Saturday, October 07, 2006

Goodwrench, Sponsors, and Sentimentality

Sponsoring a popular NASCAR team is the sort of smart business move that is severely underapreciated by the modern business world (but they are starting to catch on.)

There are some sponsors that have become endeared to fans because of their long association with a certain team or driver. This is the sort of emotionality and feelings of fondness towards a brand that many a heartless corporate entity could only dream of having. STP with Richard Petty and the 43. Miller with Rusty Wallace. Old school Davey Allison fans still love that Texaco Havoline paint scheme, no matter who is driving. (Why do you think they keep a style borne of the early 1990s, after having experimented with so many more modern themes?) Other sponsors have benefitted from multiple tie-ins just becomming an expected scheme in any given lineup: Kellogs, Tide, Budweiser (though they are working hard to be linked to Dale Jr's popularity.), etc.

Even after a favorite driver is gone, and even after a team has radically changed into something unfamiliar, a sponsorship with the right paint scheme can keep a fan from wandering off, and keep them rooting at least for the car that invokes memories of past racers.

I was confused why STP gave up on the Petty team, even with its dismal performance on the track. No matter how badly the 43 car does, just seeing it with an old school petty theme will set fans off. Note: I said I was confused. That was until I saw the fan reaction after its couple years absence when it returned for a special race or two. You couldn't buy more good will from people if you paid them directly.

That is why I'm not surprised by Goodwrench's recent announcement to scale back its sponsorship on the number 29 car. They're biding their time.. It's a brilliant corporate move on their part. They will stay associated with RCR while spending less money, waiting for the day when Childress decides to slap a number 3 on the side of one of his cars again and paint it black. The fan reaction will be insane. It is a physical impossibility for Goodwrench to not take advantage of that. Their move is a signal to fans - We're not here to be taken for granted. If you want your nostalgic "come full circle" moment, you better remember the part we played.

And if you think Dale Jr. won't be behind the wheel of that car, you're delusional. I only wonder how Budweiser will react when their investment eventually bends to fan pressure. Will they try and jump in as an associate sponsor to keep their tie to Dale, will they stay with DEI, or find another driver?

That this is even something worth discussion shows that a NASCAR primary sponsorship is the best advertising money can buy.

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