Sponsor Woes: Eight NASCAR Sponsorships That Didn't Work Too Well
Without question, if it wasn't for sponsors, NASCAR would fail to exist.
When R.J. Reynold's first acquired naming rights to the Cup Series in 1971, sponsorship has become the name of the game for the sport. When STP signed a multi-year deal with Richard Petty one year later, teams realized that without some money coming in, they wouldn't be racing very long.
These days, sponsorship comes in many forms. Whether it is the name on the car, the title sponsor of the race, or even the naming rights to a track, sponsorship is No. 1 in NASCAR.
But, as good as many sponsors have been to the sport, every now and then, a few come through that just make fans question whether they belong. Others have been good, they just picked possibly the worst time to promote a product.
No matter what, they are simply unforgettable. Here's a look at 10 sponsorships in NASCAR that didn't exactly work perfectly.
Viagra: Let the Jokes Begin
If there's one thing any man just doesn't like talking about with their doctor is erectile dysfunction. It's not exactly the best topic of conversation to have with anyone to be honest.
In 2001, after Valvoline left Jack Roush and then-driver Mark Martin, the No. 6 team signed on a new sponsor...Viagra.
Yep, Roush's 40-year old driver was going to promote the little blue pill. Let the fun begin.
How can you not poke fun at a sponsor like Viagra in NASCAR. Comedians like Larry the Cable Guy and Cledus T. Judd had a lot of great jokes regarding this sponsor.
Who can ever forget Judd's line in his song "I Love NASCAR" saying "That Viagra car is always driven hard."
Not to be outdone, Larry came up with the line "Did you know the Viagra car is the only one with windshield wipers on the inside?"
Ah, but alas, Viagra only lasted through 2004 as a sponsor. But, these days Extenze is doing relatively well. They do have an endorsement from Jimmie Johnson, just not the one on the track.
2002 Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland: Free The Muppets!
In 2002, eight different drivers were set to honor one of the most popular shows to ever hit the television. Jim Henson's "The Muppet Show" was celebrating it's 25th anniversary.
Ever lovable characters Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie and Animal all graced certain cars. Drivers like Dale Jarrett, Bill Elliott, Casey Atwood and others would run special paint schemes with the famous group.
But, when the teams arrived at the Chicagoland Speedway, track owner ISC and the Muppet people were in a dispute. Because the track and race sponsor Tropicana weren't involved in the promotion, Chicagoland Speedway would not let the Muppets in the track.
Seriously, quite possibly the most recognized characters of all time, not allowed to be part of the race. Every Muppet was forced to basically hold up "We Need Tickets" signs on ESPN and other networks.
It's one of the most failed promotions in NASCAR, not because the idea was bad, but because of the track's refusal to be part of it.
Seeing Rowlf the Dog, Fozzie, Kermit and all the other characters have to try and get tickets just to see the race is sad. I bet Jim Henson was looking down with a scowl in disgust.
But all wasn't lost, the fans got involved with "Free The Muppets" signs, showing that no matter how old you are, those famous puppets are part of Americana.
Pepsi Edge vs. Coca-Cola C2: Nobody Wins
As most of you know, I'm a big soda drinker. It's my normal beverage of choice not just on race day, but any day of the week.
But, NASCAR and it's two big soda sponsors had a big battle in 2004. The unfortunate part, no one really won this one.
At the Pepsi 400, Coca-Cola decided to promote their new soft drink, called C2. It had half the sugar of their regular Coke drink, and decided to really step up their promotion by having all eight Coca-Cola Racing Family drivers run the black and red colors.
Meanwhile, race sponsor Pepsi was on Jeff Gordon's car for the race, and also were promoting their new drink, Pepsi Edge. Like C2, it also had half the sugar. The way they decided to promote it was if Gordon won the race, every fan that went to PepsiRacing.com and signed up after the race would get a free two-liter bottle of the new beverage.
Gordon went on to win the race, meaning a free drink for America.
Here's the problem, Pepsi Edge and Coca-Cola C2 tasted horrible. Neither drink lasted through the end of the year. I personally tried both, and Pepsi Edge did taste better, but it wasn't my first choice.
Not even Gordon himself would drink Pepsi Edge when he was in victory lane. He clearly had a regular Pepsi in hand. Only time he drank one was probably during filming of the commercial that aired in case he did win.
The Coca-Cola Racing Family drank the C2, but I think each one felt the same way about their drink.
At least now both companies are having a battle over their zero-calorie colas, Coke Zero and Pepsi Max. That battle is actually one worth fighting over.
Pepsi Edge and Coca-Cola C2, it was a draw...no company won.
Back To School...In July?
What are a kid's two favorite words at the end of the school year?
Usually from the end of May to the beginning of September, children across America are enjoying their time away from the classroom. They are more worried about going to the beach, getting a tan, or just sitting in front of the television.
So, when Office Depot and driver Tony Stewart decided to promote getting kids ready to go back to school, you would think that they would do so when it was getting closer to the end of summer.
No, instead they decide to do so in early July. Not exactly good timing on Office Depot's part.
