Every season seems to bring out questions about how NASCAR can keep things growing and the issue took center stage when some of the top leadership from teams across the sport gathered at the NASCAR Hall of Fame for the first-ever Racers Forum.
All the top teams in the NASCAR Cup Series had some form of representation at the event, which raised plenty of topics for discussion, including sponsorship issues, which Steve Lauletta, the president of 23XI Racing, warned needed fixing.
According to Abraham Madkour from Sports Business Journal, Laulatta offered his fellow colleagues in the room some harsh thoughts about how they handle sponsorships per race.
Laulatta implored the other teams not to sell assets on a "per-race cost" because he said it leads sponsors to select which races they want to appear on a car, negatively impacting the other sponsors a driver or team may have. Some sponsors have disappeared in the middle of the season because of the issue.
"No other sport sells assets around a weekend event," Lauletta said. "This doesn't take into consideration the other activations teams or drivers do throughout the week away from the sponsored race weekends."
He isn't wrong, though some NASCAR teams are finding it more difficult to find multi-year full-season sponsorships and have to cobble together their budget with multiple sponsors for shorter durations, including one-off appearances.
Joe Gibbs Racing might be the biggest example, as they have had plenty of major sponsors over the years, but in just the last few seasons their major sponsors, such as M&Ms, have left the sport entirely, which triggered Kyle Busch's move from Joe Gibbs Racing to Richard Childress Racing.
It looks to have become more common for race teams to share one major sponsor across multiple cars with smaller associate sponsors attached to individual car efforts, but that doesn't seem like a good move in the long run. While there might be more companies represented overall in the sport, fewer are making the sort of commitment that identifies them with a particular car or driver. For years, Ricky Rudd was associated with the "Tide Ride," or Mark Martin with Valvoline, or Dale Earnhardt's unforgettable No. 3 Goodwrench Chevrolet. Fans identified with those companies and were more likely to exclusively buy the products represented on their favorite drivers' cars. That dynamic now seems to be going away, which is a real shame.
Laulatta thinks it's time for NASCAR teams to rethink their sponsorship model and he's right. With racing costs continuing to climb, the hunt to get sponsors and retain them isn't easy but maybe the teams are selling the overall sport short in their quest to fulfill their racing budgets.
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