SBJ/November 12 - 18, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

NASCAR sells presenting deal for weekly series

Dodge will become presenting sponsor of NASCAR's Weekly Racing Series in a deal industry sources say is worth $6 million over three years.

Dodge will spend at least $2 million a year to support the program.

Under the deal, Dodge gets its logos on every track, every driver and every car in the "short-track" series. It also gets one "Dodge Night" at every track in the circuit, which operates behind the Winston Cup, Busch Series and Craftsman Truck circuits as NASCAR's minor league feeder system in about 90 small towns. The grassroots aspect of this sponsorship is precisely what attracted Dodge.

"We wanted a property we could take to our local dealers to leverage," said Bo Puffer, Dodge's NASCAR marketing specialist. "This will be a success or failure based on how our dealers utilize it."

Dodge is hoping to craft a template that will include dealer hospitality at tracks, display of Dodge competition cars at dealers and test drives at or near tracks that participate in the circuit. Because of the sweeping nature of the deal, Dodge signage will appear on cars from other manufacturers that are driven by the roughly 10,000 who compete in the series. Since GM is the predominant brand on the circuit, Dodge hopes its sponsorship will help persuade some of those drivers to switch vehicles.

While Dodge isn't quite an official NASCAR sponsor, as a series sponsor it is as close to parity with official car GM and official truck Ford as it can get without unseating one of those rivals. Even in NASCAR, the rights are less than clear: Dodge can cross-promote with other NASCAR corporate sponsors. Dodge can't use the NASCAR or Winston Cup mark as a stand-alone mark but could do so with a Winston Cup partner.

"Dodge is straight in the middle of the NASCAR family now, but they are not an official [NASCAR] partner," said Brett Yormark, NASCAR's corporate marketing vice president.

Dodge has been a sponsor of the Craftsman Truck Series since 1995. In the last year it has re-entered the premiere Winston Cup circuit, after a 20-year absence.

Selling a title sponsorship for the weekly series is no longer an imperative for NASCAR, butYormark said it's still for sale. R.J. Reynolds pulled its Winston brand's name off the series in 1999 as part of its tobacco litigation settlement but has been funding the circuit anyway.

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