Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team owner Chip Ganassi and President Steve Lauletta yesterday decided that EGR "will not bring" back NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya for an eighth season, according to Jenna Fryer of the AP. Montoya has only two wins in 239 combined career starts in NASCAR, and his best season finish was eighth in the '09 Sprint Cup standings. There is "no clear answer to what has been the problem with Montoya," his No. 42 team or the EGR team. It also is "not clear where Montoya goes next" (AP, 8/13). EGR co-Owner Felix Sabates said that it is "too early to speculate on who will replace Montoya other than to say the No. 42 will be on the track with primary sponsor Target." Sabates: "We have a great ride, a great sponsor. We'll keep all of our options open and won't make a decision for a while" (ESPN.com, 8/14). FOXSPORTS.com's Lee Spencer wrote EGR's future still "remains bright." Ganassi last year signed 21-year-old driver Kyle Larson to an eight-year contract, and Larson is "currently competing for Turner Scott Motorsports in the Nationwide Series." While Montoya had "a solid relationship with Target, Larson is a sponsor's dream" because he is "young, attractive, well-spoken and capable of winning" (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/13).
DREAM A LITTLE DREAM: SPORTING NEWS' Bob Pockrass wrote yesterday's announcement that Brian Vickers will drive the '14 and '15 Sprint Cup seasons with full-season backing from Aaron's "was nowhere near a foregone conclusion, and far from a rubber stamp." Aaron’s "has a CEO who is 18 months on the job, and a chief marketing officer who joined the company in January." Vickers "got off to a good-but-not-great start to the season," and Hendrick Motorsports is "courting Aaron's to pour more money into 17-year-old Chase Elliott’s career." Vickers said, "Educating them on who I was, educating themselves on the sport and MWR was a long process with a lot of unknowns." Pockrass noted Vickers "had to work off the track -- he attended the Aaron's national sales meeting, where he got to know the Aaron's brass" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 8/13).
PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner may not appear to have the "attributes we normally ascribe to an athlete or celebrity endorser," but he is "a sponsor's dream," according to Monte Burke of FORBES. Dufner is "a bit more like us than your average celebrity endorser," and that is a "good thing." He actually fits his current sponsors "very well." Dufner's sponsors include Georgia-based Greenway Medical, a medical records company. That is a "basic, somewhat boring but very necessary business," and Dufner is a "perfect fit here." Likewise, he endorses Comcast Business' high-speed Internet offering, something users do not need "to be flashy." Apparel sponsor Perry Ellis fits Dufner because he is "no fashion model," but neither are "99% of the people who wore Perry Ellis clothing." Titleist and FootJoy are both "brands for serious golfers" (FORBES.com, 8/12). Both Titleist and FootJoy run full-page ads in this week's Golf World congratulating Dufner for his first win in a major tournament (THE DAILY).
ALREADY LOOKING TO LEAVE? BLOOMBERG NEWS' Mason Levinson reports Dufner's win last weekend "fortified his plan to retire from golf in the next few years." He said, "The plan is coming together really well. I've got a five-year exemption now, so that would take me to 41. Maybe I'll push it back one year." Levinson notes Dufner's "emotion-free demeanor on the course and everyman appearance off it has made him an Internet star, placing Dufner in prime position to capitalize on a lifestyle that he's not sure how long he'll want." Dufner: "There's other things to life than chasing a golf ball. ... Vijay Singh, he's a golf junkie. Lee Trevino: golf junkie. Tom Kite: golf junkie. I'm not a golf junkie" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 8/14).
CAN'T ESCAPE IT: Dufner this week is making the media rounds, and an appearance on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" included a discussion about "Dufnering," an Internet meme that went viral after he was photographed slouching on the floor in a children's classroom this spring. Dufner said, "It's amazing with social media these days how fast things can get around. That was the No. 1 trending thing on Twitter there for a couple days actually and people keep sending me stuff. I'm fine with people sending me stuff, but it's weird when you get into their pets. That's a little weird to me." CNBC's Kelly Evans noted, "It's a weird world out there" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 8/13).
A recent series of PED scandals among U.S. and Jamaican track and field stars "threatens the sponsorship landscape for both the sport and its athletes," according to Morgan Campbell of the TORONTO STAR. Canadian decathlete Damian Warner, who won bronze at the IAAF World Track & Field Championships on Sunday, has a "modest endorsement portfolio" that "includes a deal with Nike and smaller local companies." Warner said, "Just because a couple people are doing the wrong thing, you shouldn’t punish everybody else." Agent Kris Mychasiw said, "Major meets are losing key partnerships, making it tougher for athletes to make money (since) less funds are available. Only the top of the top make anything." Campbell notes top-level track "grappled with sponsorship dilemmas even before the summer drug scandals." If the sport "can’t shake the perception that many top stars are drug cheats, sponsorship dollars for athletes and events might grow even scarcer." Meanwhile, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt "still prospers as a pitchman." Forbes data shows that Bolt pulls in $24M annually in endorsements, a figure that includes a deal he signed with Samsung earlier this year. But Samsung, shortly after signing Bolt, announced that it "wouldn’t renew its title sponsorship of track and field’s premier circuit, the Diamond League," a deal worth $4.5M annually (TORONTO STAR, 8/14).
MR. CLEAN: In Australia, Robert Craddock wrote Bolt's "greatest future responsibility to his sport is not winning so much as another race but never returning a positive drug test." He alone "generates more than 20 per cent of the sport’s sponsorship." If he "stumbled and fell then the whole sport would end up face down in the sandpit" (Brisbane COURIER-MAIL, 8/13).
In Louisville, Jonathan Lintner reports Yankee Candle yesterday debuted a collegiate-themed line with Kentucky "one of the 27 schools included." Products "available for a limited time are a large jar candle that retails for $27.99 and a car jar air freshener for $2.99." Each candle "features the school logo and its respective scent." Most SEC schools are included in the line "along with others such as Ohio State, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 8/14).
NAVIGATING THE MAIZE: In Detroit, Mark Snyder notes the Univ. of Michigan football team in '11 "ran through uniform combinations, changing three times during the season." Coach Brady Hoke said, "We had one uniform we wore once that we won't wear again." Hoke added, "We have such a great tradition and legacies, we're going to be staying pretty much standard." UM AD Dave Brandon in May said that the only time the school "might change this year would be for the bowl game, if the players want it" (FREEP.com, 8/13).
SPECIAL TREATMENT: ADWEEK's Andrew McMains reported the Special Olympics have "hired Young & Rubicam to lead global marketing efforts." The assignment came "after a relatively fast review that was managed" by Calif.-based Select Resources Int'l. Y&R is "donating its services" (ADWEEK.com, 8/8).