SBJ/June 16-22, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Comcast Xfinity, NASCAR in talks for series title deal

NASCAR is in advanced talks with Comcast Xfinity about becoming title sponsor of the sport’s secondary series.

Nationwide Insurance, which has sponsored the series since 2007, is in the final year of its title sponsorship, and NASCAR has been looking for a replacement sponsor for the Nationwide Series since last fall.

Conversations with Xfinity, which is Comcast’s video service, have been going on for several months. Sources familiar with the negotiations said the parties have not reached a contract phase but that Comcast has emerged as a leading candidate for the sponsorship.

Nationwide is in the last year of its deal for the secondary series’ title sponsorship, which it bought in 2007.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES

NASCAR Chief Sales Officer Jim O’Connell said the company doesn’t comment on discussions with current or potential sponsors. He added, “With regards to the Nationwide Series, we’re speaking to a number of companies in a number of different industries.”

Comcast did not reply to a request for comment.

NASCAR is asking $12 million to $15 million annually in rights fees for the title sponsorship of the series. Media and activation commitments would take the total costs of the deal to more than $25 million.

The sanctioning body hopes to finalize a deal by late this summer and announce a partnership in the third quarter of this year. 

In addition to Comcast Xfinity, NASCAR has met with a number of companies in the auto aftermarket category, including Advance Auto Parts and AutoZone.

Comcast’s Xfinity emerged as a major sports sponsor during the last three years when it began partnering with professional sports teams in Comcast markets. It has more than a dozen sports sponsorships, including deals with the Atlanta Braves, Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers.

A deal to create the Xfinity Series would further entwine Comcast and NASCAR. Last year, Comcast-owned NBC Sports signed a 10-year, $4.4 billion deal to broadcast half of the Sprint Cup and half of the Nationwide Series seasons.

Under terms of most media rights agreements, TV partners commit to spend a certain amount of marketing dollars to promote the sport on an annual basis. Sources familiar with Comcast’s negotiations said that the company could count title sponsorship of the Xfinity Series and subsequent promotion of that series toward its NBC marketing commitment. That would allow the company to reduce some marketing costs while also promoting Xfinity.

O’Connell is spearheading the sales effort. He sold the Nationwide deal in 2007 and Camping World’s title sponsorship of the truck series in 2008. He also negotiated Sprint’s recent renewal for the top series through 2016 and Camping World’s renewal for the truck series through 2022.

Viewership for the Nationwide Series is flat this year. Through 12 events, it was averaging 1.8 million viewers per event on ESPN.

Nationwide Insurance is spending approximately $10 million in rights fees for title sponsorship of the series. Its total spend, which includes activation at track and media spending, is in excess of $20 million.

The company opted to discontinue its sponsorship of the series in order to become an official NASCAR sponsor and sponsor the No. 88 car driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Next year, Nationwide will sponsor the sport’s most popular driver in 12 Sprint Cup races.

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