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The Score - Anthony Schoettle

Welcome to The Score, your place for hard-hitting sports business news, fast-breaking updates and fuel-injected debate.  Buckle up.  I'm your host, Anthony Schoettle, IBJ sports reporter.

Sports Business

Crown Royal may become Brickyard 400 title sponsor

July 12, 2011
KEYWORDS Sports Business

An unlikely match could give the Indianapolis Motor Speedway a new title sponsor for the Brickyard 400 and a seven-figure windfall starting next summer.

That’s the direction things are headed, despite appearances to the contrary.

For example, it would appear that Crown Royal is preparing to exit NASCAR racing. Earlier this month, the whisky maker announced it would no longer sponsor Matt Kenseth’s car at Roush Fenway Racing after this season. It’s a big blow for the stock car circuit in a still soft economy.

And it would appear—if you merely consider recent attendance numbers—that the Brickyard 400 is a decreasingly desirable sponsorship property. Though IMS officials don’t release attendance figures for the NASCAR race, estimates have pegged attendance decreases at more than 50 percent from the early years when the race drew more than 250,000. The race started in 1994.

Well, appearances can be deceiving.

Sources are beginning to bubble that Crown Royal is ready to sign a deal to become the title sponsor of the Brickyard 400. It’s rumored to be a multi-year deal starting in 2012.

Don’t be surprised if Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Jeff Belskus along with Crown Royal honchos make an announcement at this year’s race.

And, from what I am gathering, it’s no small deal.

It’s bigger than the Allstate title sponsorship deal for the race, which was one of the bigger title deals in NASCAR. Allstate ended its relationship with the Brickyard 400 in 2009.

And stunningly, the Crown Royal deal, from what I’m hearing, is financially bigger than any other current NASCAR title sponsorship deal. Yes, that means bigger than the Coca-Cola 600 and Irwin Tools Night Race (Bristol) deals.

In a soft economy, when the race’s attendance has wavered, Speedway officials are going to get around $1.5 million annually for the title sponsorship of its race, sources are whispering. Motorsports sources aren’t as surprised as race fans might think.

Despite complaints from some fans that the IMS isn’t suited for stock car racing, apparently sponsors still find big-time value in being affiliated with the race and the venue.

The addition of a Nationwide Series and sports car races during the Brickyard 400 weekend starting in 2012—while not popular with supporters of Lucas Oil Raceway, which is losing the events—should only enhance the Speedway’s opportunities to lure new sponsors.
 

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