Sports event sponsorship continues to grow rapidly, outpacing expenditure for conventional mass media advertising. Estimates for 2006 indicate that sponsorship spending will surpass that of the US leading advertising medium, local newspapers.
With its diverse audience, long racing season and frequently televised races, sponsors are continually drawn to NASCAR events. In this research, 1,000 self-identified, randomly selected NASCAR fans were surveyed via telephone to determine their ability to recall NASCAR league and/or team sponsor brands. The typical fan described him/herself as a big or average NASCAR fan and was able to recall a mean of 11.63 sponsor brands. Mean recall was influenced by: education (more educated fans recalled more brands); age (younger fans recalled more brands); gender (males recalled more brands than females); and fan involvement. Fans reporting more NASCAR involvement were able to recall more sponsor brands.
Overall, these results suggest that brands seeking to reach younger, more educated, male targets should continue to seek NASCAR sponsorship; however, much opportunity remains to reach female fans via NASCAR events. NASCAR-dedicated media used to follow the league and preferred teams, as well as fan attendance and frequency of race viewership, appear influential. Therefore, NASCAR and team sponsor brands should do all they can to enourage media use on non-race days. They should also partner to encourage frequent viewership of NASCAR events.
Viewing, attending or listening to a contemporary sports event may feel more like a shopping spree. Some product categories, such as beer and shaving cream, have traditionally been linked with sports, and athletes have historically been among the most highly sought-after celebrities for brand endorsement. What has changed about the use of sports events as marketing platforms are:
* the variety of brands and services that seek to associate with sports
* increasingly sophisticated marketing programmes built around sports
* expanding budgets dedicated to sponsoring and supporting sports-based marketing efforts.
Some brands now use sports event sponsorship as the brand's primary marketing communication strategy. Cornwell (1995) describes this intense reliance on sponsorship as sponsorship-linked marketing.
When considered as a single marketing communication activity, sponsorship's projected 2006 North American expenditure of US $34 billion represents a 10% increase in spending over 2005 ('06 Outlook). This compares favourably to the estimated US$30 billion spent in newspapers by American advertisers in 2005 (Datacenter, 2007). Lesa Ukman of IEG noted the allure of sports for marketers: "The advantage sponsorship has over all other media is that it is the only medium that gives brands the opportunity to create, enrich and facilitate engaging experiences, emotions and ideas" (Assertions, 2003). Perhaps no sport has been as closely allied to its sponsors as automobile racing, with US$1.76 billion expenditure in 2005 ('Driving to New Heights', 2005). Among auto racing leagues, the most dominant league in the US is the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing, more commonly known as NASCAR. Sponsor brands are involved with the NASCAR league, NASCAR racing teams and drivers in all imaginable product categories, including NASCAR-branded fresh produce (Lefton, 2004), home improvement services (Home Depot and Lowe's), several alcohol brands, including Budweiser and Miller Lite, UPS, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Kraft Foods and the racing league's premier title sponsor, Nextel. (The league's premier sponsorship will be known as the Sprint Cup from the 2008 season.)
The NASCAR league alone boasts 55 sponsors (Lefton, 2006). Additionally, NASCAR has more than 200 licensees retailing merchandise exceeding US$2.1 billion in sales annually …