- Image by Logan Whitton/LAT

NASCAR: Title-contending owners see encouraging signs on sponsor front

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The four team owners for the championship-eligible drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series had their turn in front of the media at Homestead-Miami Speedway Friday morning. Amid questions about their respective seasons and organizations, the subject of sponsorship naturally came up — which brought an ironic twist as Joe Garone, president of Furniture Row Racing, sat and listened to his peers talk about the influx their teams have had with partners.

Furniture Row, of course, is running its final race this weekend. The team found no other way to keep going after the loss of 5-hour ENERGY sponsorship. The company served as a co-primary sponsor alongside Bass Pro Shops on Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Toyota for 30 races this season.

Walt Czarnecki, vice chairman of Team Penske, noted that the organization has its sponsor partner summit this weekend with the largest group it has had. Representatives of 40 companies are present, with 45 people working with Team Penske for the first time.

One of the number of different sponsored looks for Brad Keselowski’s Team Penske Ford

“And in the last 18 months, we’ve added 15 more,” said Czarnecki. “So, there’s an appetite out there as long as you’re delivering the value. Now, the ground rules have changed a little bit. We understand that. … Here we are in a situation where as an organization we have 40 different companies that work with us as sponsor partners, business partners, strategic partners on very many different levels. I think it’s indicative of the strength of the sport, that there’s still an appetite to get involved.”

But, hadn’t Furniture Row done everything right?

“That’s true, but companies are different, and companies change, and you have to recognize that,” Czarnecki said. “They have to understand what their individual priorities are. Theirs is a unique situation.”

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Garone offered this in response:

“It was absolutely unique. NASCAR is still a place to be for corporate sponsorship; there’s no question about it. When you look at where else corporate sponsorship can be, it can’t be in stick‑and‑ball sports, and we’re still drawing enormous crowds. So it does have to fit the partner. It’s got to fit their business model, and some of the sponsors have been around as many years as the one we lost — they flatten out, the economy changes, and sometimes they need to look for something different, and that was a unique situation.”

Joe Gibbs said NASCAR continues to work well economically for his organization. Gibbs fields 11 cars in four different series, including four in the Cup Series. Gibbs said his team has added nine new partners in the last year and a half.

“The fact that we have a window of 38 weekends — and I think last year in 22 of those we were first or second in TV and attention on the weekends,” said Gibbs. “And everybody today wants content, so that works. But I think also it’s B‑to‑B. It’s social and digital. It’s become a huge deal. NASCAR works, and I can say it works for us, and I just want to say that I think that was a great point that Walt made.”

At Stewart-Haas Racing, Tony Stewart said they also had new partners this season. Stewart spoke of how things have changed that have forced everyone to re-evaluate how advertising and marketing a product is done.

“It’s not necessarily like it was in the old days where it just was the thing to do,” Stewart said of racing sponsorships. “Now organizations and companies are more strategic about where they spend their advertising dollars, and the fact that you see so many new partners that come into the series are proof that it’s a very, very valuable asset to corporate America.”

Busch beer serves both as a primary sponsor on Kevin Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing Ford and as official sponsor of the Cup Series’ pole award. (Image by Matthew Thacker/NKP /LAT)

Ally Financial is replacing Lowe’s at Hendrick Motorsports in a full season. Lowe’s had been on the No. 48 car for the last 17 years. Other sponsors to have departed the sport in recent years include Target, Farmers Insurance, and Subway.

“I know that there’s downturn, everybody talks about things,” continued Gibbs. “But I would just say that there’s so many positives to this, and I think NASCAR is working extremely hard. Our meeting yesterday, all the things that we’re talking about doing — what are the ways we can strengthen our sport, some of the things we’ve done on the racetrack, segment racing and things that’s got excitement going.

“So I think a lot of sports are going through a time where there’s trouble, and they’ve got to work hard. I think we’re certainly working hard, and I know from (NASCAR chairman) Jim France on down, for us, to be quite truthful, it’s exciting. And it’s kind of exciting where we are.”

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