NASCAR and the sport's top teams are discussing ways to rescue their troubled licensing business by bringing all of the team and driver rights under one banner, marking the first major step toward creating NASCAR Properties.
Those rights currently are splintered from team to team, which means a licensee might visit five teams to acquire five licenses. A centralised agency such as NASCAR Properties would make all of those licenses available from one entity like the other professional leagues do.
The groundwork for NASCAR Properties was set Sept. 24 during a day-long meeting at the governing body's new office in Charlotte.
More than 20 teams representing the top 40 or so cars were expected to attend, including high-ranking executives such as Roush Fenway Racing president Geoff Smith, Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs, Hendrick Motorsports general manager Marshall Carlson and Richard Petty Motorsports president Rick Russell, among others. Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s licensing chief, Joe Mattes, said he's on board as well, which is critical because Earnhardt traditionally has accounted for about a third of the sport's licensed merchandise sales.
Paul Brooks, NASCAR's senior vice president and a driving force behind the idea, said officials from his office have been meeting with teams individually since the summer, but the summit at NASCAR's office brought all of those executives together for the first time.
"We are exploring the potential benefits of a unified industry approach to licensing," Brooks said. "The ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders has been very positive and collaborative, and that is truly encouraging."
How NASCAR Properties takes shape remains to be seen, but most team representatives want to see it run by a board of team, NASCAR and track executives. A revenue-sharing model will pay teams and drivers based on their sales, so every team's cut will not be equal.
"What we're trying to get to is a model that will make the whole pie bigger," said John Bickford, general manager of Hendrick Gordon Licensing, which represents Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin, three of the sport's top sellers. "Jeff Gordon has had a pretty big slice of the pie for a while, but I'd bet he'd take a smaller slice of a bigger pie. And a bigger pie helps everyone."
Several team officials agreed that there's significant momentum behind this movement to aggregate rights, especially with the industry's leading licensee, Motorsports Authentics, believed by many team officials to be on the brink of bankruptcy. MA, which is jointly owned by the sport's top two track owners, International Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports Inc., produces and distributes the lion's share of hats, T-shirts and die-cast cars that are sold trackside each week.