NASCAR COO defends strength of series' sponsorship

Getty Images for NASCAR

NASCAR COO defends strength of series' sponsorship


NASCAR COO defends strength of series' sponsorship


NASCAR chief operating officer Steve Phelps says the idea that NASCAR sponsorship is not doing well is a “misconception.”

Phelps and businessman Marcus Lemonis, the chairman of Camping World and Gander Outdoors — the current and future entitlement sponsors of the Truck Series — held a news conference Sunday at Pocono Raceway to discuss the future of the series and unveil its new logo. During the presser, Lemonis noted that Camping World’s value jumped from $1 billion to $4 billion partly due to its association with NASCAR.

A reporter later asked Phelps what the successful Camping World-Gander Outdoors and NASCAR partnership might mean for the health of the sport as it continues to boost and market all three national series. 

 “I think there’s a misconception out there that sponsorship in NASCAR is not doing well, and that’s not true,” Phelps responded. “We have more sponsors in this sport today than we’ve ever had. We’ve got almost half the Fortune 100, almost a third of the Fortune 500. It’s a lot of large companies who are in the sport not because it would be really cool to go racing. It’s because it works.

“And so Marcus talked about fan loyalty, talked about what it’s done for his business. There are other brands that are doing that, as well. So people tend to focus on oh, my gosh, sponsor A left and sponsor B left, and for us, it’s like, okay, well, C, D, E and F also came on board as brand new sponsors. And then a plethora of others have renewed or extended for a period of time. I think this industry tends to focus on the negative. I’m not really sure why.

“But I’m excited about it and want to thank Marcus and his whole team for their partnership for these many years, and we look forward to many, many years to come.”

(Back row, from left to right) Gander Outdoors/Camping World Chairman Marcus Lemonis, NASCAR COO Steve Phelps, NASCAR Truck Series GM Ben Kennedy, Truck Series Managing Director Brad Moran, and drivers Dalton Sargeant and Ben Rhodes announce Gander Outdoors’ title sponsorship of the 2019 NASCAR Truck Series on Sunday. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

NASCAR has over 50 official sponsors. Some of those include Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, Fanatics, Microsoft, PNC Bank, and Visa.

While the sport has been able to add official partners continuously, however, full primary sponsors for teams are becoming harder to land.

One off the most significant stories this season is Lowe’s departure from Hendrick Motorsports and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson at the end of the year. Since 2002, Lowe’s has been the only sponsor on Johnson’s car for all 38 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races.

Aaron’s also used to sponsor a full season, but they left after Michael Waltrip Racing announced it was closing down at the end of the 2015 season. At the time, Aaron’s — whose contract with MWR was up for renewal — said it would be taking some time away from team sponsorship. They have yet to return.

5-hour ENERGY is also leaving at season’s end. Last year, they were a part of the championship-winning organization at Furniture Row Racing.

Others who have recently departed include Target (from Chip Ganassi Racing), Home Depot and Dollar General (Joe Gibbs Racing), Farmers (Hendrick Motorsports), and Go Daddy (Stewart-Haas Racing).

That is just in the Cup Series. Nowadays, teams need multiple sponsors on one of its cars to fill out the year.

And NASCAR, while always projecting a positive message, is also not immune.

Monster Energy reportedly became the entitlement sponsor of the premier series for less money than what Sprint was paying. The company is set to return in 2019, but Phelps said earlier this year that it was “highly unlikely” Monster Energy would stay beyond that as the sanctioning body is looking to rework its sponsorship model — one that is expected to include television and track partners.

Xfinity and NASCAR signed a 10-year deal in 2014 that saw Xfinity replace Nationwide as the entitlement sponsor of the second-tier series.

Camping World replaced Craftsman in the Truck Series in 2009. Lemonis will rebrand the series to the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Series next season after acquiring the company earlier this year.