Sponsors Reaffirm Commitment As Tony Stewart Returns To Track At Atlanta
One of Tony Stewart's primary sponsors "reaffirmed its commitment Sunday to the NASCAR star, citing 'overwhelming' public support as Stewart remains under investigation" in the death of sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr., according to Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. Though no sponsor has "pulled its support of Stewart-Haas Racing, Exxon Mobil has downsized advertising and promotional campaigns that feature Stewart." There has "been no change in the marketing plan for Rush Truck Centers, the primary sponsor of Stewart's car in five races" in the Sprint Cup Series. Ryan noted Rush's marketing department has been "monitoring feedback" through e-mail, its Facebook page and other forms of social media. Rush's sponsorship of Stewart "continues through" the '15 season. Rush Truck Centers President & CEO W.M. Rush said that his company "briefly had been in contact with some of Stewart's other sponsors." Rush also "wouldn't comment on how the sponsorship would be affected if criminal charges were filed against Stewart" (USATODAY.com, 8/31). Meanwhile, Bass Pro Shops Founder Johnny Morris, "a regular figure at NASCAR events, offered thoughts to the company's 'friend and fishing buddy'” Stewart before Friday’s race. Morris expressed continued support for Stewart, saying, "What started as a sponsorship discussion between Tony and I 15 years ago has turned into a long and special friendship” (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/30).
TRICKLE-DOWN EFFECT: USA TODAY's Ryan wrote whether the "array of brightly colored sponsor logos remain on his No. 14 Chevrolet or disappear in a cloud of controversy might be as uncertain as the fate of Stewart." Marketing firm Engine Shop President & Founding Partner Ed Kiernan said, "A lot of it is going to be determined on is it found as an accident or a criminal charge. That's going to weigh in the brands' decisions." This weekend at Atlanta the question "lingered whether his situation could leave his team in worse shape -- particularly as sponsors such as Mobil 1, Bass Pro Shops, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet and Rush Truck Centers measure fan feedback." It also could "affect SHR teammates Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch, whose sponsors have engaged in cross-promotions" with Stewart. Just Marketing Int'l Founder & CEO Zak Brown, whose company has represented NASCAR sponsors, said that Stewart's return would have "been vetted exhaustively by his sponsors before being approved." Brown: "I can't imagine him being back in if he didn't have support from his partners. He's not going to unilaterally decide I'm getting back in the car" (USATODAY.com, 8/29).