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News
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Racing for the big dollars
graphic February 15, 2002: 3:56 p.m. ET

Despite rural roots, Nascar is winning more dollars from top companies.
A weekly column by Staff Writer Chris Isidore
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  • SportsBiz: Winning run hits a bump - Nov. 20, 2001
  • NASCAR taps Fox, TBS and NBC for TV rights - Nov. 11, 1999
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  • SportsBiz column archive
  • CNNSI.com: NASCAR Plus
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    NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Brett Bodine is racing for far more than the checkered flag this Sunday at the Daytona 500. He's racing for the dollars he needs to keep driving.

    Bodine, the last owner-driver on the Nascar Winston Cup circuit, starts the season without a main sponsor.

    He's put together enough support to get him through the first few races of the year. But like two other teams that lost sponsors at the end of last season, he needs a decent showing to impress a sponsor to fork over the millions he'll need to compete this year.

    "It's more than just a race," he told me Friday morning. "We're battling the time situation. We can't go very far without a major sponsor."

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    Brett Bodine needs a good showing at Sunday's Daytona 500 to land a major sponsor for the year.
    Daytona is unlike any other major sporting event in that way, where the first competition of the year can end up being make or break for the team's season.

    There are four new primary sponsors on the sport's Winston Cup Circuit this year. All four are companies it's tough to imagine sponsoring Nascar not long ago.

    The four new sponsors are Minneapolis-based retailer Target Corp. (TGT: Research, Estimates), Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. (SIRI: Research, Estimates), wireless phone provider Alltel Corp. (AT: Research, Estimates) and AOL Time Warner (AOL: Research, Estimates) which owns CNN/Money as well as Turner Sports, one of Nascar's broadcasters along with NBC and Fox.

    "The TV deal has been wonderful for that," said Brett Yormark, Nascar's vice president of corporate marketing, about the shift to larger sponsors. "We've reached key decision makers who are tuning in to our broadcasts."

    Part of the reason that it's important to have the larger sponsors is the increasing cost to compete in the sport.

    "We're racing against teams with $8, $10 or $12 million of support," said Bodine. "We feel we can have a good program with half of that."

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    UPS says it's finding that Nascar sponsorship is helping it to reach out to corporate executives, both its own and those of its clients.
    But despite the growing popularity of the sport, the softening market for advertising overall has made the competition for sponsors more difficult this year. And Bodine said that many potential sponsors still don't give Nascar the respect he believes it is due, even though the sport, watched by an average 5.5 percent of U.S. households last season, is second only to the National Football League in terms of television ratings.

    "We still have a way to go to be accepted by the powers that be at corporations who aren't race fans yet," he said. "They will be, some day, but they're not there yet."

    But despite the sport's gains in ratings across the various demographics, it still skews to the more rural, less educated and Southern fans than other major U.S. sports. For ratings among viewers without any college education, the ratings came in at 7.6. For those with four years of college or more it came in at 2.8. For the 40 percent of the nation that lives in the 21 largest markets the average rating was 3.3. For those who live in rural counties, the rating was 7.2.

    "Certainly the sport grew up in the (rural) counties, and we're comfortable with our heritage," Yormark said. "But we're getting traction in the big markets, posting double-digit growth there."

    Click here for CNNSI's Nascar coverage

    But the sport is gaining in its efforts to be on the inside with corporate America. Yormark works out of a New York office that has been open for four years. Friday the New York Stock Exchange closing bell is being rung in a tandem ceremony in which Mike Eskew, the CEO of United Parcel Service (UPS: Research, Estimates) is in New York to ring the bell while Dale Jarrett, the driver his company sponsors, waves a checkered flag down at Dayton on a television hook-up.

    UPS, which gave up its Olympic sponsorship this year, has been a major Nascar sponsor for two years. Besides reaching Nascar fans with its advertising, the races have become an important way to help entertain executives, both UPS' own and its key clients', said UPS spokeswoman Susan Rosenberg.

    "We're not concerned with the demographic mix," said Rosenberg. "We think it's moving in a direction that makes it more mainstream. You're starting to see a change in the skew in income level, education level. It's a broader strata of shipping decision makers." graphic

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      RELATED STORIES

    SportsBiz: Winning run hits a bump - Nov. 20, 2001

    NASCAR taps Fox, TBS and NBC for TV rights - Nov. 11, 1999

      RELATED LINKS

    SportsBiz column archive

    CNNSI.com: NASCAR Plus





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    Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.

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