When the trust is formed, NASCAR teams and drivers will have the ability to opt in or out of specific programs. Target, for one, sponsors Chip Ganassi Racing's NASCAR and IndyCar teams, but it's uncertain how it might react to Walmart's moves.
It's a smart play because the Walmart/NASCAR audiences have a lot of overlap,” said David Schreff, CEO of Bedare Sports and Entertainment, Greenwich, Conn., and the former president of the NBA's media and marketing group. “As long as there is some guaranteed NASCAR media and guaranteed in-store promo and product placement, it's a bold, acquisitive move.”
Before Walmart and NASCAR can move down the aisle together, NASCAR must finalize its trust, which will be a centralized licensing agency representing team, driver and league marks. In the past, each team managed its licensing rights, and licensees were required to do a different deal for each driver it wanted. Five licenses often meant five separate negotiations.
Under the new NASCAR trust, which is believed to be in the final stages of the approval process, team licensing rights would be managed by the trust, and licensees would enjoy the first case of one-stop shopping in NASCAR.
Paul Brooks, NASCAR's senior vice president, and Blake Davidson, NASCAR's managing director, licensed products, have been moderating the licensing talks with the teams.
Walmart is also thought to be considering a sponsorship arrangement with a team or multiple teams, with Hendrick Motorsports in the middle of those discussions. It's unclear, though, if the mass retailer will settle on one car for a chunk of the season, sponsor multiple cars for a few races each, or perhaps put together several driver deals into a marketing platform, a la the Gillette Young Guns or the Coca-Cola family of drivers.
One scenario, according to sources, has Walmart sponsoring Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet for half of the season or more, as primary sponsor DuPont looks to scale back its spending. DuPont's current primary sponsorship on the No. 24 car ends this season, and while the longtime sponsor is expected to remain in some form, it's uncertain whether DuPont will remain the primary.
Other industry insiders say it's unlikely Walmart would sponsor a single driver because the retailer will potentially have licensing arrangements across a variety of drivers.
All options are believed to be on the table. Walmart's agency of record is The Marketing Arm, which has its Millsport outlet in Charlotte that focuses on motorsports.
While Walmart has long been a primary outlet for NASCAR licensed goods, the store began giving thought to a deeper relationship earlier this year.