Nascar: Fortune 500 sponsorship falls two-thirds over last 20 years

20% of sponsors at 2023 Daytona 500 were top-tier brands, compared to 60% in 2005.

Nascar: Fortune 500 sponsorship falls two-thirds over last 20 years

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  • 60% of primary sponsors at 2005 Daytona 500 were part of the Fortune 500
  • This number fell to around 20% at this year’s race
  • Full-season sponsorship with top drivers has fallen around US$15m in value in past decade
  • Nascar’s partnerships with Goodyear and Coca-Cola remain most recognisable in sports

Nascar has seen sponsorship from Fortune 500 companies fall by around two-thirds over the last 20 years.

At the 2005 Daytona 500, around 60 per cent of primary sponsors were part of the Fortune 500. This year, that number had fallen to 20 per cent.

In that time, brands like Caterpillar, Dollar General, Farmers Insurance, GoDaddy, Home Depot, Jimmy John’s, Lowe’s, Mars, Mountain Dew, Oscar Mayer and Subway have departed the stock car racing series.

“The state of sponsorship and sponsorship sales [in racing] — I think it’s harder than it’s ever been because there’s so many options in the marketplace,” Jacob Wyne, vice president of partnership sales at RFK Racing, which is partially owned by Fenway Sports Group, told Sports Business Journal (SBJ).

“Fifteen to 20 years ago, I felt like finding sponsorship in Nascar was like shooting fish in a barrel. Now you have jersey patches in the NBA. Specifically at FSG, we’re in the market trying to sell a helmet position for the [Pittsburgh] Penguins, a [Boston] Red Sox jersey patch deal. Those [pieces of inventory] didn’t exist 15 years ago.”

This increased competition has combined with brands not seeing the value of investing in a team for a whole season. TV viewership has also seen a steady decrease, while teams are at odds with Nascar itself over the future media rights deal.

RFK Racing president Steve Newmark has previously spoken about a “broken” economic model in the series, with sponsorship accounting for between 60 and 80 per cent of a Nascar team’s overall revenue.

According to SBJ, a full-season sponsorship with the top drivers would cost US$25 million to US$35 million at its peak a decade ago, but this has now fallen to between US$10 million to US$20 million today.

Nascar has clearly begun taking a different approach to its commercial strategy, most evident with its sponsorship of the collegiate athletics department of the University of Alabama last year. The hope is that by seeking to appeal to younger generations TV viewership can recover and brands can return.

That’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom for the most popular motorsport series in the US. The recent Chicago Street Race attracted the highest network audience on NBC since 2017, with an average of 4.63 million viewers tuning in to watch Shane Van Gisbergen win on his Nascar debut.

Nascar’s overall messaging remains strong, with its official partnerships with Goodyear and Coca-Cola being the most recognisable in sports, according to fans surveyed by SBJ.

However, the threat of Formula One cannot be understated. More often than not, brands are looking to the new arrival as the more attractive avenue for their sponsorship goals. For example, Jack Daniel’s was formerly in Nascar but now has a partnership in Formula One with McLaren.

Value is clearly being seen in Nascar, though. Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE) purchasing a minority stake in Joe Gibbs Racing is evidence enough.

With all the talk of interest declining, the likes of Formula One and IndyCar still can’t match the viewership figures of Nascar in the US, something that gives the stock car racing series a strong base to build on.