NASCAR now a buyer’s market for sponsors demanding more for their money

Take a look under NASCAR’s hood and some sobering sponsorship trends emerge.

Major backers such as UPS and Aflac both have primary sponsor deals on cars expiring after the upcoming season (and that’s just at Roush Fenway Racing), TV audiences and speedway attendance continue to lag and younger fans are leaving in droves.

Even some of the recent gains in the garage leave question marks behind. As happy as everyone professed to be last fall when Hendrick Motorsports announced a three-year deal with the AARP Foundation to sponsor Jeff Gordon’s car beginning this season, it unintentionally reiterated the graying NASCAR fan base. The number of young men watching NASCAR – a key audience for the major sports leagues – has plunged in recent years, a problem discussed publicly in recent months by plenty of industry executives. Pairing the 39-year-old Gordon with a drive to end hunger for people 50 and 60 and older is admirable, but reinforces the growing reputation that NASCAR’s brief run as a hip sport ended long ago.

At the same time, AARP agreed to back Gordon for 22 of 36 races, following a relentless trend toward multiple corporate sponsors even for the sport’s biggest stars and corporate backers. In similar fashion, Budweiser, one of the most prominent NASCAR spenders for many years, becomes a 20-race primary sponsor in its new deal with Richard Childress Racing and driver Kevin Harvick. Some in the sport say Bud’s decision to invest in related advertising and promotional campaigns is just as valuable as the number of races the beer giant backs.

It goes without saying that Aflac and UPS will expect lower rates and better benefits as they ponder signing new sponsorship deals in the year ahead. (Aflac already cuts its ties as the official supplemental insurance brand for NASCAR itself, a move first reported by sister publication SportsBusiness Journal.)

“Certainly the tables have turned due to the economy," says Zak Brown, CEO of Just Marketing International, the marketing firm that represents UPS in motorsports. “Historically, it’s been a seller’s market. For the last 12 to 18 months and for the foreseeable future, it’s more of a buyer’s market." More at

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