Verizon shifts sponsorship dollars to IndyCar

When the NASCAR season officially ended with last weekend’s awards banquet in Las Vegas, Verizon Wireless’ involvement in the sport ended as well.

Instead, the company will shift an estimated $12 million to $17 million of motorsports spending to IndyCar, where it will sponsor Penske Racing’s No. 12 car driven by Will Power and activate against a series sponsorship it signed in August.

Verizon is leaving NASCAR after two years, and its swift entrance and exit from the sport makes it the second major telecommunications partner to depart in the past three years. Its experience underscores both the challenges a telecommunications company faces in attempting to operate in the shadow of Sprint and the success NASCAR has had in protecting the exclusivity of its title partner.

“Regardless of the category, it’s always bad for a property to lose a major brand," said Dan Richlen, vice president and group account director at Wunderman, which works in motorsports with brands like Panasonic. “This is another leading indicator that everyone needs to stay focused and find better return for sponsors because at the end of the day, if there were enough return, (Verizon) would be here in spades."

Moving to the IndyCar Series

Earlier this year, it signed on as the primary sponsor on Penske’s No. 12 IndyCar entry. It later negotiated an IndyCar Series deal that allowed it to develop a mobile app and provide content to IndyCar fans on its V-Cast network.

The two deals allowed Verizon to exit NASCAR but stay in motorsports. It made its final appearance on the No. 12 car last month at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Deering said the decision to double down on IndyCar was driven by the fact there were fewer races and the company felt it could do more concentrated hospitality as a result. It also gave Verizon the chance to be the category leader and allowed it to maintain its commitment to Penske.

“The overall thinking is focus," Deering said. “It’s about maximizing what we have, elevating our brand and reaching our consumers."

NASCAR executives hope Verizon returns to the Nationwide Series or Camping World Truck Series in the future, but it’s unlikely the sport will change its exclusivity in a way that makes room for them in the Sprint Cup Series.

“I wouldn’t say never, but it’s hard to predict," Phelps said. “With so many categories out there, having limitations in three or four categories doesn’t seem too onerous. But at the same time, we want to be sure we have racecars on racetracks and teams are fully funded.

“There are still 400 sponsors in this sport, which is incredible, and the reason they are there is that they’re getting a solid return on their investment." Excerpts from Sporting News

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