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Volume 22 No. 26
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A title sponsor with a rare quality: Absorbency

Amid NASCAR’s effort to court younger fans, Nickelodeon has struck an agreement for title sponsorship of the May Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway and plans to sponsor multiple teams in the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck series.

The May 9 Sprint Cup event will become the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 in a one-year deal with Nickelodeon, though the network has an option to renew. Neither side would reveal financial terms, but track President Pat Warren called them “consistent with what we receive for other entitlements across the industry.” A source estimated the race title sponsorship as valued in the high six figures.

Nickelodeon is expected to announce the deal this week.

Pamela Kaufman, Nickelodeon’s chief marketing officer, said that the company agreed to the sponsorships because it has an established relationship with NASCAR and because the network has made a push into sports the last two years. Nickelodeon currently features the sanctioning body’s “Hammer Down” kids show on its NickSports platform.

“We have a tremendous relationship with NASCAR and have been working with them for five or six years,” Kaufman said. “We are underway with a big sports initiative, so when NASCAR said, ‘We would love for you to partner with us on one of our most important races,’ we said, ‘What about doing so with our most important character?’”

The race title sponsorship is not Nickelodeon’s first in NASCAR. In 2004, it titled the SpongeBob SquarePants Movie 300 Busch Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

From the track’s perspective, Warren said it was appealing to have a kids-related sponsor for the race because it comes on Mother’s Day weekend, and “the SpongeBob brand is iconic and reaches a lot more people than just kids.”

Nickelodeon also plans to sponsor teams during both the Kansas weekend and at points throughout the season, though network executives would not reveal which teams or races.

Activation plans for the Kansas weekend will include a type of kids carnival on the midway featuring a costumed SpongeBob character, games, temporary tattoos and a DJ, among other things. As an added touch, the network will provide a SpongeBob-themed trophy to the winner, though it will be separate from the trophy traditionally given to winners at Kansas.

Zane Stoddard, NASCAR vice president of entertainment marketing and content development, said the race title sponsorship was a natural step for Nickelodeon after starting out on the content side with NASCAR.

“We began to identify some of their broader strategies and how they would like to get in front of our young audiences,” Stoddard said. “The entitlement came in part out of the broader understanding that we both felt there was an opportunity to exchange audiences.”