The Frontstretch: Voices From the Heartland: For Johnny Benson, Sponsorship Vs. Coverage Should Be a Moot Point by Jeff Meyer -- Thursday April 9, 2009

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It was reported this last week that the defending Camping World Truck Series champion, Johnny Benson, had a sponsorship dilemma. The team’s lack of sponsorship was already well known. The problem was, Johnny and his Red Horse Racing Team now have a sponsor lined up…however, they were told that if he used the said sponsor, the networks that cover the races would not give him coverage.

“We have somebody in the works to do it, but TV said they would avoid us if we had this sponsor, and it’s a gun manufacturer,” Benson said. “We are not sure why that would be the case, but that’s the information they are giving us. We have to choose whether we want to head down that road or not. We would hate to have good finishes and run in the top three and have TV avoid us for that reason. Originally, I said NASCAR had revoked that, and it wasn’t. NASCAR called me Tuesday after I had said that they had shot it down,” Benson said

“Apparently it is the TV. It is a very interesting scenario. We have had other (gun) manufacturers in there, and why it is an issue today, I don’t know. I haven’t had a conversation with them yet to get to the bottom of it. I think we are going to have to explore it. Money is money. That’s going to have to be one of the things we have to do. But it’s awful hard to sell a sponsorship if they know they are not going to show us. That’s a tough place to be in for both sides.”

Camping World Truck Series reigning champion Johnny Benson has potential sponsorship from a gun manufacturer, but issues with TV coverage could prevent the deal from going through.

Naturally, that little tidbit, once it was out there, got a few people up in arms (pun intended if you want it to be.) That was all that was said, and that was published on April 1st. Since then, there has been no ‘updates’ or rebuttals.

At first glance, one might think that it was an April Fools joke, but that is not the case. What it really boils down to, in this journalist’s opinion, is that there is really no story here at all. Well there is, but the powers that are involved are WAY over thinking the whole thing.

Naturally, since SPEED Channel covers all but two of the truck races this year, and Fox has already broadcast their two, most fingers were pointed at SPEED. This is a safe, common sense assumption, but since Johnny never mentioned them by name, I had to check it out.

Contacting the SPEED Channel, I was told by the VP of Media Relations that “SPEED was not involved with Johnny on this topic and did not discourage or break up this potential opportunity .” and I was given the ‘official’ SPEED response…

SPEED does not discourage any race team or sporting venue from partnering with any sponsor or business of its choosing, and does not omit coverage of any race team, sporting venue or sponsor within the context of race coverage or related news programming. However, SPEED does abide by Newscorp’s company wide adherence towards not accepting advertising or conducting on-air promotions to certain products which include firearms, weapons, ammunition. These guidelines are not exclusive to Newscorp, would not come as a surprise to any major firearms company and have been practiced for many years within the television industry.

Ok, I said to myself, if it is not SPEED, then just who exactly IS it that will not provide coverage? I mean, who else is covering the race? So, it was off to Red Horse Racing to see if they would tell me a) what network was it, and b) who was their potential sponsor?

I have to say, in all honesty that I did not get a straight answer to either question. The first one is not hard to figure out. There simply is no other network that could deny the team the coverage. As to what gun manufacturer is looking to sponsor Johnny, there is only a finite number so, anyone who knows anything about guns could probably narrow it down to a handful.

What I did get from RHR is this, their official response. “Red Horse Racing is trying to work with all parties involved to reach some middle ground that respects everyone’s concerns and policies but still serves our sponsors needs. We do not want to negotiate this out in the press.”

Of course, when it comes to posturing from companies, whether it be SPEED (let’s face it, SPEED is the only coverage left all year) or RHR, you will get this kind of non-committal response. From my conversation with representatives from RHR, the thing that is REALLY going on is this (and if you read between the lines of SPEED’s official response, it really is clear.)

What the NETWORK is saying is simply, even if your guy is running up front, the announcers will not say the sponsor’s name! It will simply be something like “ …the No. 1 of Johnny Benson heads into turn one…”

Now here is where the NETWORK thinks you and I, the fan, are stupid! First of all, it’s Johnny Benson, the defending series champion! Do you not think he will be running up front most of the time? Second, these are brightly colored race trucks we are talking about! The name of the (oh my God, it’s a gun manufacturer! Lord, save us!) is emblazoned all over it!

Do the networks really believe that the average Joe is so stupid as to not see what name is on the truck, regardless whether your announcers SAY the name or not?

