A few years ago, it cost anywhere between $15 million and $20 million for a brand to sponsor a NASCAR driver for a full season of driving. They’d get their name on the jumpsuit, all over the vehicle, and whatever mentions the driver could make when talking to reporters.
With the way NASCAR fans are so historically devoted to the brands that their drivers support, the expense was a no-brainer for some brands. But then came the economic downturn and it became hard to justify sticking your logo on a driver’s jumpsuit for the whole season when that money could be helping the company survive. So a lot of NASCAR sponsors started going piecemeal in their sponsorships, selectively choosing different events that they wanted to be associated with.
The upshot: car colors and jumpsuits can change every week. USA Today reports that this new reality can get a little confusing for the circuit’s drivers (and fans) at times.
"It's easier to have one color and one number," Stewart-Haas Racing's Ryan Newman, who will have eight primary sponsors spanning 36 races this year, told the paper. "I have much more weight to carry when it comes to dealing with sponsors and getting the right messages delivered so fans understand and every sponsor is getting what they deserve. Quicken Loans delivers a different message than the U.S. Army.”
There are still a few cars that have the same sponsor all year, such as Lowe’s and Napa, but most change throughout the season, and NASCAR CMO Steve Phelps says it is hurting the sport — in fact, fans embrace the logos as part of the NASCAR experience.
"A casual fan watches a race with a car number and paint (scheme) with a particular sponsor, and they watch the next race, and it's a different color,” he told USA Today. “They're trying to identify drivers with sponsors and colors, and that's difficult. Our avid fans understand the meaning of sponsorship and support those sponsors. That hasn't changed in NASCAR, and that's why these companies aren't leaving.”
Brett Frood, EVP of Stewart-Haas Racing, said that the sponsors of his cars, such as Outback Steakhouse and Office Depot, are trying to leverage the relationship more through commercials and retail displays. "The more we can get our drivers and partners finding touchpoints with fans, the more we can mitigate a potential disconnect because of the revolving deals," he told USA Today.
Below, Taylor Strategy's snapshot of NASCAR fans show how loyal they are to the sponsors:
[image via Facebook.com/NASCAR]