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Voices from the Heartland: Hey NASCAR, Where Did The Extra $100 Million Come From?

Barely a week after I wrote about how Anheuser-Busch is severing almost all ties with the sanctioning body of NASCAR after the season – opting instead to focus on its Budweiser sponsorship of Kasey Kahne – a viable replacement has been found for the support series it’s leaving behind. NASCAR CEO Brian France announced Wednesday that Nationwide Insurance will become the new entitlement sponsor for what is currently known as the Busch Series.

“We are thrilled that we had the opportunity to select a partner in Nationwide Insurance who is as excited as NASCAR about taking the NASCAR Nationwide Series to even higher levels of popularity,” said France. “Nationwide Insurance is an ideal partner for NASCAR, advocating safe driving and already serving millions of NASCAR fans with its auto, health, and life insurance. The company has a real passion for NASCAR, which will benefit our fans and all participants in our industry.”

While NASCAR PR was essentially mum on the exact price that they were able to extract from Nationwide in their seven-year agreement to sponsor the series, they were quick to spew a lot of other statistics that I am here to pass under my own, somewhat cynical, scrutiny.

According to official NASCAR PR released Wednesday, October 3rd: “Nationwide Insurance, which will generate approximately $200 million in annual media exposure through its sponsorship, is already serving millions of NASCAR fans with auto, home, and life insurance.”

$200 million in annual media exposure? Wait a minute; where have I heard that supposed figure before? Oh, yeah; now I remember. It was from NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston, speaking earlier this year…

“The entitlement would provide the eventual sponsor with over $100 million annually in brand exposure, and that, along with the partnership with ESPN2, makes this a very desirable position in sports,” said Poston, shortly after Anheuser-Busch announced its pullout.

Wow; can you believe it? Somewhere in the last nine months, the annual media exposure the entitlement sponsor will receive has increased by almost 100%! Gee, I wonder if officials at Anheuser-Busch knew that? Perhaps, when it comes to estimating exposure/dollars, NASCAR uses the same formula my dad used in dealing with my curfew when I was in high school. Back then, I could be 10 minutes late; but for the sake of argument, according to dad, it was rounded up to the next hour!

Or maybe, that extra $100 million comes from the astronomical increase of viewership that, according to NASCAR, the NASCAR Nationwide Series has enjoyed over the last few years. Never mind the fact that the “Nationwide Series” has yet to run a race. Again, from official NASCAR PR,

“The NASCAR Nationwide Series, broadcast on ESPN2 and ABC, is stronger than ever. The series is the third highest-rated regular-season sport on cable television. Viewership in 2007 to date vs. 2000 is up 52%, (and) the 2005 and 2006 seasons were the most viewed in series history.”

Golly gee, Beav! Viewership is up 52% in 2007 compared to the year 2000! Do you suppose that may be because the actual televising viewers the “Nationwide Series” reaches have exponentially increased over the years? I mean, you can’t view what you can’t see on TV, can you? I suspect the same may be true with the ’05 and ’06 seasons, as well, when many of the races were televised on FX. Now, I admit that I am just way too unmotivated to actually go back and check the TV listings for 2000 and calculate exactly how many viewers each “Nationwide Series” race was reaching… but I’d bet that the actual segment of the population receiving these races on their TV has increased 52%, too! NASCAR isn’t going to mention that fact, though.

The one thing the sport did mention in yesterday’s press release that left me really scratching my head was,

“Additionally, NASCAR fans are more likely to have automobiles, be homeowners, and have children in the household, according to Simmons National Consumer Survey research.”

More likely than who? NFL fans? The Chinese Brian France visited earlier this year? Darned if I know. I just fall back on that observation by the great Samuel Clemons (aka Mark Twain),

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

NASCAR is the master of all three.

Stay off the wall,

Jeff Meyer

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