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Volume 22 No. 11
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NASCAR still seeks deal as ‘deadline’ passes

One month remains in Sprint’s reign atop NASCAR’s Cup series, with no new partner yet announced. Still, NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Brent Dewar maintains that the search is on schedule in his first extensive, public comments on the topic in months.

NASCAR had indicated in July that an October announcement was the most likely scenario for a replacement for Sprint, whose 13-year run as title sponsor ends after this year. But despite the calendar turning to November this week, Dewar said NASCAR remains focused on finding the right partner and won’t let self-imposed deadlines affect that.

NASCAR remains focused on finding the right partner for its premier series.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
“It’s much more important we have the right partner than to meet a self-imposed deadline,” Dewar said last week. “We have proven to this industry that we can do very complex charter agreements with deadlines ticking; we’ve proven we can do five-year sanction agreements for the first time in history — very complex — with deadlines ticking; we’ve proven we can do very significant broadcast agreements.

“So we know how to handle complexity and meet deadlines, and this will be no different.”

Dewar said NASCAR is still in talks with multiple companies “at an advanced stage,” but declined to disclose names. Determining brands still involved in the hunt has become difficult amid a concerted effort to keep negotiations secret.

Talks continue to be led by Dewar and Steve Phelps, NASCAR executive vice president and chief global sales and marketing officer. The sanctioning body also has worked with agencies throughout the process but hasn’t disclosed which ones.

Dewar did say he’s confident that whoever lands the deal will still have time to plan and activate ahead of the season-opening Daytona 500 in February. But given the time crunch, the new partner could miss out on some of the sponsorship’s benefits in year one, such as having its logo on the diecast cars that will be sold at Daytona.

Lionel, NASCAR’s licensee for both collector and mass-distribution diecasts, said last week that it had about a week before it needs to start production on the first round of diecasts that will be available when the 2017 season starts. NASCAR has given the company the green light to produce the items with a NASCAR bar logo in place of the series logo if a new partner is not announced by Lionel’s deadline, according to Michelle Fannin, Lionel NASCAR Collectibles’ vice president of marketing and communications.

“Obviously, from our perspective and our collectors’ perspective, you want the car to be as accurate as possible because we produce replica race cars; that includes having the entitlement logo,” Fannin said. “However, from our perspective and the teams’ perspective, it’s also very important to have diecasts at Daytona ready to go for the new season.”

Sparco, which makes firesuits for NASCAR teams, has already begun production for next year but has measures in place once a new sponsor is signed, said Connie Carroll, director of NASCAR for the company. Sparco has produced 2017 firesuits used in driver photo shoots that included a blank spot where the series logo would be. Once the new deal is landed, teams can digitally insert the new series logo in on any advertising or point-of-sale items already completed. Sparco also left a blank space where the logo goes on designs for suits that will be worn next season and is planning to fill that spot once the new partner is announced.

“Is it ideal? Absolutely not,” said Tyson Webber, president of GMR Marketing, which represents Xfinity, title sponsor of NASCAR’s secondary series. “But I would be surprised if somebody looking to sign one of the most prominent and largest partnerships in all North American sports would move that timetable up based on [diecasts and firesuits], at least where we sit right now.”