In a sport where money very clearly translates to performance the departure of any sponsor is a problem. This year some very big names are gone completely while many others who used to play a major role in years past have reduced their commitment to NASCAR.
Dodge announced last season that they would not be returning to NASCAR for the 2013 season. They had reduced their commitment in recent years and 2012 found them with just one premier team carrying the flag. However their financial and technical support of Penske Racing amounted to a significant financial impact for the team almost as big as a major sponsor.
Primary Sponsors Headed Out
In addition to Dodge's manufacturing support there are a number of familiar paint schemes that will no longer be seen on the track since these major sponsors have pulled out of NASCAR.
Tony Stewart won the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship flying the Office Depot colors on his Stewart Haas #14. However just two seasons later Office Depot has pulled out and is no longer involved in NASCAR.
It's hard to believe that Office Depot wasn't getting significant exposure for their sponsorship dollars. As the defending Champion Tony Stewart got plenty of air time during the races and his outspoken nature means that win, lose or draw he was always a good interview. If the defending Champ can't keep his sponsor happy then it's hard to imagine anyone other than Dale Earnhardt Jr. keeping a sponsor.
The driver that tied Tony Stewart in points in 2011, Carl Edwards, also lost some sponsorship money on his ride. AFLAC was a part-time primary sponsor on Edwards' Roush Fenway Racing Ford for five races in 2012 and a valued associate sponsor the rest of the time. They even featured Carl Edwards in their advertising campaign to maximize the value of their sponsorship.
Other Big Names From Days Gone By
While these are some of the companies that have pulled out completely there are others that have cut back their NASCAR spending considerably. It wasn't that long ago that McDonalds, Quaker State, DeWalt, Mobil 1, Best Buy, Home Depot, Dupont, Cheerios, U.S. Army and others all were weekly NASCAR staples on the track. Now they are all part-time sponsors slowly easing out of the sport.
How To Cope With the Loss
So what do you do if you are a NASCAR team owner and your primary sponsor doesn't renew? Lately the trend among NASCAR teams is to go find three or four sponsors that are each willing to fund 1/3 of the season and have them split time on the car. For example, in 2013 Tony Stewart will feature Bass Pro Shops for eighteen races and Mobil 1 for eleven races. This still leaves seven races unaccounted for that Stewart will have to scramble during the season to fill.
The same goes for the majority of the field these days. There are only a handful of teams that have the luxury of one dedicated primary sponsor. Everyone else has to manage multiple sponsorship agreements in order to complete the season.
This puts a lot of pressure on the drivers too. They have to remember who the primary sponsor is this week so that when they jump out of the car and there is a camera in their face they remember to say the right names in the right order. Definitely a challenge.
In general companies are being more cautious about how they are spending their advertising dollars and the big money NASCAR sponsorship doesn't always make sense anymore.