As NASCAR closes in on a new title sponsor for its premier series, Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps said there are several candidates and a prime objective in the search to replace Sprint.
In a Wednesday interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint”, Phelps laid out the priorities for how NASCAR will choose its first Cup title sponsor since Nextel (before merging with Sprint) took over from R.J. Reynolds’ Winston brand in 2004.
“The first one that I look at now is, ‘What is going to be the best company or the best brand that helps grow our sport?’ ” Phelps said. “What’s the best company or best brand that can bring our sport closer to our fans? That’s what we’re looking at now. We’ve got eight or 10 companies that are kind of in the mix. (There are) significantly more companies we’ve had dialogue with that (are) no longer in the mix, either because we didn’t think they were right for us, or they didn’t think we were right for them.”
Phelps said NASCAR is exploring brands that already are in the sport along with those that would be first-time sponsors and also whether it was a brand category “heavy” with teams.
Nextel was announced as the replacement for RJR in June 2003. Phelps is expecting the announcement of the 2017 title sponsor to be later in the year, likely in September. NASCAR announced its entitlements with Xfinity (2014) and Nationwide (2007) in October.
“We’re trying to do it where we’re not impacting and stepping on the great job Sprint has done for the last (12) years and do it in a way that’s respectful,” Phelps said. “And we don’t want to step on the Chase, either. It should be the Chase for the Sprint Cup at that particular point.”
Phelps also said the new sponsor will be expected to “activate” the brand for promotional purposes.
“I think we require our entitlement partners to spend money with our TV partners and spend with digital and activate the sport in stores or retail,” Phelps said. “We want to make sure they’re helping to grow sport in financial obligations we impose as part of the deal. I’m confident that we’ll get where we need to get to. Portion of this money goes to the points fund as well. Confident on all those levels that we’ll find the right partner and they’ll be invested in the sport the proper way.