Trying to get a kid excited then about school is impossible. Unless they are in college and taking summer courses, the last thing on a child's mind in early July is the classroom.
The car was unique, with pens, staplers, erasers and Sharpies coming out of a backpack. But, timing wise...probably could have done better.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Gillette: Young Gun No More
It's safe to say that Dale Earnhardt Jr. does not want to be like his father. He wants his father's legacy to be his own, and he wants his own identity. With his decision to leave the family business for Hendrick Motorsports following 2007, it was a good bet that his father would have approved the choice.
When it comes to sponsorships, Junior has really been recognized for his association with Budweiser. With his young attitude, and often rowdy side, he was a perfect fit for promotion.
Gillette capitalized on this and asked him to be a part of the "Gillette Young Guns" promotion in 2004. That would mean Junior would have to lose his goatee for the clean-shaven look.
It worked for a while, but following 2006, Gillette replaced Junior with Kasey Kahne, who seemed to better fit the profile of a "young gun," especially with the girls.
As for Junior, he has since grown the goatee back. Well, he actually has gone with a full beard for most of the season. It may look a bit scruffy at times, but he likes the look.
Talk about stepping outside his father, who practically always had his famous mustache.
Hard Liquor: Welcomed In, but Pushed Out
Sponsors come and go in every sport. A great example in racing is R.J. Reynold's Tobacco Company. After the 2003 racing season for both NASCAR and NHRA, Winston pulled out and put their advertising elsewhere.
One that has been exclusive in NASCAR has been the introduction of the hard liquor sponsorships. Companies such as Jack Daniels, Crown Royal and Jim Beam were finally allowed to be part of NASCAR starting in 2005.
Since it's inception, NASCAR had a ban on sponsorship by hard liquor. However, seeing the potential gain from the exposure, the ban was lifted and these companies got a chance to have their name on a stock car.
Five years later, where have they gone?
After 2009, Jim Beam and Jack Daniels elected to not renew their sponsorships with their respective teams. Crown Royal has remained with Jack Roush and is the primary sponsor on the No. 17 of Matt Kenseth. But, Crown Royal has yet to go to victory lane.
When it was one of the two primary sponsors on Jamie McMurray's car from 2007-2009, both of his wins came with them as the associate sponsor.
Now, new rules from the FDA have kept both tobacco and alcohol, specifically hard liquor, from getting their name back into the sport.
They came in with all the best intentions, but just as quickly were pushed out. What a shame.
Nesquik: Not a Race Fan's First Beverage Of Choice
Pop quiz: What are the the top three drinks fans bring to the race track?
Answer: Soft drinks, beer, water.
In 2000, then-Busch Series driver Jeff Green introduced a new sponsor into NASCAR in Nestle. For a majority of the year, he promoted the Nesquik Chocolate Milk brand.
Now, although he dominated the series that year, winning the championship by over 500 points, the sponsor...not exactly the best choice.
Self-admitted, I was a fan of Jeff Green at one time because of the sponsor. At one race, my cooler was filled with Nesquik, complete with the family of chocolate, strawberry and double-chocolate milk. The only problem, it was an 85 degree day with noticeable humidity. The looks of other fans told the whole story.
I got stares, inquisitive looks, and even one guy saying, "You're gonna get sick, son."
Nestle stopped being the sponsor on Green's car following the 2002 season, and I stopped bringing Nesquik to the track.
It's safe to say, this is one beverage company that really seemed out of place alongside Coca-Cola, Budweiser, and Aquafina.
Cell Phone Companies: If You're Not Sprint, You're Not Invited
The 2004 season of NASCAR was all about change. A new points system was introduced to decide a champion, many schedule changes were in place, and a new title sponsor was welcomed in.
Nextel became the title sponsor of the Cup Series, but there was a little bit of an issue. There were two cars on the circuit sponsored by rival companies. Ryan Newman was running Alltel, while Jeff Burton wore the Cingular colors.
Luckily, both sponsors were grandfathered in because their sponsorships began when Winston was the title sponsor. So, they could continue being on the cars until their sponsor deals ran out.
But, then things got interesting. Cingular was bought out by AT&T, and when Burton switched the logos, a problem ensued. Sprint was by then the title sponsor having bought out Nextel, and because AT&T was not on the original deal, they didn't want the name on the car.
So, during the dispute, Burton's car ran without a sponsor on the hood while the funding remained. Finally, an agreement was made...until the end of 2008. At that point, Burton and team must add a new sponsor to the car. Now, the No. 31 runs the Caterpillar colors.
Meanwhile, Newman's then-sponsor Alltel was bought out by Verizon after 2008. Newman went to Stewart-Haas Racing, while David Stremme took over the No. 12. The Verizon sponsorship went to both Sprint Cup and the Nationwide Series. In the second-tier series, the name could be on the car.
Sprint Cup, not a chance. The car ran the Verizon colors, but had the Penske name.
When it comes to cell phone companies in NASCAR's top racing series, if the name isn't Sprint, they simply aren't invited.