discount programs, improved cash flow and no administrative or regulatory expenses,” according to a press release.

California and Louisiana have the most Spirit sites. Haskins said that 's because consumers in those areas in particular are more receptive to unbranded stations.

“We 're starting to get a lot more people asking about the brand in areas that we 've not heard from before, such as up in New England,” said Haskins.