Still reeling from the loss of
longtime fuel sponsor ConocoPhillips, NASCAR might now face
the possibility of having to find a new title sponsor for
the Winston Cup Series.
The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which through its Winston
brand has sponsored the series since 1971, has been in
discussion with NASCAR regarding the company’s future
involvement in the series, and possibly leaving the sport
R.J. Reynolds recently signed a five-year deal to continue
to back the series last July.
Officials at R.J. Reynolds denied rumors that they were
considering a change, but Ned Leary, President of Sports
Marketing Enterprises for R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company,
couldn’t rule out the idea of R.J. Reynolds ending its
partnership with NASCAR before that contract expires.
"Since that time (we signed the new contract), our business
dynamics have changed dramatically.” Leary said, “In our
ongoing conversations with NASCAR, we have discussed the
potential of their exploring a new series sponsor at some
time in the future.”
In addition to sponsoring the Winston Cup and providing a
point fund for the series, R.J. Reynolds is also title
sponsor of NASCAR’s all-star event, The Winston.
Still weathering the storms of lawsuits and litigations
brought on by tobacco users as well as government
restrictions on advertising, R.J. Reynolds has backed away
from several sports ventures that they had previously
sponsored. Most notably R.J. Reynolds discontinued
sponsoring the National Hot Rod Association last year in
part to comply with those restrictions.
More recently, R.J. Reynolds eliminated the NASCAR No Bull 5
program, which awarded $1 million bonuses to drivers, as
well as lucky fans chosen to participate.
The departure of R.J. Reynolds would represent a heavy blow
to NASCAR. Having gained more popularity than ever in the
past few years, NASCAR has seen several high-dollar sponsors
leave the sport as companies struggle to survive in today’s
economy. Other racing series, including the Indy Racing
League and Championship Auto Racing Teams, have also faced
the problem of finding new title sponsors for their series
in recent years.
Several reports have suggested NASCAR is already looking for
a new title sponsor, with Coca-Cola and McDonald’s topping
the list of potential sponsors should R.J. Reynolds bow out.
Until that time comes, Leary said R.J. Reynolds would
continue to work with NASCAR.
"We have always worked with NASCAR and others to do what was
in the best interest of this great sport,” said Leary. “As
the series sponsor, we will continue our work to grow this
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