SBD/Issue 102/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • NASCAR Listening To Fans, Sponsors, Teams When Making Changes

    NASCAR President Mike Helton Says League
    Using Fan Input To Improve The Sport
    NASCAR has "made several changes in the last nine months," and NASCAR officials said that the league made those changes, "in part, because it is listening to fans as well as sponsors, race teams and race tracks," according to Bob Pockrass of NASCAR President Mike Helton: "We're listening to the whole sport. We figured out a better method to listen (online), which helps us to hear fans. We have got better systems internally to where we can process all that." But he added, "We're never going to have an answer that is absolutely perfect for everybody's situation. I hope what everybody gets from this is we are trying, and we are listening and we have been for some time." Helton indicated that start-and-park teams are "part of the system." He said that NASCAR "must make sure that there is an opportunity for anyone who wants to field [an entry] to have a qualified driver to try to qualify for a race." Helton: "There are teams that are trying to become regular competitors in NASCAR. What you don't want to do is create a situation that prevents somebody from having that opportunity." Pockrass noted the fact that NASCAR's auto manufacturers, "as well as the overall economy, are more stable gives Helton a good feeling going into this season of change." Helton said, "Every season is critical for NASCAR. Standing here in 2010, there's a good deal more optimism than there was this time last year" (, 2/6).

    TRACKING CHANGES: Helton said, "Some of the filtering process takes a while and qualifying what we do and how we get to the point of doing it takes us longer than even we would like and certainly fans or the other stakeholders would like. But I think the big message today is that NASCAR itself and the stakeholders ... are listening and trying to adapt." Meanwhile, YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Hart wrote there are "three things NASCAR does right." NASCAR has a "willingness to change," it "produces the tightest racing in the world," and the league "takes safety seriously." Hart also listed "three changes NASCAR should consider." NASCAR should "shorten the schedule," limit teams to "four cars only" and "give more incentive to win" (, 2/8).

    PERSONALITY TEST: In Orlando, Tania Ganguli notes drivers during last year's recession had "become afraid to be themselves." In an economic climate "where sponsors are cutting their budgets, drivers didn't want to offend corporations." NASCAR CMO Steve Phelps: "The sponsors are in a little bit of a box, too. They want to make sure their brand is being represented as well as it can be. Having a driver that's a good corporate citizen is important to them." NASCAR has "spoken to six to eight major sponsors about how an emotional driver could benefit them." Phelps: "What we did was let them understand you want your driver to show emotions, you want your driver to be himself. There are certainly boundaries to that but keeping them in tight box is not the best for the driver. ... If the driver is just going to be vanilla, always have that corporate speak the fan base will start to dissipate." Drivers also are "trying to determine those boundaries," as some brands are "more receptive to bold personalities than others" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/9).

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  • Danica Mania In High Gear As She Prepares For Nationwide Race

    Patrick Will Compete In Her First Nationwide
    Series Race Saturday At Daytona Int'l Speedway
    The "hype machine will go to full power" as Danica Patrick "prepares to make her NASCAR debut" on Saturday, according to Godwin Kelly of the Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL. Patrick will drive the No. 7 Chevy for JR Motorsports in Saturday's DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona Int'l Speedway (DIS), the season-opening race for the Nationwide Series. Patrick "may have got a slight nudge" to participate in the race from Go Daddy Founder & CEO Bob Parsons, whose company is a primary sponsor of Patrick and is funding JR Motorsports efforts. Kelly notes Patrick is "riding an incredible media-marketing wave, which started when she arrived" in Daytona to race in Saturday's ARCA Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 and "continued with two Super Bowl commercials Sunday." DIS President Robin Braig said Patrick has a "rock-star quality." He said having her race Saturday is "fabulous news across the board," and it is a "win-win for everyone" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 2/9). Braig: "You can hear the collective applause from our ticket office. Our phone lines lit up this morning. This is fabulous news for us in a tough economic time." Braig "expects ticket sales to jump at least" 10%, and he has "already ordered Danica T-shirts and other merchandise." Braig: "It's huge. A real windfall for us."'s David Newton noted it is a "win-win." Patrick wins because she "gains experience around some of the best drivers in the world," and Go Daddy, NASCAR and DIS "will win because of the exposure." Even ESPN "will win because there will be more than the normal number of viewers for the broadcast on ESPN2" (, 2/8).

    CENTER OF ATTENTION: In N.Y., Richard Huff wrote Patrick racing Saturday is "terrible news for everyone else in the race." If Speed's telecast of Saturday's ARCA race is "any indication, the other drivers, win or lose, will be an afterthought." Speed's coverage was "so targeted on Patrick, that the broadcasters occasionally had to remind themselves there actually were other drivers in the race." Huff: "Given the way the ARCA race revolved around Patrick, Parsons made a wise investment in sponsoring Patrick, provided, of course, fans don't get sick of the ongoing fawning in the TV booth to the detriment of other drivers" (, 2/8). In Philadelphia, Bob Ford writes, "The Danica phenomenon is just another lowest-common-denominator example of American marketing. Women can get just as much credit as a man, but, uh, only if they're good looking" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/9).

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  • League Notes

    Writer Calls Smith Radical
    Departure From Upshaw
    In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell writes amid all the "good times and luxurious parties" in South Florida last week ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl, there was a "cloud of labor gloom." At the NFLPA's press conference on Thursday, it was "important to observe that there was something different about the man standing up there on the stage in front of a room full of reporters and television cameras." NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith "used this first time in the full national spotlight to essentially present his opening argument on the most high-profile trial of his professional life: the NFLPA vs. the National Football League." The public "hasn't seen anyone quite like Smith in the pro football labor battle before," as he is a "radical departure" from late Exec Dir Gene Upshaw. As Smith "made his rounds with the media" last week, "you could tell that he will present a fascinating and personable foe in the public forum for the telegenic commissioner, Roger Goodell" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/9). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said the biggest offseason storyline in the NFL is the labor situation, and fans in '11 are "going to be looking at a league that wants to reset the economic model that they're working with." Wilbon: "There could very likely be a lockout and therefore, ultimately replacement games" ("PTI," ESPN, 2/9).

    CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR:'s Ian Thomsen wrote of NBA labor talks, "The truth is that no one can be sure what the negotiations between owners and players will bring. As much as many owners may wish for a hard cap with no allowance for a luxury tax or other vehicles that provide extra money to players, a hard cap will include aspects they won't like. For one thing, it will be harder than ever to make a trade if every team's payroll is bumping up against the impenetrable ceiling of a hard cap" (, 2/5).

    SNOWED OUT? MLS and the MLS Players Union had a CBA session scheduled for tomorrow in DC, where the union is headquartered, but it may be postponed due to the severe snowstorm there, according to a source. The MLS CBA expires on Friday, after which time players could strike, the league could lock them out or the two parties could agree to continue bargaining. The agreement was originally set to expire on January 31, but both the union and the league agreed to extend it until Friday (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).

    BUILDING THE SCHEDULE: The number of LPGA events this season is down from 34 in '08 to 25 this season, and golfer Paula Creamer said of rebounding from the lost events, "It's all about the sponsors and the relationships we have with them. If you don't have sponsors, you don't have events. I feel like those relationships have been hidden under the radar, whereas they need to be more of the 1-2 priorities in our commissioner's eyes." Creamer said new LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan "understands the corporate world," and his vision "seems right on track with what" the tour needs (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 2/8).

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