by Angeline Seames
Sprint is preparing to return in 2016 for a lame-duck year as title sponsor of NASCAR’s Cup Series, though the sponsor was open to leaving early if the opportunity arose, according to sources.
The Kansas City-based carrier, whose contract expires after the 2016 season, indicated to NASCAR months ago that if the sanctioning body found a brand that wanted to take over starting in 2016; Sprint would be open to the arrangement (according to sources). There could have been a financial component to such a move, those sources added, with Sprint helping alleviate a new sponsor’s first-year commitment in the sport. Sprint currently spends between $50 million and $75 million on its title deal annually.
However, with sources saying there have been no indication a new deal is imminent and with the 2016 season just four months away, the window to get a replacement by next year has about closed due to the immense logistical planning and execution that go into such a switch.
Sprint officials acknowledged that the sponsor was coming back. NASCAR declined to comment.
Brands that have been pitched on the title sponsorship include Panasonic, LG, Coca-Cola, Goodyear, Comcast and Hisense, according to sources. They added that Hisense showed the most interest thus far, though the China-based consumer electronics brand has decided against it for now. NASCAR went to market asking $100 million per year for a minimum of 10 years.
Categories that are being pursued by NASCAR for the title sponsorship include consumer electronics, financial services and telecommunications according to sources. The latter two of those are either completely or relatively competition-free in NASCAR, which makes them desirable because they would create fewer issues for NASCAR teams during an eventual changeover from Sprint.
Numerous sources pointed out that a deal of this magnitude was almost always going to take two years to complete, which speaks more to the glacial pace of corporations than anything else. They also pointed out that a lame-duck sponsor working to avoid its final year is routine in sports marketing, meaning it would have been more surprising if Sprint hadn’t shown interest in getting out a year early.
Involved in the NASCAR sales efforts are: Chief Sales Officer Jim O’Connell; Steve Phelps, Executive Vice President and CMO; Chad Seigler, Vice President of Business Development; Matt Shulman, Managing Director of Series Marketing; Chairman and CEO Brian France; and Dewar.
The only title sponsors in Cup series history are Winston (1971-2003), Nextel (2004-07) and Sprint.