Sprint announced that it has signed a “three-year extension of its sponsorship” with NASCAR for title sponsorship of its Cup Series through ’16, according to Bob Pockrass of SCENE DAILY. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse made the announcement during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony Friday night at the Wynn Las Vegas. The original 10-year contract, worth “an estimated $70-$75 million a year, was scheduled to expire after the 2013 season.” Sprint VP/Corporate Marketing Steve Gaffney “would not say whether Sprint extended at a similar rate or if the new deal was less than the current contract.” Gaffney: “I can say that I’m 100 percent (certain) that both Sprint and NASCAR are really pleased about the way the negotiations ended up and the fact that we’re partners through 2016.” He added, “It’s too important for us as a brand. … The Sprint Cup relationship for us is not only about branding, but it’s also about the number of fans who show us their loyalty by becoming customers. Not only do they become our customers, but they’re our most valuable customers. So I’d say overall, we see this in terms of bottom line revenue to the company in terms of new customers and valuable customers.” NASCAR Senior VP & CMO Steve Phelps said, “It provides a lot of wind at our back. … Everyone who is part of this sport loves the job that Sprint has done over the past eight years” (SCENEDAILY.com, 12/3). Hesse said NASCAR has “made a number of bold changes over the past 18 months, from adding Chase wild-card spots, to revising the points system, to allowing NASCAR drivers to be NASCAR drivers.” Hesse: “This leadership creates an environment that allows the best drivers, crew members and engineers in the world to deliver racing excitement that captivates us every week.” In K.C., Randy Covitz noted in addition to the title sponsorship of the series, Sprint “lends its name” to the Sprint All-Star Race in Charlotte. Sprint “brings 15 to 20 cell phone towers to each race as well as The Sprint Experience, a mobile, interactive exhibit that features driver appearances, driving simulators and other amenities at each track that entertain about 500,000 fans per season.” Sprint also “showcases Miss Sprint Cup, a fan favorite who boasts more than 1.2 million followers in the social media space on Facebook and Twitter” (K.C. STAR, 12/3).
GOOD TIME FOR GOOD NEWS: Hesse on Friday “praised the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship as the best ever since its 2004 inception.” The AP’s Jenna Fryer noted negotiations on an extension “had been going on for some time.” Sprint officials indicated during the Nov. 20 season finale that they “were close to announcing a new deal” (AP, 12/2). In Charlotte, Jim Utter wrote the news “couldn't have come at a better time for NASCAR, which ended the 2011 season with a TV ratings increase in the Cup series, an exciting, down-to-the-wire championship battle and significant improvement in attendance at many tracks.” By completing an extension early, Sprint “will have at least another five years of sponsorship, which coincides with NASCAR's five-year Industry Action Plan, designed to help the sport grow and reach new audiences” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 12/4).
AROUND THE SPORT: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL’s Tripp Mickle reports NASCAR “renewed six of 12 existing sponsors” in ‘11, but the departure of three partners -- Craftsman, Diageo and O’Reilly’s -- means total sponsorship revenue “will be flat to slightly down in early 2012.” NASCAR VP/Corporate Marketing & Chief Sales Officer Jim O’Connell said, “We had a strong year in terms of renewals and people who wanted to stay in the sport -- big brand names, blue-chip sponsors. The fact that they want to stay in the sport proves what we do for their business. Did we lose some? Absolutely. Diageo repurposed its money. Craftsman has had its business troubles. But given the overall economic climate, we had some good success with our overall sponsors” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 12/5 issue).