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DATE News (chronologically)
07/15/10
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Fans to have access to better merchandise  The new NASCAR Teams Licensing Trust will change the way NASCAR’s merchandise industry operates, but NASCAR and its teams hope that by bundling their licensing rights together, it also changes the business for fans as well.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” says Jeff Gordon, whose stepfather, John Bickford, is on the board of the new licensing group. “The fans are going to see a better product line spread out to further resources and distribution centers that I think [the products] will be more readily available, and I think the products are going to be quality products that they will enjoy and be proud of.”

Teams and NASCAR believe that the trust, which will be run by a 14-person board of directors mostly made up of team executives, will make the sport more attractive to the best brands by creating one licensing agency to deal with. Teams have handled their licensing independently in the past.

The new licensing trust currently consists of NASCAR and 11 race teams, with Red Bull Racing the only high-profile team that has not yet joined the group. The trust will grant licenses to vendors to manufacture die-cast cars, apparel and toys. The theory is that a manufacturer will find it easier to work with one group rather than having to work with each team. By combining more than 30 drivers under one umbrella, the teams and NASCAR also will have more power in negotiations.

Even though several teams in the past had granted licenses to Motorsports Authentics to manufacturer die-casts and some apparel, with each team holding its own rights and NASCAR holding the rights to its logos, many major companies weren’t willing to negotiate for contracts that made financial sense.

“We’ve been difficult to deal with. … The big brands stayed away from us because we were independent contractors,” says JR Motorsports Vice President of Licensing Joe Mattes. “We said we were working together, but the truth be known is Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. could break away and do his own thing, Jack Roush could do their own thing and Rick Hendrick [could].

“Because people had to talk to so many different people, they got so many differences of opinions. The one voice, one vision [we have] now brings us an opportunity to attract the big brands, the right brands. Demographically we can start working on the females and the males and the youth initiative.”

The drawback for teams is they might not have as much leeway to pick who makes their die-casts or apparel, but as a group they have become more attractive to prospective vendors. Lionel Trains, a popular model train company, is expected to manufacturer die-cast cars.

Lionel already is used to working with major retailers and also should be able to produce die-casts quickly and efficiently. It also is a big enough company to invest in advertising to launch certain die-cast lines.  More at Scenedaily.com

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