Sprint Cup teams struggle to sustain sponsorship dollars

Among the inventory that's still available: a half-season on Kenseth's #17 Roush Fenway car, a full season on Richard Childress Racing's #07 car and a prominent associate position on Kahne's #9. Industry insiders say that as much as half of the season on Gordon's #24 is being shopped as DuPont scales back and that a handful of races can be had on JGR's #11 (FedEx) and #20 (Home Depot) cars of Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, respectively.

To better entice brands, teams are looking for innovative ways to add value to the sponsorship package, rather than slashing prices, although there's plenty of that going on as well, industry sources said.

That added value could come in the form of space in industry magazines, websites or radio broadcasts, as well as track assets such as time on the SprintVision video board. Teams are sometimes buying that inventory to enhance the package of assets for prospective sponsors.

“In the past, you wouldn't have those conversations with other people in the industry because you feared that someone would steal your sponsor,” said Steve Lauletta, president of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. “Now everyone realises that you're better off at least getting a percentage of a sponsor's dollars instead of trying to get all of the sponsor's dollars.

“What you're seeing is a greater collaboration between teams and other parts of the industry to be creative and make these packages more valuable.”

The fractured nature of NASCAR assets has sometimes been a turnoff to brands. There's practically no one-stop shopping - talk to the track for a track deal, talk to the team for a car deal, talk to the broadcaster for a media deal, talk to NASCAR for a league deal.

Teams think they can offer a more well-rounded sponsorship package by bundling these assets into one package for the brand while holding the line on price.

“Keeping price integrity is hugely important,” Corcoran said. “Fire sales might get a team by in the short term, but it hurts the industry. And we see plenty of companies come through just looking for a bargain.”

There's also the specter of a busy free agent class next year that includes Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle, among others. With so much anticipated driver movement, new sponsor opportunities will emerge and it might make sense for brands to sit on the sidelines and re-emerge next year.

“For the most part, teams are doing a good job holding steady on prices, but they are willing to negotiate,” said Moffitt of MCG Sports. “What you're not going to see next year is a lot of new money in the sport. But for the companies that have suffered from sticker shock before, now is a good time to look at the opportunities that are out there.”

by Michael Smith / Special to the Sporting News

Tagged as: Sprint Cup , Kenseth , Gordon , Newman

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Mark Martin (Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) leads the field away at Phoenix   [pic credit: NASCAR/Getty]

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