Under Caution? Examining NASCAR's Dwindling Sponsorship, Rebuilding Efforts
NASCAR fans, viewers and sponsors “seem to be continuing a multi-year defection to other sports,” according to Valerie Bauerlein of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. After a “prolonged skid that many blame on the economy, this was the year NASCAR had hoped to bounce back.” But “suddenly it's possible to imagine the once-rocketing sport sputtering toward a halt.” Sponsors “are fleeing.” An “iconic sponsor, Dodge, is leaving at the end of the season.” Office Depot is “dropping defending champion Tony Stewart and even Dale Earnhardt Jr. is getting a bit of a brush off from Diet Mountain Dew.” Office Depot Senior Communications Dir Mindy Kramer said, "We are leaving the sport. It's sad, but it is what it is." Bauerlein notes long-time sponsors like UPS, Home Depot and Aflac also have “pulled back.” As a result, “even top tier teams are struggling, with Roush Fenway Racing cutting back its fleet for lack of support.” NASCAR "may have experienced its heyday in the early 2000s.” However, the sport's “quest for younger fans might gain a boost" if Brad Keselowski wins the Sprint Cup Series this year, as he is “known for tweeting on the track.” NASCAR is “bullish on a five-year rebuilding plan" beginning in '13 that “focuses on recruiting younger and more diverse fans, improving the competition on the track and updating the experience in the stands.” NASCAR’s “saving grace may be the DVR.” Games and races are “some of the only shows people want to watch live, making them increasingly valuable to advertisers.” It is “against this backdrop that NASCAR is negotiating its broadcast rights” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/13).
CRIME & PUNISHMENT: FOXSPORTS.com’s Darrell Waltrip writes NASCAR "had no choice" in levying a $100,000 fine against driver Jeff Gordon after he intentionally wrecked Clint Bowyer during Sunday's Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. Gordon was also docked 25 points and placed on probation. NASCAR "can’t let drivers be renegades on the racetrack by using their race cars to retaliate against each other. That gets out of control and is dangerous and it usually finds a way to sweep other cars up into it. I’m surprised they didn’t park Gordon” (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/13). SPORTING NEWS' Bob Pockrass wrote Gordon should be benched because he "crossed the line between racing and recklessness." Pockrass: "NASCAR can't have its drivers, especially teammates, affecting the championship race with retaliation" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 11/12). ESPN.com's David Newton wrote, "I understand NASCAR is trying to get back to an era where drivers governed drivers on the track. I understand NASCAR has let this type of thing slide in the past without suspension. ... But there has to be a limit" (ESPN.com, 11/12). In Toronto, Norris McDonald wrote the fine was “still an over-the-top penalty and NASCAR's inconsistency in this area is going to backfire on it one of these days” (THESTAR.com, 11/12). In Charlotte, Jim Utter wrote what happened in Phoenix was “not a sport, it was a circus.” Teams “fighting on pit road and drivers running through the garage with television cameras in tow to confront other drivers may draw a lot of eyes to YouTube this week, but I doubt it will lead anyone to actually watching the racing” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 11/12).