SBJ/May 7-13, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, as does NASCAR

NASCAR plans to toast its champion in Las Vegas for the next three years.

NASCAR President Mike Helton speaks during last year’s awards ceremony in Las Vegas.
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The series signed a new, three-year agreement with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to continue to host its Champion’s Week event in the city. Financial terms of the agreement weren’t available, but the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is paying NASCAR to bring the event back to the city.

The two parties have been negotiating the deal since last fall when NASCAR’s prior three-year agreement ended.

“Both sides wanted to make sure that the agreement that we have moving forward is the right one,” said NASCAR Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps. “They’ve got many hotels that are part of their group, and we needed to make sure as we were structuring things that we had events at a multitude of hotels.”

Julian Dugas, executive director of the convention and visitors authority, said, “When we do events, we always try to spread the love. When it was all said and done everyone realized where they were was the best place and they were in fact spreading the love.”

As it did last year, NASCAR will be holding its marquee event — the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards — at the Wynn. The event will be held Nov. 30, bringing an end to a weeklong celebration of the sport that Phelps said will look almost identical to what’s been done in past years.

Events last year included a Pit Stop Tour event that featured the top 12 drivers playing a “Newlywed Game”-type competition; the annual Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon for the champion crew chief and sponsor; the NASCAR Victory Lap where the 12 drivers took their cars down the strip; and the NASCAR After The Lap event where drivers spoke on a panel for fans.

The NASCAR industry will kick off the week with the Motorsports Marketing Forum hosted by SportsBusiness Journal/Daily, which NASCAR has signed on to sponsor for the second consecutive year. The conference will be held Nov. 27-28.

Phelps said NASCAR is looking at other events it might add for fans and corporate guests, but he said it would be premature to speculate on what those might be.

In 2009, teams welcomed NASCAR’s decision to relocate Champion’s Week from New York to Las Vegas because it allowed them to reduce travel costs and leave a city where many felt, after 17 years, the event had become stale. Some team executives at the time lamented the loss of media exposure in leaving New York, but they have supported the event and used it to entertain clients and reward employees during the last three years.

The sport plans to continue to spend aggressively to encourage its fans to come to Las Vegas for the annual celebration. It promoted its Champion’s Week during radio broadcasts of races throughout the Chase for the Sprint Cup last season to encourage fans to come to Las Vegas.

It also will encourage its sponsors to promote the event through special sweepstakes. Last year, NASCAR and Ford collaborated to host a sweepstakes called “Send Me to Vegas.”

“Every year it’s going to grow, and every year we’re going to have an opportunity to use it to promote our message that we’re a champion city,” said Dugas, who added that the city also hosts the NHL’s year-end celebration. “We want Las Vegas to be seen as the place to go for sports.”

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