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Welcome to Behind the Wall, the newest addition to the Frontstretch lineup. Every Wednesday I am going to be taking a problem in NASCAR -- either a situation that has received a lot of attention from the media or a problem that seems to remain unnoticed in NASCAR -- and I will explain how it is hurting the sport and provide solutions that can be made to correct the situation.
Perhaps one of the biggest problems today is the sponsorship crisis. Everyone knows that signing and maintaining a sponsor can be difficult when the team is not performing well. As there are several teams not performing well this season, one might begin to see how finding great sponsors would be a difficult task. However, it's my opinion that the problem isn't a lack of sponsors in the sport, but instead there is too much sponsor involvement in NASCAR.
Excessive sponsorship with a driver or team is acceptable only because of the level of competition in NASCAR. By racing for Irwin, Crown Royal, Smirnoff Ice, Gillette and Sharpie, Kurt Busch is assuring that his team will have the financial resources that are required in creating a competitive team. If a driver does not have multiple sponsors they will have much more difficulty racing with teams that do.
Sponsorship found elsewhere in the world of NASCAR is becoming a problem in the sport also. These days it seems as if NASCAR has too many sponsors. Does NASCAR really need Home123 to be the official mortgage company of NASCAR? NASCAR has 44 sponsors that claim to be the "Official Product of NASCAR" in their respective market. That is not including sponsors that sponsor races or broadcasts. Sponsors have realized that NASCAR is a successful marketing tool with some of the most loyal fans, so not advertising in NASCAR would be a major mistake. Their involvement in the sport is helping to corrupt the image and heritage of NASCAR.
With so many sponsors involved in the sport, NASCAR has changed it’s image. Today drivers and teams need to be politically correct as not to offend their sponsors. There was a time when driver confrontations after races were a common occurrence. Now, when there is a confrontation on the track, the two drivers can’t discuss their displeasure with one another without countless team members, NASCAR officials, and reporters watching their every move.
NASCAR is also losing it’s heritage to sponsorship. There was a time when great races like the Southern 500 or Brickyard 400 were NASCAR’s some of NASCAR’s most prestigious events and no one ever dreamed of changing that. Now, the Southern 500 is only a memory in NASCAR and Darlington only hosts the Dodge Charger 500 early in the season. The Brickyard 400 has become the Allstate 400, showing that sponsoring events has overlooked the traditional aspect of the sport. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Daytona 500 soon had a sponsor holding the title rights to the race.
Unfortunately, there is really no solution to the excessive sponsorship in the sport. Sponsors are NASCAR’s greatest source of money, and money will always show to be more important than heritage. If plaguing the sport with advertisements and corporations will allow NASCAR to see a profit, we can all expect to see corporate involvement in the sport reach a ridiculous all time high.
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