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Volume 21 No. 2
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Michigan track, ESPN join for title partner pitch

Michigan International Speedway and ESPN collaborated to sign Michigan’s tourism bureau to one of the first packages to include a NASCAR race title sponsorship and media sponsorship.

The one-year deal, which was announced Sunday, is valued in the low seven figures and makes Pure Michigan the title sponsor of Michigan International Speedway’s Aug. 21 Sprint Cup Series race. The race title sponsorship is worth $400,000 to $600,000, and the media rights during ESPN’s telecast of the race are also valued in the mid to high six figures.

The combined sale represents a shift in NASCAR. Historically, tracks sold title sponsorships independently and then handed sponsors over to networks that sold a supporting ad buy. If a title partner passed on buying TV time, a network would sell a presenting sponsorship for the race broadcast to another corporation and limit or even eliminate on-air references to the track’s title partner. As a result, spectators might attend the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway while viewers watched the Texas 500 presented by GoDaddy from Texas Motor Speedway on ESPN.

In the case of the deal with Pure Michigan, Michigan International Speedway and ESPN pitched the network together. The Michigan tourism bureau then negotiated a race title sponsorship with the speedway, while its agency negotiated a media package with ESPN. Both the track and the network sacrificed some money they typically get for those deals, but both wound up with a partner that they believe will derive more value out of the relationship because of the complementary on-site and media assets.

“If we collaborate and are willing to give a bit, you get huge wins out of it,” said Terry Kalna, managing director, partnership sales and marketing sales, at International Speedway Corp., which owns Michigan International Speedway and 11 other Sprint Cup Series tracks. “It’s good for the industry and shows what the maximum value a race entitlement is when you own the race and the media.”

Though the deal is a one-year agreement, the Michigan tourism group has indicated that it could be interested in extending it. The organization has a $28.5 million budget in 2011 and is in the midst of a national cable TV campaign that targets potential vacationers across the country.

“Sixty percent of our fans come from out of state and this is a great fit,” said Michigan International Speedway President Roger Curtis. “It’s an awesome opportunity to talk to folks coming from around the Midwest, and Pure Michigan recognized that.”