FORT WORTH, Texas — NASCAR had hoped to have a sponsor for its premier series signed by now, and there are plenty of nervous people in the garage awaiting any news.
If NASCAR chief operating officer Brent Dewar is feeling the heat, he isn’t showing it. He said NASCAR has talked to several companies, and negotiations continue as it seeks to replace Sprint after its 13-year run. NASCAR has known since December 2014 that Sprint would leave after this year.
“We are in advanced discussions still with a number of companies for the entitlement of our series,” Dewar said Friday. “I’ve got nothing [final] to report today. We’re working hard on it.”
Dewar wouldn’t talk about any companies NASCAR has entered that advanced stage of discussions. When asked about a timeline, Dewar said it is important to find the right partner.
“Some of the firms we’re talking to can move pretty fast,” Dewar said. “Some maybe not as fast.”
With some companies already done with the budgeting process for next year, among the worries within the industry is whether NASCAR can find a company still willing to spend the money — probably at least $20 million or maybe much more, depending on the television and marketing commitments — this late in the game. Sprint reportedly was spending $50 million the past few years.
Dewar said there is time to get the deal done and begin activating the sponsorship with the Daytona 500 in February. He said companies have various deadlines to make decisions and it is just the nature of the business that negotiations have stretched into November.
Another issue that NASCAR must battle when finding a sponsor is the decrease in attendance and television ratings. The public companies say ticket revenue compared to last year has dropped 9.2 percent since the Daytona 500.
Eight of the past nine Cup races have seen 10 percent drops in television ratings, and NASCAR has seen an overall seven percent drop for the year.
NASCAR points to digital and social numbers that show significant consumption of its events. On race days, Fox had streams up 44 percent and minutes streamed up 49 percent while NBC also has seen an increase in minutes streamed for every race. On Facebook and Twitter, NASCAR has had an 80 percent increase in total engagements.
“We’re very proud of our consumption metrics,” Dewar said. “We’re still a big sport. We still have big numbers. We never are satisfied. … There are changing consumption metrics — social and digital are exploding. TV is still very important and we’re trying to find the right balance.”
NASCAR also stresses that its various councils are a way to show that the industry is working together to try to improve the sport.
“If you haven’t been around NASCAR the last three or four years, you really haven’t been around NASCAR,” Dewar said. “We are going through a major sea change, and it’s positive.”