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