That is where this ‘non story’ is at ladies and gentlemen. The network isn’t saying they will not provide coverage, how can they NOT if the man is running up front or near the front? What they are saying, if you read into the last few lines of their ‘official’ response, is simply, we will not say the sponsor’s name.

But hey, you know what? Me and the average Joe…we ain’t that stupid. I see the name on the truck! It is in big and bright colors…why, many of us have that brand in our gun cabinet! And there is many more of us than you think!

My advice…SPEED, get over yourself! Most intelligent people mute the damn tv anyway and watch the race!

Potential sponsor for Johnny Benson, defending Champion of the CWTS….sponsor that fast truck while you can!

All that matters is that your name is ON the truck! When it finishes up front, it is still in the picture, no matter what the network wants to call it! And with a number like No. 1…you cant go wrong!

Listen up ALL networks…us fans, we ain’t that dumb!

Stay off the wall (and pass the ammunition!)

Jeff Meyer

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04/09/2009 12:25 PM

Wow…if this story is true….

So we have the constitutional right to own guns but the TV folks can’t mention the name….

Why? Is it fear of Washington?

04/09/2009 12:48 PM

There are many more possibilities in the scenario than the one you elected to identify in the story.

Furthermore, we know there are, and have been, other gun related sponsors involved in NASCAR. Those sponsors haven’t been “omitted” mention nor recognition in previous Speed broadcasts; the assumption you promote doesn’t hold true.

There might be other reasons possible.

As a prime example, I’ll offer that as part of the sponsorship package, the gun company wanted to run commercials during the races that Newscorp, as a policy, will not allow.
If this is really the issue, the sponsor loses a whole tier of an ad campaign, and would be less inclined to sponsor anything.

Given that since we actually know very little about the issue, it’s easy for us to say we know very little about what we’re talking about.

Kevin in SoCal
04/09/2009 04:07 PM

This just screams of idiocy. I thought Fox held conservative viewpoints? Or, at least, they are less liberal than the other mainstream media. So why would Fox or Newscorp or SPEED or whomever not want to advertise a gun company? They have no problem saying, who sponsors a truck or two.

04/09/2009 08:47 PM

Remember, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

Doug Scholl
04/10/2009 01:26 AM

I don’t think the commentators would have a problem since they don’t have a problem saying Gun truck.

This was discussed on Sirius Nascar and basically it comes down to what Bobb said. They would not broadcast any commercial for what ever company it was and those commercials were contingent on the deal.

I love the offical comment from speed. However, means every thing we just said is null and void and what we’re saying now is true and reliable.

But reading the statement after the however coma. If gun manufacturer x wanted to sponsor the “Hair Trigger Wreck of the race” by x-arms they couldn’t, because that would be an on air promotion. Which means speed couldn’t produce it because they have to follow newscorp policy (don’t you just love it when they stick several lawyers in one room).

04/10/2009 08:15 AM

Not saying the name of a sponsor happens right now in race coverage, at ISC and SMI tracks. They won’t say The Home Depot at some, it’s only the Joe Gibbs 20 or the bright orange 20, etc. It all depends on who runs the place (in this case) and what agreements are in place.

Travis R
04/10/2009 01:45 PM

Wasn’t Dale Earnhardt, Jr. partially sponsored by Remington a couple of years ago?

04/12/2009 01:59 AM

Didn’t they try to “not mention” the sponsors of teams a few years back in Cup, if they didn’t pay NASCAR the money to do so? I seem to recall a couple of races of commentators avoiding saying certain sponsor’s names, even if that car was up front….and even, if I recall correctly (but maybe I was watching through beer goggles. LOL) blurring out the hood so the sponsor couldn’t be seen? That lasted, what, 2 races? Maybe because the sponsors paid up, or maybe NASCAR got word from the fans of how idiotic they were being (I mean, nothing prevented the winning driver, even if driving a “censored” sponsored car, from mentioning the sponsor.)

Sheer stupidity, IMO. Seems to me they also had a problem with Crown Royal sponsoring a team, or another hard liquor sponsor….and then Crown Royal ended up sponsoring a TRACK.

Yup. Sheer stupidity.

04/12/2009 08:57 AM

Good thing Dale Sr. isn’t around to kick some Political Ass. Many Brave Souls have given their Life for the right to Bare Arms. What can’t mention Fire Arms Manufacturers or Ammunition…Cow Fodder..oopps….me Bad !


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Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

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