With two years remaining on their extension contract, Sprint informed NASCAR Tuesday that it will not renew their sponsorship of the Sprint Cup Series following the checkered flag of the 2016 season.
The decision by one of the top mobile carriers in the United States will force NASCAR to find a new partner to back its top national series for the second time in 13 years.
Sprint began its tenure with NASCAR under the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series banner in 2004 in what was a 10-year agreement, replacing R.J. Reynolds and the iconic Winston-brand after a 33-year run. A branding change four years later in 2008 made it the Sprint Cup Series, after Sprint and Nextel merged.
“We are proud of our association with NASCAR’s top series but have made the decision not to extend our sponsorship beyond the next two years,” said Steve Gaffney, vice president of Sprint Marketing. “As we look to the future, Sprint is focused on investing in maintaining a competitive edge and providing consumers with the best value in wireless.”
Many were not surprised by Tuesday’s announcement, however.
New Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, who took over the lead position in August, made it clear and apparent early that things were changing inside the company walls — and across the nation. He moved briskly to shift the company’s focus back to business basics, while also cutting costs and vowing to change the way customers looked at Sprint.
“Sprint has long benefited from the unprecedented level of brand integration available in NASCAR, and the passionate fan base that is the most loyal in sports,” added Gaffney. “Without question, the NASCAR sponsorship property has been a valuable investment for us and will be for our successor.”
During their time as NASCAR’s lead sponsor, Sprint has left a footprint that has forever changed the sport.It began in 2005 with the introduction of the FanView next generation scanner, which features video, replays, a live leaderboard and more. Miss Sprint Cup was introduced in 2007, followed by the NASCAR Sprint Cup mobile app in 2008. The company is also known for transporting large television screens to many events through the season mobilizing its Sprint Vision trackside program.
“We genuinely appreciate the fans, teams, drivers, tracks and media who have been so supportive and welcoming to us during these many race season,” Gaffney said. “We look forward to our remaining time as sponsor of the Sprint Cup Series and eventually assisting with the transition to NASCAR’s next title partner.”
Furthermore, Sprint has been heavily involved in two of NASCAR’s premier non-point events, the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway featuring former Daytona 500 pole sitters, previous pole sitters from the prior season, drivers from the top-16 Chase grid and the event’s previous winners, as well as the mid-season Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway with a whopping $1 million dollar payday.But, the question remains, how will it affect NASCAR?
“NASCAR and Sprint have enjoyed a long and productive partnership that has returned significant value to both parties. We understand significant changes within Sprint and the highly competitive business environment it is in has led to a decision not to extend its Cup Series entitlement position following the 2016 season,” said Brett Jewkes NASCAR Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer.
“The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is a very unique, premium sports marketing platform with strong momentum, so we are very confident of moving forward in 2017 with an outstanding new partner. In the meantime, we look forward to Sprint’s partnership on the best racing series in the world for the next two seasons.”
NASCAR just ended its search for a sponsor for its number two series, the newly renamed NASCAR XFINITY Series, who will begin its new 10-year post in 2015. Comcast’s XFINITY brand replaced
Nationwide Insurance, who bowed out of its contract with NASCAR to focus on team sponsorship with Hendrick Motorsports’ Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Thankfully, Camping World this year resigned an agreement to remain the title backer of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series though 2022.
Now, NASCAR’s marketing core group will be pounding the pavement yet again – hoping to once again deliver at one of its biggest challenges yet.
It won’t be easy.
After all, it was reported that Nextel was paying nearly $70 million dollars a season for the title rights in 2004.
NASCAR’s explosive new television contract, as well as the new Chase format are both positives that will give them momentum and hopefully potential leads that will allow them to name a replacement sooner than later.
Follow Chris Knight on Twitter @Knighter01.
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