As a big NASCAR fan, I get all giddy this time of year. With the first roar of the engines to the kick of speed weeks, to the most famous words in racing, “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!” I get fired up. (ha! get it?) Everyone knows that I’ll be glued to the TV, along with 18 million others for the Daytona 500 on that magical Sunday. I realize that some of you simply don’t understand the entertainment of 43 cars going around in circles, and the colossal waste of fuel. If you have never been to a race, it’s hard to imagine the energy that comes from a track with a crowd of over 100,000 people (almost double that at most tracks), not including the infield and the folks that never make it to the track. And yes, part of the fun is what happens in the parking lots… and the final laps of the race.
NASCAR wasn’t always the money making machine it is today. Its roots began with runners carrying moonshine, illegally. These guys had to find a way to make a fast getaway from the law in case they were caught. And it worked. Not long after the sport of moonshine runners and their tuned up engines, the birth of NASCAR emerged with many of the moonshine runners as drivers. They didn’t make much money, and often had to dump any earnings from races back into their cars so they could get back to the racetrack as fast as possible. In early NASCAR days, it wasn’t uncommon for drivers to race 2-3 times per day, 3 days a week. Today, the sport has a routine schedule with 25-30 races per season, depending on the series.
In 1971, RJ Reynolds, maker of Winston products, stepped up to become the first sponsor of NASCAR’s major league series, dubbed the Winston Cup Series. This year-long sponsorship, which included television and advertising rights, winner circle exclusives, track recognition, and much more cost RJ Reynolds $100,000. Today, the premier sponsor, Sprint shells out millions to have the Spring Cup Series title and other sponsorship packages. With hundreds of sponsors for each race, NASCAR has become the leading sponsorship earner of all sports in the US. Learn more about NASCAR sponsorships!
Last week, trivia was about single car sponsorships. It’s true, it costs a lot to put a car on a racetrack week to week – some have said it costs as much as $300,000 just for a single car, perhaps more. That doesn’t include salary for the crew, transportation for the team, a backup car and spare parts, or even the cost to enter a car into a race. So how much do the various areas of a NASCAR car go for? Prime spots for sponsors are the hood, trunk lid, rear bumper, and front quarter panels. A front quarter panel sponsorship can go for as much as $1.5 million for 1 year. That’s right – over a million dollars to have a company logo slapped on 1 of 2 front quarter panels. If you look at a car, it will have several sponsors. The rule is, if real estate on a car is available, then it’s for sale.
What does that $1.5 million sponsorship get a company? Lots. Especially if the sponsorship is on one of the top drivers’ cars. For starters, the logo is displayed to an audience of 100,000 or more at the track, and tens of millions watching on TV. Every time the driver takes the lead, or otherwise gets air time, that’s one more impression opportunity for the brand. If the driver wins the race or finishes in the top 5, the drivers mention their premier sponsors during post-race and winners circle interviews. The major networks conduct pre-race interviews where, once again, the drivers mention their premier sponsors. At the track, they usually have a display booth or tent for race-goers to check out their products, play a game, and pick up freebies. We can’t forget merchandising… premier sponsors are usually on official merchandise from hats to tshirts, jackets, pants, shot glasses, license plate tags, stickers, and more. So for $1.5-5 million a year, it’s not a bad deal, especially since races happen 32 times a year. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention – NASCAR fans are among the most brand loyal fans in the United States. Fastest growing demographic? Women 30-45 years old!
So the next time you think NASCAR is just for rednecks, think again. This audience not only has the cash to fork over $125 per ticket, per race (with most race-goers attending all 3 races in a given weekend), but once they decide on a brand, they stick to it. Oh, and they really know how to tailgate. I should know, I’m one of those early risers who makes the trek to area tracks, sets up shop, has a good time in the sunshine, and looks forward to breathing in that fantastic smell of burning fuel and oil… and I proudly hold up 3 fingers for the 3rd lap of every race. RIP Dale Earnhardt.
Congratulations to rookie Trevor Bayne, winner of the 2011 Daytona 500! In just his 2nd start in the Cup series and one day after his 20th birthday, he set a record as the youngest driver to ever win this elite race. Learn more about Bayne’s cinderella story here. Watch his Victory Lane celebration, and you’ll probably get all warm and fuzzy over this incredible win by a remarkable kid, too!
“Boogety, boogety, boogety, let’s go racing boys!”
- Darell Waltrip’s intro for every race.
P.S. Play this week’s trivia over on our Facebook page! And yes, it’s another week of NASCAR trivia!