The Frontstretch: The Impact Of Nationwide And NASCAR by Mike Neff -- Thursday October 4, 2007

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The Impact Of Nationwide And NASCAR

Second Fiddle : Around The Busch Series · Mike Neff · Thursday October 4, 2007


Anheuser-Busch is scaling back their advertising when it comes to NASCAR competition. They are no longer the official beer of NASCAR, they didn't want to pony up the increased price tag to keep their name on the car of the sport’s most popular driver…and they are no longer going to pay the fees required to have their name on NASCAR's second most popular series. As a result, the folks in Daytona have found a new sponsor to take advantage of some remarkable marketing opportunities with all of the bent up sheet metal that happens on a weekly basis in the series: Nationwide Insurance.

Nationwide has signed a seven-year agreement to be the title sponsor for what is now the Busch Series, taking over for Anheuser-Busch, who has been in control since the series’ “inception” in 1982. The insurance company is not new to NASCAR; Nationwide has had an agreement with Speedway Motorsports for the past eight years, and provided free transportation at SMI tracks along with information guides. They will also become the official auto, home, and life insurance provider of NASCAR with this agreement, taking over the role that is currently occupied by Allstate.

It is going to be interesting to see where this sponsorship will lead for a series that has suffered in recent years. Obviously, having an alcohol sponsor had put some limitations on the marketing capabilities of NASCAR when it came to targeting younger fans, which tend to make up a greater percentage of those attending the races for NASCAR's junior series…especially considering the cheaper ticket prices and smaller crowds. Now, the sport should now have a greater ability to target a larger audience, including minors, when marketing their biggest feeder series…especially since there will no longer be any concerns about targeting minors with alcohol advertising.

Hopefully, Nationwide will fulfill the promise that they are making with their statement: "We look forward to putting tremendous energy and resources into supporting this sponsorship and advancing the profile of the NASCAR Nationwide Series." It would be great to see the series become even stronger and hopefully begin to stand more on its own. Where that begins is making a name for itself apart from Nextel Cup; Nationwide needs to quickly recognize there can be more stand-alone events rather than all of the companion ones to the Nextel Cup Series that are currently run. There are race tracks all over the country that would love to have Nationwide Series races and don't host Cup level competition; of course, more stand-alones would also result in a reduced number of Cup drivers taking up starting positions from series regulars due to the travel time and difficulties in running both series. With the company’s experience in running the Nationwide Tour for the PGA, the chances of them both recognizing and capitalizing on those future opportunities should be high.

There are also going to be an enormous number of marketing possibilities for drivers to make a difference, far more than those offered through Anheuser-Busch. On the agenda for the Nationwide Series is personal appearances at schools, as well as civic organizations promoting safe driving and helping to market the sport to the younger audience that will benefit most from those kind of visits. Revitalizing the fan base will prove critically important for a series which has seen a dropoff in attendance in 2007 after the two highest-attended years in series history. The dilemma of falling attendance and ratings is something that NASCAR is struggling with across the board, and this new face on the series and new energy brought on by the new partnership will hopefully initiate a rebound.

The other thing that will hopefully come out of this new relationship is an increase in race purses. One of the biggest blights on the Busch Series is that the purses are abysmal; once you get below the driver who wins the race, the purse often barely covers the cost of the weekend’s entry. Coming in second in a Nationwide series race will hopefully be more lucrative and more rewarding than what the Busch Series has been reduced to over the past few years. Simply put, the people who are spending all of the money to race in these races deserve to be rewarded a little more handsomely than they have been.

NASCAR continues to pull away from their traditional sponsor agreements and branch out into more and more mainstream partnerships. The tobacco connection left when Nextel took over the Cup Series; now, alcohol is going away as the sponsor of the biggest feeder series. As the sport becomes more and more corporate and mainstream, it continues to attract these new and different sponsors, increasing the respect for their product across the sporting world.

Let's hope that Nationwide goes all out in their new endeavor and helps make the purses respectable, the product exciting, and the series worthy of the kind of attention it deserves. If they do this properly, the Nationwide series could once again become the premier feeder series for Cup providing the kind of aggressive, grassroots racing that was its trademark in its early years.

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10/05/2007 06:29 AM

I wonder how long it will be before Nationwide realizes their mistake and wants out. Seven years is a lot of money to throw away on a failing series and an organization that appears to be on the brink of a fall in popularity.

Mike C
10/05/2007 07:30 AM

The picture is probably not quite as rosy for Nationwide as your column would have us believe . NASCAR does all it can to discourage sponsors from going it alone on marketing ideas . I imagine you can think of a reason why . NASCAR wants to be involved in every aspect of sponsor marketing so they can, say it with me , get a cut of the money .
The traditional sponsors have been pulling away from NASCAR , not the other way around . NASCAR is no longer able to bully companies into spending crazy money on sponsorships . If you look at the sponsoring companies that have left NASCAR over the last ten years , all because they refused to be hi-jacked any longer , it’s a very long and sad list . And a majority of them were in fact main stream . Then look at the huge list of potential sponsors who decided to pass on the oportunity , like Subway . The NASCAR plateau is alive and well .

10/05/2007 02:49 PM

If Nationwide can afford to spend that kind of money,you’d think they could pay people in the gulf coast instead of dropping them,after the hurricanes of 2005

10/05/2007 03:44 PM

Looks like Nationwide’s logo colors are blue and white. Whew….not too much of a change to deal with.

Kudos to Anheuser-Busch, and thanks for the memories.

Do ya s’pose the Daytona Dons didn’t sign Subway so they could avoid another episode of Subway vs Burger King or McDonalds or Arbys or whathaveya like the current crop of crap (Nextel vs AT&T) from the Cup side? Maybe they’re learning after all….in baby steps.

Brian France Sucks
10/05/2007 07:50 PM

Hey Mike C, if FRANCECAR touches it they’ll just f**k it up. That’s about the only thing Brian is good at; oh wait, getting drunk and wrecking Lexus vehicles too. I can’t wait till someone comes up with the brains/cajones to run a competing series that visits the Rock and other “racetracks” instead of the crap I$C runs. Bring back racing and ditch the WWE crap

10/05/2007 10:02 PM

Looks like N.A.S.C.A.R is finally cleaning up it’s image by separating itself from the two beer&cigarette sponsors in exchange for communication techknowlogies & insurance; good move.That reminds me, the truck series with Craftsman as its sponsor has always been smarter, safer and less controversial.Not bad for third series in the pecking order of things.How about the Harvicks for capitolizing on that opprotunity.


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