Bud shifts focus
The series -- a minor-league racing circuit that typically features a number of drivers from the top-level Nextel Cup circuit -- had been sponsored by Anheuser-Busch for 26 years. But A-B, which has been working to untangle its billion-dollar marketing budget from a seemingly endless list of major sports sponsorships and commitments, said last winter it wouldn't renew the deal. It has instead chosen to focus its Nascar efforts on a Budweiser-branded racing team that will be led by rising-star driver Kasey Kahne starting next year.
Nascar originally had hoped to boost the title sponsorship above the $10 million to $12 million A-B reportedly paid annually, but, after a lengthy search for a new sponsor, ultimately cut a deal with Nationwide for roughly the same amount A-B was paying.
The series will be known as the Nascar Nationwide Series beginning in 2008. The deal was brokered by Wasserman Media Group.
Raising the stakes
Nationwide has been involved in Nascar for years, primarily through sponsorship deals with venues, but this latest agreement raises its stakes in the sport significantly. It is one of several insurers heavily involved in a sport known for aggressive, occasionally reckless maneuvers, the intentional bumping of cars driving well over 100 miles per hour, and frequent flaming, mangled wrecks. State Farm, Geico and Allstate all have similarly major commitments to the sport.
"This is an extremely popular sport with 75 million fans who are enthusiastic and loyal, which is very attractive to us," said Jim Lyski, Nationwide's chief marketing officer. "We've looked at tracks, teams, drivers -- and we think that being the title sponsor is really going to deliver the most bang for us. It's something we can own."