Craftsman wanted out of its NASCAR deal early

Craftsman isn't leaving motorsports, Scott Howard insists, but it will terminate its title sponsorship of the NASCAR truck series at the end of 2008, two years before the end of its current five-year deal. Craftsman is the only title sponsor the series has had since its inception in 1995.

Howard, manager of marketing partnerships for Sears, said Craftsman's departure also will bring an end to its status as the official tool of NASCAR. The current agreement was supposed to run through 2010, but Craftsman exercised a termination clause for the end of next season.

Whether the next move involves a track deal, a team sponsorship or some other media play, Howard isn't sure yet, but whatever Craftsman does, he wants it to be "disruptive."

"We want to elevate and change the perception of the brand," he said. "We don't want to just do what everybody else is doing, but we want to make it bigger and better. We're looking for ways to break through, be a little more disruptive. We're going to be playing in positions that you might not expect to see the brand."

Steve Phelps, NASCAR's chief marketing officer, said the search for a new series sponsor began right away last week when news of Craftsman's departure was released. Howard said he advised NASCAR of Craftsman's intent to terminate its contract in July, but both sides agreed to keep it quiet because NASCAR was in the process of selling title sponsorship of its No. 2 series, which went to Nationwide Insurance.

Phelps said it was important to finalize that sale before beginning to sell the truck series. That effort will be led by Jim O'Connell, NASCAR's vice president of corporate marketing, and his sales team out of New York, along with Daytona Beach, Fla.-based Jim Obermeyer, managing director of brand and consumer marketing.

"We didn't want to be out there selling two (title sponsorships) at the same time," Phelps said. "Additionally, we wanted to make sure this season had ended for Craftsman and the truck series before making the announcement so that we didn't take the focus off the important thing, which is the racing." More at

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