Can President Obama Save NASCAR?
He is unlike anything previously seen in the lives of many people. Historians must reach back half a century to John F. Kennedy for a most recent comparison among U.S. Presidents.
While the JFK motto was, "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," the USA is now in an equally ebullient era, one laced with "hope for a better tomorrow, peace on earth, and certainly goodwill toward men."
For NASCAR, the message is simple: "Stand and Deliver!"
There is no sport as closely identified with the products used during competition as NASCAR. Oh, there will be chiming in from "the baseball bat" and "the tennis shoe" crowd, but those are matters of convenience.
In racing, the equipment of an automobile is a matter of necessity.
For those who enjoy the competition of "where the rubber hits the road," the connection between American Auto Manufacturing and the product competing in the sport has always been a two-way street.
"Win on Sunday..." the old adage goes, but if that were truly the case, then why did Chrysler not dominate automaker sales during the days of Carl Kiekhaefer's Army? Why did the mighty Hemi go on a 30-year hiatus? Why did the legendary Fireball not inspire a generation of Pontiac fanatics on the open highway during the early 1960s?
While the popularity of NASCAR soared around the entire continent during the past two decades, the sales of the vehicles involved in track competition slumped before the onrushing wave of Japanese automakers.
So is it a two-way street?
Only the ignorant believe in "a free lunch, something for nothing." Those who get away with it temporarily are often seen in tears as they are led to off to some incarceration, usually followed by a "heartfelt apology" aimed at those whom have been wronged.
The huge amount of money certain American Car manufacturers have poured into publicity seeking and advertising for their brands is a failure.
Perhaps we should re-examine that phrase and gently suggest another: "It has proved to be ineffective, or at the least, less than effective, concerning influencing the choices of a buying public."
Stand and Deliver!
In short, the car manufacturing advertising campaign in NASCAR has not done what it was supposed to do—produce more sales for the car companies. It has therefore failed in its stated purpose.
Such a purpose can be found in "the manufacturer stated goals" proclamation available for attendees of racing events as early as 1962, according to the program pamphlet currently in front of me.
The squirrel in the cage with the hamster is Toyota. The Japanese Auto giant is slowly, inexorably, moving to become the "General Motors of the World" in the 21st century.
Even during the Presidential election there was the much discussed specter of an Obama-Toyota NASCAR team.
Toyota is involved in racing. But is it just to show they can? To cover the sides of their sales cake with an icing suggesting to an increasingly younger age buying sect that "we can go fast also"?
Stand and Deliver.
Toyota has delivered, not because of NASCAR advertising success, but because their reputation is their advertisement. The buying public has voted with the pocketbook that Toyota products are dependable, inexpensive, and a solid investment.
Can the same be said of the Dodge Charger, circa 2009?
Which leads to the initial quandary, Can President Obama Save NASCAR?
As incredibly difficult as it may be for many racing fans to believe or swallow, the man so many ridiculed as "not being American enough" now has the future of that famous American sport of car racing in his hands.
The "Big Three" automakers are scrambling to rework budgeting figures to revisit the cash statement situation with Congress as early as June. Plainly speaking, the automakers will ask for more money, but in order to be granted such a request, their houses must be in order.
The public, the Congress, the President, will stand for nothing less. Americans feel they are just about maxed out in bailing out.
In order to save money, will we see a de-emphasis from the manufacturers in the less-than-necessary sponsorship of NASCAR?
"Say it ain't so, Joe" one could ask the Vice President, but his answer will no doubt echo the feelings of an American feeling trapped beneath the rubble of decades of overspending, overselling, overbuying, overextending. Can we at long last ask for reason in how our own money is spent?
If the manufacturers were successful, they would not be kneeling before the men whom many have spent lives verbally abusing at every opportunity. One has a different opinion on the disadvantage of local fire protection tax costs when flames are seen in their own backyard.
The tips of those flames are increasingly licking at the previously bulletproof sport of NASCAR. For the first time since the days before the Korean War, the longtime followers of the sport are questioning if it can continue in the present configuration.
Popularity is a fickle thing. Who is on top one day can find themselves drowning in a sea of indifference from the public just a short while later.
In short, we don't know where this issue will go, but for all of us who support four-wheel sporting events, we must ask for calmness and reason to rule the day.
Maybe the American car can stage a comeback on the street given the right set of priorities and economic success in operation costs.
With proper funding, directed by the popular and powerful President, the pressure to make drastic cuts in spending costs by the auto giants can be minimized, perhaps saving dollars and space for NASCAR along with other sponsorship efforts.
No, there are more important issues than car racing, we all recognize that. But the words of another American President seem to resonate in this chapter of history, those of another man whom fate put in the right place at the right time to save this country during an economic depression and later a world war.
That man's name was Franklin D. Roosevelt. When asked if this country should stop participating in professional sports during those frightening times, he uttered a bellowing and resounding "No!"
FDR knew that the American confidence level had been knocked down and others were looking for scapegoats and reasons to eliminate jobs to hoard money. He knew this was wrong on many levels.
He advised the various sports leagues to "carry on as before," adding that "these sporting events are among the reasons America is America to the rest of the world, and we must never deviate from being what and who we are."
We must hope that President Obama sees the positive aspects of such visionary men. Let us ask the American Car Manufacturer to get "get his house in order" to spend their money wisely, but to remember it "takes money to make money."
With the help of this once in a lifetime assistance from the U.S. government, let us hope the American automaker can stay competitive. But, let us review with a cautious eye any viable moneymaking long-term goals without continuing the long relationship with NASCAR.
By investing in critical sponsorship and backing for the sport of racing we all enjoy, by building a superior vehicle to those available elsewhere, and by running a tight ship in regard to the sensitive employee benefits issue, the American Car manufacturers can set sail for domestic success and respect throughout the world.
Only by the creation of such an orderly return to the confidence of the consumer will there again be a true "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" relationship.
Stand and Deliver.
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