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Sports Business

NASCAR sponsors eyeing IRL

July 18, 2008
Subway restaurants won’t be the last NASCAR sponsor racing to the Indy Racing League, according to motorsports marketing experts.

An idea that seemed laughable a year or two ago is now reality. Subway, a big-time NASCAR sponsor, this week announced it would sponsor an IRL car driven by Paul Tracy. The deal, league insiders said, was brokered by IRL boss Tony George to let Subway take a test drive in the IRL. League sources said Subway is thinking hard about becoming a bigger sponsor in IRL next year. They added that Subway is one of five finalists to become the league’s title sponsor. For more on that, come back to this blog on Monday.

Sure, the Subway-Paul Tracy agreement is a one-off deal. And Subway isn’t paying more than a couple lunch meat sandwiches to put its name and logo on the car for the upcoming race in Edmonton. But it’s a sign of things to come.

“There are a lot of NASCAR sponsors who are suddenly taking a hard look at the numbers,” said Larry DeGaris, a sports marketing professor at the University of Indianapolis. “It’s no joke. Sponsorship in NASCAR has gotten so expensive, it has a lot of sponsors there crunching the numbers and looking at alternative ways to get their messages out. And they realize the cost per million in the IRL is looking much better.”

Zak Brown, president of locally based Just Marketing International, has also heard from NASCAR sponsors looking at the IRL. He should know. Brown, who counts Subway as one of his clients, got rich in the last decade matching corporate entities with NASCAR teams. A little more than a year ago, he was hired by the IRL to help sell its title sponsorship.

Brown claims it’s not necessarily an either/or proposition.

“The demographics of the two series are different,” Brown said. “For many companies, they’re complimentary. But one thing’s for certain. The momentum of the IndyCar series has sponsors’ attention.”
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