NASCAR officials announced on July 8, 2007, SPRINT will become the title sponsor for NASCAR at the beginning of the 2008 season. It’s the sixth name change in NASCAR’s 60 years, but had been expected since Nextel merged with Sprint in August 2005. NASCAR allowed Nextel one name change in the 10-year contract it signed with the telecommunications giant before the 2004 season.
NASCAR’s top series was called Strictly Stock at its inception, and was the Grand National Series from 1950 through 1971. It was called the Winston Cup Series when tobacco company R.J. Reynolds sponsored it from 1971 to 2003.
But RJR asked out of its contract in 2003, and Nextel took over with a 10-year, $700 million deal. The series became the Nextel Cup Series in 2004.
That name was put in jeopardy 20 months later when Nextel merged with Sprint, and company officials said they took extensive measures to research the logo and name.
Relying on fan feedback, focus groups and surveys, the company decided to use the Sprint brand, name and logo.
"It was a long and thorough process to determine how to integrate our NASCAR sponsorship into our overall brand strategy, while still keeping the NASCAR fan at the heart of the decision," said Sprint chairman Tim Kelly.
"The process extended well behond the NASCAR sponsorship. This is an evolutionary time for Sprint Nextel’s brand. Our new brand campaign focuses on the importance of speed in people’s daily lives and illustrates their ability to get information where they want it, when they want it. NASCAR was built on a tradition of speed, so it was a natural tie for us.”
Sprint replaced R.J. Reynolds’ Winston brand as title sponsor of NASCAR’s flagship property in 2004. From the onset, Sprint Nextel has engaged the company’s resources to raise the sport’s profile and foster a more intimate connection between NASCAR racing and its more than 75 million loyal fans.
Refocusing the NASCAR sponsorship on the Sprint line of products and services coincides with the July 1 launch of “Sprint Ahead,” a national campaign reflecting the value its products and services add to people’s lives. Building on that concept, Sprint will focus on a key attribute it delivers for its customers: speed or “SprintSpeedTM.”
Nextel remains a vital part of the Sprint products and services mix. As a result, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series name and logo and Nextel-branded assets will remain for 2007. However, the “Sprint Ahead” brand identity will be evident in the NASCAR community as early as July 15 when Sprint will launch The SprintSpeed™ Million presented by Motorola Sweepstakes, a promotion in which one race fan is guaranteed to win $1 million.
“The best of NASCAR and the best of Sprint is inherently speed. We feel like we are bringing that key attribute together in many forms to enhance the lives of race fans, either at the track or at home,” said Tom Murphy, vice president of experiential marketing for Sprint. “From The SprintSpeed™ Million, which will literally bring 12 lucky finalists as close as you can get to the sport, to our wireless products and services that have enhanced the experience of race fans and industry partners, Sprint remains steadfast in its commitment to improve the sport through technology and by bringing the fans closer to NASCAR.”
Products such as FanView and interactive displays such as Sprint’s 10,000-square-foot at-track mobile-marketing display have exponentially enhanced fans’ at-track experiences. Further, significant investments in the series points fund and All-Star race have raised the level of competition among the drivers and teams. Sprint also has been an advocate of many NASCAR-related charities including support of the NASCAR Foundation and a significant commitment to the Victory Junction Gang Camp.
“It is our mission to ensure a name change will not alter the way fans view the sport or the way we support it,” said Murphy. “This is a thrilling sport with deep historical roots, and we will continue to honor that past and help the sport be even better in the future.”