Cingular Chevy No. 31 to lose sponsor

UPDATE NASCAR officials say they have informed Richard Childress Racing that if Cingular Wireless changes its name to AT&T, as expected after a recent merger, AT&T would not be allowed on Jeff Burton's #31 car. NASCAR made the ruling based on its interpretation of its contract with series sponsor Nextel. Cingular and Alltel, as well as Samsung/Radio Shack with Texas Motor Speedway, were grandfathered in as existing sponsors when the Nextel Series sponsorship contract was signed in 2003. "It's pretty clear that they can't transfer a name due to a sale," NASCAR Vice President for Corporate Communications Jim Hunter said March 17. Executives from Cingular would not comment March 16 when asked about what would happen to the company's sponsorship. "Right now, Cingular is in it and is in it for the long haul," team owner Richard Childress said March 19. "That's about all I can say." Hunter said that Cingular could negotiate with Nextel to try to transfer the name and keep the sponsorship. But Michael Robichaud, vice president for sports marketing for Sprint Nextel, said there are no plans to negotiate. One option could be for Cingular to move to the Busch Series, where any cellular company can provide sponsorship. NASCAR Daily Scene 03/20/06 One can assume from this article that the No. 31 Cingular NASCAR Nextel Cup car will soon be branded with AT&T sponsorship – Life goes on for Cingular Wireless, even though the brand is mere months from dying away. AT&T, which plans to take full control of the cell phone provider as part of its acquisition of BellSouth, intends to drop the 5-year-old Cingular name. Although Atlanta-based Cingular has spent more than $4 billion advertising itself since the company was born, its services will be renamed with the historic AT&T brand. Cingular's president and chief executive, Stan Sigman, supports the change, saying the company has been at a "competitive disadvantage" in pitting itself against rival Verizon Wireless, which shares the same name as other services offered by Verizon Communications. Cingular, meanwhile, has been distinct from its current corporate parents, AT&T and BellSouth. One thing isn't up for debate: Because the Cingular brand will continue to exist for months, the carrier can't afford to stop spending money on marketing. Thus you'll see plenty of Cingular ads, notably during the NCAA men's basketball tournament — which began this week — and during Fox TV's hugely popular "American Idol." Cingular will come full circle if, as expected, AT&T buys BellSouth for $67 billion in stock, taking full control of Cingular in the process. AT&T's plans to eliminate the BellSouth and Cingular names, and move to the single AT&T name, would save hundreds of millions of dollars on ads. Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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