By admin | December 28, 2008
By Richard Allen
I read a story in the Sports Business Journal the other day which pointed out that NASCAR will be entering 2009 with perhaps as many as ten fewer official partners than they have had in years past. This year in particular there are openings in four major areas of corporate partnerships with the sanctioning body. Each of these sponsorships have typically netted NASCAR millions of dollars each per year.
Home Depot, Enterprise Rent-a-car, Dominos Pizza and Kodak each failed to renew their agreements with NASCAR and thus left a void in each of those business categories when it comes to official partnerships.
This story made me more than a little angry. NASCAR apparently has a staff of people out looking for replacements for these companies so they can rake in more cash while at the same time the teams who actually compete in the sport are dying for lack of sponsorship.
Venerable teams such as Petty Enterprises and Wood Brothers Racing are on the verge of extinction because of the expense of racing.
NASCAR has created an environment which causes teams to spend millions to survive and hope to be competitive. Yet the sanctioning body seems more worried about making sure all of their billboard space is filled while at the same time garage doors all over the Charlotte area close. The Car of Tomorrow, an exhausting schedule and a variety of other factors have driven costs so high that even the most powerful teams in the sport are in a position of having to layoff employees.
Teams, not corporate partners, are the life blood of the sport. NASCAR should have as its top priority helping its teams find backers, and then not running those sponsors off when the sanctioning body itself signs a new agreement with some company and grants said company exclusivity.
After their teams are taken care of, the folks in Daytona Beach can worry about what home improvement warehouse to shop in, what pizza to eat, where to rent a car and the type of camera to use.
What NASCAR is doing seems as strange as a person finding out he has a serious internal disease and deciding the best way to take care of it is to go to the mall and buy new clothing so he will look nice rather than getting the medicine he needs.
I know it costs a lot to run the business NASCAR runs and I know corporate partners are necessary. However, those partners are not more necessary than having cars on the track. Fans are not going to buy tickets to come look at all the pretty billboards that ring a facility with no cars going around it.
What is NASCAR going to tell its remaining corporate partners this season when only 35-36 cars show up to race in front of a half empty grandstand somewhere?
NASCAR needs corporate partners. But, it needs healthy teams more. In times such as these, priorities are very important.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday
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