NASCAR: The Fan & Sponsor relationship.

In recent years we have seen a decline in sponsorship in NASCAR. This has led to smaller fields, less drivers, and more Cup drivers stinking up Xfinity events. Big sponsors want big names, because big names sell. Owners want big sponsors because racing costs big time money. So what has changed with sponsorship since the 1960’s? Why is it that a sport who once had the most loyal fans now struggles to find sponsors?

Back in the day a local McDonald’s would sponsor a driver, like Richard Childress. They might throw him some money but would likely throw them food for the weekend. If he ran good and the McDonald’s saw a spike in their business from the weekend, they might sponsor him the next time he was at that track.

Then came corporate sponsorship. Corporations would sponsor a driver for the year. They would track sales week to week depending upon which track they were at and look for sales spikes in those regions. It was the old adage of, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.” While we hear this with car manufacturers, it was true for all sponsors.

This period lasted for a few decades. Then came the Internet. Instead of going to establishments we started ordering online. Retailers and sponsors no longer saw more faces coming in their door. Sales spikes are no longer regional. Some of this was fended off by sales of branded NASCAR merchandise. But it only takes so long before companies are no longer seeing returns. It’s not that returns aren’t there, it’s that they aren’t seen.

If you shop at Jimmy Johns because Kevin Harvick has their logo on his car, they don’t know. Maybe they saw an initial spike with their first year of sponsorship. Maybe they find it good association, but what happens if another sport comes along and wants to give them a cheaper alternative?  There’s a chance they will leave, because it’s cheaper. I’m not saying this is going to happen, it’s a hypothetical. However, it can happen.

What separates NASCAR fans from other sports fans? We are loyal to our sponsors. It’s why I still buy Tide. It’s why I will shop at Bass Pro if they get anywhere near me. It’s why I look for Dow products. We all do this.

But do companies know this? Serious question. The last time you bought a NASCAR associated product how did they know? What makes you different from the guy on the other side of the country that just picked that up off the shelf? How do companies know they should sponsor and keep sponsoring drivers in NASCAR?

The answer my friends, we have to do some work. Yes, as fans of this sport WE have to do some work. It’s time that we use technology to our benefit, it’s time we use it to communicate. Yes, we have to tell the companies outright, “Hey I buy because of…” I know, I know. Companies should be able to figure this out for themselves but in this globally connected world with all the data, it’s hard to see.

If we want to see our sport continue, if we want to see it grow again, if we want to stop its decline, we have to take the initiative. Write an email, write a letter, call if you want but start telling companies you support them because they support the sport you love. It pays off in so many ways!

Quick example. At my home track, Road America, the cheese company Sargento sponsors a bridge. The first year NASCAR was there they also sponsored a driver, Tim George Jr who drove the number 21 car for Richard Childress Racing. After that race I emailed Sargento and thanked them for sponsoring the car and the bridge. I told them it was important to me that they supported a sport I love. I received a beautiful letter back from the head of marketing at Sargento thinking me for the feedback and how grateful they were to know that I wrote. Along with that letter, I received 2 coupons, as soon as they were used I got 2 more and after those were used I got 2 more. They were able to tell that their marketing worked. With the coupons they were able to tell that I was true to my word and was picking Sargento cheese over any others.

One more example, a few weeks ago I Tweeted E-Hydrate and thanked them for sponsoring Derrike Cope Racing. Shortly thereafter I logged onto their website and ordered a sample pack of their product. I made sure to let them know that I purchased this, let them know that their marketing worked. They are still sponsoring Derrike even after missing 2 races this year. Other sponsors may have pulled out, E-Hydrate has stayed on. I can only guess this is because they realize without the NASCAR fans their small company wouldn’t be able to get its name out on such a large scale.

All that said, I have a challenge for each and every person who reads this… Do work. Tweet a sponsor. Email a sponsor. Write q sponsor. Let your sponsors know that you choose them because they choose you. If we don’t start now, it’s only a matter of time before NASCAR becomes F1 stock cars, 22 cars, 11 teams, untouchable and unapproachable drivers.

We already have drivers who have become so arrogant that they cannot be bothered with fans. We know who they are. We bitch about them when we stand around at the track. Tell their sponsors that, “Your driver was an ass to me, sponsor someone who is good with fans and I will buy your product.” As fans we have a voice, as consumers we have a very powerful voice. When we use them together, we can change the whole direction of the sport.

Thank you for reading, I’ll see you from the box.

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