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Volume 20 No. 41
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Nationwide keeps NASCAR window open

Nationwide Insurance has extended its exclusive negotiating window with NASCAR, giving the company through the end of summer to determine whether it will renew its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s secondary series.

The Ohio-based company’s sponsorship agreement gave it until the end of June to negotiate exclusively with NASCAR, but sources said Nationwide officials requested more time so that they could take into consideration what TV network will broadcast the Nationwide Series in the future.

With its name on NASCAR’s secondary series, Nation-wide is one of the sport’s most active sponsors.
ESPN presently holds the media rights to the Nationwide Series, but its deal ends after 2014. The broadcaster is set to begin exclusive renewal discussions with NASCAR in July. If it can’t reach an agreement by the end of August, then NASCAR could look to sell the Nationwide Series rights to another broadcaster.

Media has been one of Nationwide’s primary vehicles for getting a return on its $10 million to $12 million deal to title sponsor NASCAR’s secondary series. The company, which became the series’ sponsor in 2008, spends more than $5 million on media with ESPN, and it has used NASCAR-themed ads over the last five years to connect with fans and raise brand awareness, so the series’ future television deal is something sources said Nationwide officials wanted to evaluate before committing to a renewal.

Nationwide declined to comment on the extension of the exclusive negotiating window with NASCAR. In a statement, Nationwide chief marketer Matt Jauchius said, “We continue to have productive conversations with NASCAR about our position in the sport and plan to be active for many years to come.”

NASCAR chief marketer Steve Phelps expressed optimism that the company would return as a sponsor in the future.

“Nationwide has been very successful in using our sport as a platform to enhance its brand and drive its business,” Phelps said in a statement. “The company has also stated publicly how much value they glean as a series entitlement sponsor. They are a great partner and we are confident that they will remain in the sport for many years to come.”

Nationwide replaced longtime sponsor Anheuser-Busch in 2008, bringing an end to a 25-year run of the Busch Series. The company touted results of the sponsorship in 2010. It claimed that consumer awareness increased by more than 50 percent and leads rose 183 percent in the second year of the sponsorship. The company said that policies purchased by NASCAR fans exceeded goals.

The company has been one of NASCAR’s most active sponsors. It developed commercials featuring Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. that have run in programming unrelated to NASCAR. It took trackside activation display to more than 15 motorsports facilities in recent years. It also expanded its spending in the sport to include sponsorship of Roush Fenway Racing driver Ricky Stenhouse in four Sprint Cup races.

Speaking at the Intersport Activation Summit in Chicago last month, Jim McCoy, Nationwide’s director of strategic sponsorships, said, “We’ve built a well-rounded program that has built a lot of credibility with the fan. We want to make sure the relationship is working as hard as it can for us. Where are the opportunities in terms of where the relationship can go from here in order to continue to grow from a brand health standpoint? We need fans to make that connection at a higher level of who we are and what we do. Where we see a gap, we want to close that gap, and we’re working hard with NASCAR to do that.”

It’s unclear to whom NASCAR would turn if Nationwide opted not to renew its deal. Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway and AutoZone were among the companies that expressed interest in title sponsorship of the series in 2007, the last time it was sold.