Sponsor Roulette

The news flurry in the NASCAR world continued this week with more announcements regarding 2011. The official schedules for all three national divisions were released so we're all sure where we'll be going and when next season. But we also confirmed a pair of driver whereabouts as well as what colors they'll be flying on their cars.

Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress Racing told the world what most already knew when Budweiser was introduced as the new backer of the No. 29 entry. The long-time NASCAR sponsor will bring its iconic logo to the current Cup point leader's entry in a new relationship with RCR that picks up where the Richard Petty Motorsports sponsorship ends at the last checkered flag this November.

It's a good fit to be sure with RCR now back as one of the sport's premier organizations and Harvick flexing his muscles as a top driver once again. The connection between Harvick and Bud also makes a lot of sense something I can't say about the pairing of the brewery with Kasey Kahne. Harvick with an ice cold Bud in his hand after a race is an image I can relate to seeing. For whatever reason Kahne did not fit the company's image for me.

But while landing the backing of Budweiser is a feather in RCR's cap, it still leaves quite a hole in the team's budget. While the brewery will spend the same amount of money as it has in the past on the NASCAR program, the sponsorship dollars will only go as far as twenty races for the 29 car. The rest of the money will be earmarked for what's known in the marketing biz as "activation," or engaging the sponsorship's promotional reach with a variety of activities and initiatives.

That leaves 16 points-paying races to fill with another company's money for now, which is a pretty challenging task with all that continues to go on in corporate America and the current economy.

A similar scenario unfolded at RPM when Marcos Ambrose was named to drive the No. 9 Ford as Kahne's replacement next season. Stanley Tools, a current Petty sponsor, will move to back Ambrose but again only for 20 events. Like RCR, RPM has a task of filling out the rest of the car's dance card with much-needed funding.

Perhaps it's just another sign of today's financial uncertainty that companies who still recognize the value of marketing their products using NASCAR don't have as many dollars as in the past. But a more troubling trend to me is the lack of new businesses coming into the sport.

The 2011 driver and team line-up features a lot of new drivers in new places with the same old sponsors simply being moved around. Shell/Pennzoil, Miller Lite, Menard's, Budweiser and Stanley have supported NASCAR in once capacity or another for a number of years. However we're simply shuffling the deck and not adding anyone new to join them.

In order for the sport to grow the lifeblood of corporate America has to flow freely into the garage area. It's not right now and that could mean a very touch 2011 for several teams, some who might not be able to answer the opening bell when Daytona 2011 rolls around.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2010

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