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DEE RAY is leaving Raycom Inc. at the end of the year to spend more time with her family and launch a public-speaking career (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 12/16)....IMG announced ROBERT KAIN, IAN TODD, and ALASTAIR JOHNSTON were promoted to newly created positions of Senior Exec VP to help direct the continued expansion of the company (IMG)....Liberty Sports' "Press Box" hired three anchors: ANDRE ALDRIDGE, RANDY SPARAGE, and PAUL SUNDERLAND. The nightly news show premieres January 1 (Liberty).
NBPA President BUCK WILLIAMS, on the current labor negotiations: "They take us for granted like all we can do is play the game. It's an attitude that has developed early on that has to be changed. ... We care just as much about professional basketball as Mr. Stern does. ... It would be foolish not to wonder where basketball is headed and not be prepared because the climate of professional sports has really changed" (MCCLATHCY NEWS, 12/16). Heavyweight Champ GEORGE FOREMAN will host the final telecast of "Saturday Night Live" tomorrow on NBC....GRANT HILL tells USA WEEKEND how he was "offended" during college recruiting by Georgetown, his first choice, when he was asked to read pages from a book out loud (USA TODAY, 12/16).
Yesterday, THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY spoke with Brian France, VP/Marketing & Corporate Communications for NASCAR, about the sport's successes in '94 and predictions for '95. France will be a featured speaker at the 17th International Sport Summit in New York on January 17-18. THE DAILY: Assess NASCAR's marketing for 1994. FRANCE: We had a banner year on all fronts, licensing, attendance, etc. We introduced a new product with NASCAR SuperTruck series by Craftsman. Obviously, we have very high hopes for that. THE DAILY: Is '95 the year that NASCAR breaks out of the stereotype of being a regional sport? FRANCE: You break out of that stigma by taking events to different parts of the country. We're going into Miami in '95 with a Busch Car National event. We're hopeful to be in Los Angeles in '96 or '97 with that new track. And we are also looking at the Pacific Rim, on an international basis. In Japan, we've had ongoing discussions and we are optimistic that those will bring some events overseas. THE DAILY: With surveys showing that brand loyalty is highest among NASCAR fans, have new companies stepped up to sponsor NASCAR events or cars? FRANCE: There are several new companies. What we're finding, though, is that the way to explain the loyalty is that NASCAR has taken itself beyond the traditional. We're a sport, obviously, but we're also a lifestyle. It distinguishes us from others and people are noticing how hot the lifestyle is for fans that follow NASCAR. THE DAILY: Are there new products on the horizon? FRANCE: Our licensing is really poised to do great things and we'll be ahead of the curve on some innovative areas there. Our numbers look like they'll push well beyond $600 million in licensing sales. We're still, obviously, behind the other leagues, but we are catching up. It's a respectable number. It's probably about where the NHL, or past the NHL, considering their struggles. Our apparel is doing real well. But, we've got an eye on an untapped market and that is automotive after-market situation. We're making some big strides there with various companies and we're gearing up for that. That market is everything from floor mats to air filters, to you name it. When it has to do with an automobile, we think a NASCAR line makes sense. And we're going to have a very big presence in that industry in the years to come. THE DAILY: How is NASCAR taking advantage of the legendary stars as a marketing opportunity? FRANCE: Richard Petty is still in the sport as a car owner. Bobby Allison and others are owners. That keeps them in the loop. Many of them are going into the car owning ranks and that's a major role, so they're not disappearing by any stretch. THE DAILY: Touch on some of the themes which you will speak about at the International Sport Summit. FRANCE: We're just going to talk about what we are familiar with. It's kind of difficult for us to speak to baseball dilemmas and labor problems, etc. Where NASCAR is going may be a departure from most sports leagues. We're really honing in on the lifestyle issue. That's what we'll be talking about. We're going to put all of our marketing effort behind that. We think that's what makes sense, and it has implications for everything we do. It is creating ways our fans can live a NASCAR lifestyle -- be it themed restaurants or retail stores or whatever licensing ventures fit nicely into what is already a NASCAR lifestyle.