Phelps says search for Sprint’s replacement still on track

UPDATE

NASCAR said that it is talking to "roughly a dozen candidates" to replace Sprint as its Cup Series title sponsor, but the governing body has "zeroed in on around three leading candidates and has swapped term sheets with at least one of them," according to sources cited by Adam Stern in this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL.

Sources said that companies "still in the hunt" include grocery chain Kroger, Yum! Brands, Coca-Cola, South Korea-based Samsung and China-based electronics brand Hisense. There has "been concern in some corners of the industry about how the search is not yet complete, but NASCAR's top sales executive sounded confident a deal will get done."
NASCAR Chief Sales Officer Jim O'Connell said, "We’re in a really good place; we’re exactly where we thought we’d be time-wise." Sources said that NASCAR is "likely to end up with at least a four-year deal" in the $25-35M range in annual rights fees. Sprint's original 10-year deal with NASCAR reportedly was worth $75M in "annual rights and activation fees combined" SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL
Steve Phelps
Steve Phelps

07/30/16 As NASCAR chief marketing officer Steve Phelps explained the status of the search for a new sponsor to replace Sprint, the Pocono Raceway weather went from cloudy, to drizzle to sun breaking through the clouds all in 15 minutes. Was it a sign of the roller-coaster ride of the search for a Cup Series sponsor? "It's all good," Phelps said.

There is no sense of panic within Phelps as the sponsorship search continues and in some ways can be as unpredictable as the Pocono weather. When Nextel was announced to replace Winston in 2003, the deal came together quickly and was announced in June.

Two years ago, the Xfinity deal to replace Nationwide as the sponsor of NASCAR's top national developmental series was announced in September. The announcement of a new Cup sponsor likely will come later. Phelps told ESPN.com on Friday morning that an October announcement is the most likely scenario. He stressed not to confuse NASCAR not having a concrete feel of an announcement date with the search not going as planned. He said the timeline is tracking as NASCAR expected when Sprint announced in December 2014 that it would depart after the 2016 season.

"We've got roughly 12 companies we're still in discussions with," Phelps said. "They're in various stages. I would say there's an opportunity that I believe we could get an offer from — five or six. The process is going very well. The brands are a mixture of those that are not in the sport right now and some that are in the sport. It's a good list and we're trying to determine what is the best for the sport overall."

NASCAR doesn't expect a 10-year deal this time around. "It probably will be a shorter deal," Phelps said. "It is something that bodes from our standpoint and as well a brand standpoint. … Although we did a 10-year deal with Comcast (for the Xfinity Series); that's a bit of an anomaly in this world today. It will depend on the brand and it will depend on what we believe will be right for the sport."

Even when NASCAR signs a deal, the steps prior to the announcement will depend on several factors. NASCAR won't want to tread on the media blitz of the end of the regular season or start of the Chase, possibly feeding speculation of the status of negotiations in order to make sure it does the announcement at the time that works best for NASCAR and its sponsor. ESPN.com

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