NASCAR sponsors eyeing IRL

July 18, 2008
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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.”
  • Here's the thing: there are too many cars in Nascar's Sprint Cup series for second-tier sponsors to be comfortable there. While there is this year a focus on the third-tier teams (go-or-go-homers), those sponsors aren't necessarily getting their money's worth either. The sponsors for the middle third, from about 15th to 30th, can't be happy with their levels of exposure. Their cars don't run up front, and they don't fail to make the field, and they don't wreck or cause wrecks like the real backmarkers.

    I'd watch for enough sponsorship (in the aggregate) to leave Sprint Cup for IRL to stabilize the regular Cup car count between 38 and 43. The economics simply dictate that.
  • An idea that seemed laughable a year or two ago is now reality.

    No. It's still laughable. The 'league' title sponsorship couldn't fund a start & park in Nascar.

    Cheerlead all you want, no one is interested, and the main reason is the foul cancer that is Tony H. George.

    Or just ask Pep Boys, Northern Light, Rachels etc.

    Still waiting for those finals, Anthony.

    Serious question - what is it in the Indiana mindset that makes everyone defer to those with money? That's a disturbing, un-American, creepy way to live.

    And the 'league' has yet to un-suck itself, and never will.
  • Stan,

    While you may not be an ICS fan, there are lots of us out here. Some of us choose not to follow the herd that is NASCAR, and many of us fit a different demographic alltogether. Go flame somewhere else.
  • stan is just one of the few die hard c>rt/ccws/owrs fans who refuse to believe their series sucked. They had no real business plan and it failed repeatedly. Stan, it is gone, bury your US 500 pennant and move on.

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