Sponsors ~ Who Are They and What Do They Do?
I’m putting this photo before the article, because otherwise you might not realize for a while that this is about racing.
People who possess the same odd sense of humor as me - and a comparable number of years since birth - may be familiar with P.D.Q. Bach, the “youngest and the oddest” child of Johann Sebastian Bach. P.D.Q., whose compositions included the memorable Oedipus Tex, The Abduction of Figaro and Oh Little Town of Hackensack, was the creation of composer Peter Schickle, who brought an appreciation and love of Spike Jones-style slapstick parody to classical music.
If you were into that sort of thing, his concerts were hilarious. But once, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I attended a P.D.Q. Bach concert at which one couple apparently came expecting a serious orchestral performance. Their exit was memorable.
Another of P.D.Q. Bach’s greatest hits.
That recollection came to mind when I was looking over this year’s Monster/Cup schedule and came to the GoBowling at the Glen. What if somebody showed up expecting a bowling tournament? Granted, the “Uncle Hal’s Tavern” bowling shirts might pass for a smaller Cup team’s uniforms, but trying to line up all those NASCAR pit officials like ten pins could lead to problems.
I completely forgot about this last year. Did they actually use NASCAR officials as pins?
I know, I know. Sponsorship money is getting harder and harder to come by these days, and if you start limiting your search to potential sponsors who actually have natural ties to racing, you might have to switch to a job search before long. Do you really think the Auto Club Speedway folks actually started their list of possible 2018 Xfinity race sponsors with the “Roseanne” TV show?
Anyway, my point (you do have a point to all of this, don’t you, Frank?) is that - as a certified geezer - I long for the days of the American 500, the Capital City 300, the Atlanta 500, or even the Poor Man’s 500, the 200-lap/100-mile race run at Canfield, Ohio, on May 30, 1951, as a somewhat tongue-in-cheek alternative to Indy.
Even though I’d never heard of World Service Life outside of the Saturday race at Charlotte, this was more like it.
Today, when you see one of those older names on a race, you think, “Aww gee, they couldn’t get a sponsor again this year.”
When a race has a sponsor, there are two ways to look at it: you can see a sponsored race that looks like “this is really something”: Coca-Cola 600 and Bank of America 500 at Charlotte, for example, or you can think to yourself, “Is a young person who was at Atlanta last month likely to tell her or his grandkids about something memorable from the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500?” Will anybody from Phoenix/ISM remember the event for having been the TicketGuardian 400? (By the way, TicketGuardian states that, “Our vision from day one has been to disrupt the ticketing insurance space,” which would have meant more to me it I had known there was such a thing as the “ticketing insurance space” to begin with.)
I certainly don’t mean anything ill of TicketGuardian, QuikTrip or Folds of Honor (and definitely not of bowling), but these sponsorships convey neither the stereotypical linkage of soft drinks, beer, oil or car brands with racing, nor - to be honest - the permanence. If they’re still the names of these events in five years (and if I’m still around in five years), I’ll freely admit to being surprised and having been wrong.
I’m guessing another reflection of how hard you had to work to get a sponsor is how small the track’s name appears in relation to that of said sponsor.
I’ve made a couple of references to my age now, and that’s starting to sound like a lot of what’s behind this geezer rant. Maybe it’s really that the names I want to see attached to races just aren’t attached to anything anymore. I have lots of shirts left from my days working at Richmond Int’l Raceway that promote the Pontiac Excitement 400. If I’d worked at Dover, they’d be touting MBNA, the former bank. At one time, Talladega’s races alternated between Winston and Sears (via DieHard). Oops.
Nowadays, the corporate biggest guys aren’t interested. Where’s the Google 500, Amazon 400, Apple at the Glen or Facebook 350?
That’s the real change. The old names are gone, and the new names aren’t necessarily as permanent. Neither of those facts is a comfort to someone who harkens back to the ‘60s, ‘70s or ‘80s for “the way it was… and OUGHT to be.”
I’m used to having Xfinity to Camping World Truck Series teams sponsored by entities I’ve never heard of, but races?
Well, ya gotta do what ya gotta do. If the money comes from a corporation with the ink (or toner) still wet on its charter, that’s better than having nothing, right? Now we’ll just wait for the trickle-down, when these trends are picked up locally, and the local short track is holding the “Action Plumbing Supplies Presents the West End Cleaners 30 Featuring Toby’s Chinese Take-Out and Six-pack Shop”
You may see more odd sponsorships these days, but they’ve always been with us, as Buddy Baker could have told you 50 years ago.
Frank’s Loose Lug Nuts
It has nothing to do with the rest of the article above, but how about loyalty in sponsorships? From 1983-94, one of the Dover races was the Budweiser 500. As soon as Anheuser-Busch cut off the monetary tap, who did the folks in Delaware run to as a replacement? Miller Genuine Draft! Wonder if whoever owned Miller back then had to pay extra to scrub all the red paint off the speedway grounds.
I really wanted to end with the Kim Kardashian perfume sponsorship from a few years back, but then I saw this. I’m headed to Roscoe’s now.