Speeding logos: The story of NASCAR sponsorship

23. October 2014 10:45 by Julie Merar in Sports   //  Tags:   //   Comments ()

Just one look at the cars speeding around the track on race day is enough to convince even the most casual fan that NASCAR is indeed one of the most highly sponsored sports in the world. Before the institution of NASCAR was established, stock car racing sponsors consisted of merely a handful of local car-related businesses. However, since Bill French Sr. took over the sport and founded NASCAR in 1948, multinational corporations from every industry have begun clamoring to attach their names to race day in any way possible. Companies currently spend millions of dollars to associate themselves with NASCAR in the hopes that they will be able to reach the sport's 75 million fans.

A history of logos
There are many opportunities for brands to connect themselves with 
NASCAR in one way or another. The sport currently operates three separate series: the Sprint Series, the Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series. As you may have noticed, each of these series is named after a corporate sponsor. This trend began all the way back in 1972 when R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company started looking for a new way to advertise their cigarettes. The solution was to sponsor the Winston Series, named after the company's popular cigarette brand. At that time, it only cost the company $100,000 to sponsor the Winston Cup, compared to the tens of millions that it costs Sprint to sponsor NASCAR's premier series today.

But the races aren't the only part of the sport that companies can pay for. They can also sponsor a team and get a car and driver of their very own. This trend really took off when STP, an oil additive, approached famous driver Richard Petty about the prospect of putting their logo on his iconic light blue No. 43 car. STP CEO Andy Granatelli was a huge racing fan and sponsored Mario Andretti's 1969 Indianapolis win. However, it wasn't until Petty that the STP logo appeared on a car. The partnership would become one of the most well-known in the history of the sport.

Levels of sponsorship
These days, the cost of putting together and maintaining a racing team usually can't be managed by one sponsor alone. Therefore, cars now have two levels of sponsorship. Primary sponsors will pay anywhere from $12 to $15 million a year to have their logo prominently displayed on a car. In addition, they get to pick the color scheme and use the driver's likeness in their promotional materials. These primary sponsors have changed over the years and included everything from beer and tobacco companies to adult diapers and even Kim Kardashian's perfume line - small racing outfits will often go to great lengths to get sponsored. In fact, in the days before Danica Patrick had started making inroads for female drivers, Kim Crosby was having difficulty securing sponsorship. Unfortunately, she had to resort to diaper rash ointment producer Boudreaux's Butt Paste. The brand was displayed prominently on Crosby's car and racing suit before the deal fell through in 2005.

The second level of sponsorship is as an associate sponsor. These companies usually get a sticker bearing their logo placed somewhere on the car's body. The costs are less but can still be substantial. For example, a company has to shell out around $1.5 million for prime sticker placement on a car's quarter panels. Corporations can also sponsor any number of a driver's off-track activities. Beverage companies are known to pay drivers to drink their brand of soda or water in the pit while being interviewed before and after a race.

Winners and losers
NASCAR fans demonstrate a fierce level of brand loyalty. They will often choose to buy the products of sponsor companies for no other reason than the fact that they are associated with the sport. As such, corporations have a large incentive to attach their logos to professional racing in any way possible. An added bonus is being connected to a winner. For example, Mars Inc. - a popular candy producer responsible for such classic treats as M&Ms - has been a longtime 
NASCAR partner, most notably as the primary sponsor of Kyle Busch's No. 18 car. As a result, it has enjoyed a tremendous 4-to-1 return on investment, no doubt in part due to Busch's impressive ranking as the third-best driver in the sport.

Unfortunately, not all drivers enjoy the same level of success, and this often comes at the cost of lucrative sponsorship. Given the high cost of sponsoring a car, companies can't afford to put money into a driver who fails to qualify for races and get his car, and consequently the sponsor's logo, on television. Many sponsors also pull funding when their drivers become embroiled in scandal. This was the case when NAPA pulled out of Michael Waltrip Racing after the team was found to be unfairly manipulating the finish at the 2013 Richmond race. At the end of the day, sponsorship is a business, and companies want to attach their brand to those that represent it best.

Are you more willing to buy the products of NASCAR sponsors?

Ryder Cup 2014

22. September 2014 11:41 by Julie Merar in infographic, Sports   //  Tags:   //   Comments ()

The strangest rules in professional golf

18. June 2014 10:33 by Julie Merar in Sports   //  Tags:   //   Comments ()

 

The rules of professional golf may seem pretty straightforward: Hit the ball into the hole, and whomever can do it in the least strokes wins. However, as one of the oldest sports in the world - dating back to the 1400s - golf has seen a few additions to its rule book over the years that make even the most knowledgeable experts furrow their brows. Before buying your PGA championship tickets, brush up on these obscure regulations that you can use to impress your friends this year in Louisville, Kentucky.

Off with their heads
Should you suffer the misfortune of having the clubhead dislocate from the shaft during your swing, you are subject to different rules depending on where in your swing the dislocation occurred. If your clubhead happens to fall off during your backswing and you complete the swing but miss the ball (on account of, you know, there being no clubface), then the stroke is not counted. However, if the decapitation should occur during the downswing and you miss the ball, you are out of luck, the stroke counts.

Orange you glad it isn't harvest time?
If you are planning on playing a round in Florida during orange harvest season, beware. Decision 23/10 of the U.S. Golf Association's 600-plus-page Decisions on the Rules of Golf states that should your ball become lodged in an orange, you cannot take relief without incurring a penalty shot. This rule gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "orange slice."

The 19th hole
At many courses, the clubhouse is located at a safe distance from the errant balls of amateur golfers. However, this is not always the case. Should you find yourself in a situation where your wandering drive has ended up square in the middle of the clubhouse, and the area is not marked as out of bounds, you have to play it as it lies.  Fortunately, the USGA has been kind enough to provide players with Decision 24-2b/14 which allows you to open a door or window when you play your ball. That is, assuming you haven't already shattered it on the way in.

Double Jeopardy
Thanks to a strange penalty-reporting process, many players get disqualified for doing something that wasn't against the rules at the time. In professional golf, every player is required to sign their scorecard at the end of the round. If you sign an incorrect scorecard you get disqualified. However, since there are many, many rules in golf, it is often the case that an illegal action is not apparent until the next day. In these cases, a two-shot penalty is retroactively assigned and then the player gets disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard, even though it was correct when he or she signed it.

Which wood is which?
Depending on its current state of being, wood can mean many different things for a golfer. Is it a log? That's a loose impediment - you can't move it. Is it a bench? That's an obstruction - take a drop. Is it "manufactured into a charcoal briquette?" Another obstruction. Jury is still out on log-bench hybrids.

What is the most confusing golf rule you have encountered? Tell us in the comments!

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