DuPont, long recognised as the leader in hospitality among NASCAR sponsors, is dramatically reducing its program this year as part of its companywide cost cutting.
Instead of entertaining the 17,000 guests it had at 37 races last year, DuPont will buy hospitality packages at six races this season and will host fewer than 2,000 guests.
“The economy has had a huge impact on us,” said Larry Deas, DuPont's motorsports manager. “The current environment, along with the high cost of hospitality, has forced us to make significant cuts.”
Whether DuPont's cuts signal the beginning of the end for its sponsorship of Jeff Gordon's #24 Chevrolet remains to be seen. DuPont, which has been on the car since 1993, has been the only primary sponsor Gordon has known at Hendrick Motorsports and together they own the longest driver-sponsor-owner streak in the sport.
DuPont's current contract with Hendrick Motorsports runs through the end of the 2010 season.
Deas would not speculate on how DuPont's team deal might be affected in the future, but industry experts say it's a bad sign that an iconic sponsor has made such deep cuts, which could represent a savings well into the seven figures, analysts say. Most high-end team sponsorships cost $20 million or more a year before activation.
“You usually don't see a company make those kinds of cuts and then come back to where they were,” said Greg Busch, a senior vice president at GMR Marketing.
Tom Knox, a vice president in IMG's Charlotte office and a former executive at Richard Childress Racing, said DuPont 'could be going the way of Tide, GM Goodwrench and other long-time sponsors that just got priced out of the sport'.
DuPont had planned to trim its hospitality programme this year anyway, Deas said, but the need for sharper cuts became apparent late last year as the recession took chunks out of DuPont's business.
Deas called the economic hits on DuPont 'across the board and in virtually every region of the world'. The impact on housing and automotive has been especially hurtful. DuPont's automotive paint and Tyvek house wrap are products that have been at the forefront of its marketing through the Gordon sponsorship.