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Volume 21 No. 1
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Hendrick confident Earnhardt sponsor will emerge for season’s second half

The quest to find a 13-race primary sponsor for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 car continues at Hendrick Motorsports.

The team has reconfigured the primary sponsorship plans on the car, allowing it to bump the first unsponsored race back from early this summer to July. The first race it doesn’t have a sponsor for Earnhardt will be July 14 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, or in about six weeks.

The July 14 New Hampshire race is first for which the No. 88 car does not have a primary sponsor.
Pat Perkins, Hendrick Motorsports’ vice president of marketing, said the team is optimistic it will find a sponsor between now and then.

“We’re feeling good,” Perkins said. “We’ve had a lot of stops and starts this year, but I’m optimistic. We’re working on a couple of things right now with the potential to bring a program to life this year and extend it into the future.”

The deeper Hendrick Motorsports goes into the season without a sponsor, the more difficult it will become to land one. Most brands finalize their marketing budgets in the third and fourth quarter of the preceding year, and finding a brand that can free up marketing dollars after the year has begun can be tough.

“With an icon like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the marketing power he brings to the table, all it takes is one interested party, so the negotiation shouldn’t take too long,” said Ken Cohn, chief operating officer at Breaking Limits, a motorsports marketing agency that works with General Mills.

“But if they’re looking for a brand that will kick off the partnership in July, they may need a brand with a fiscal that is a July 1 start rather than a calendar year start. What seems like a challenge today could become an opportunity for them because it’s timed to the start of a whole new year.”

But Perkins remains encouraged about the team’s prospects and added that they have no plans to cut the price of sponsoring Earnhardt. Industry sources have pegged the price at more than $800,000 per race, which would make the 13-race package worth more than $10 million.

“We maintain price integrity,” Perkins said. “We have to be respectful of the organization and our partners. We’ve got a high-powered brand, not just Dale but all of our drivers, and we want to respect that.”