Monster En­ergy to spon­sor NASCAR’s top se­ries

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Mike Cranston

NASCAR an­nounced an agree­ment with Monster En­ergy on Thurs­day that makes the en­ergy drink maker the ti­tle spon­sor of its top se­ries in 2017, end­ing a lengthy process of find­ing a re­place­ment for Sprint.

NASCAR Chair­man Brian France de­clined to pro­vide fi­nan­cial details or the length of the deal, say­ing it was a “com­pli­cated agree­ment” that in­cludes op­tion years. It was be­lieved to be for less money than Sprint’s mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar spon­sor­ship.

“It’s a dif­fer­ent kind of agree­ment, for sure, in that it has ac­ti­va­tion in dif­fer­ent ways and me­dia in dif­fer­ent ways,” France said at a news con­fer­ence with the NASCAR and Monster lo­gos serv­ing as a back­drop. “But we’re quite pleased with the agree­ment and there will be no changes at all (to op­er­a­tions bud­gets). In fact, I think you’ll see some ad­di­tional ac­ti­va­tion and ad­di­tional things that will oc­cur.”

France in­di­cated they’re still in dis­cus­sions with Corona, Cal­i­for­nia-based Monster Bev­er­age Cor­po­ra­tion on the ex­act name of the 2017 Cup se­ries.

Cel­lu­lar com­pany Sprint’s 13-year run as ti­tle spon­sor ended last month, when Jim­mie John­son cap­tured his record-ty­ing sev­enth se­ries ti­tle in the sea­son fi­nale at Homestead.

NASCAR had hoped to have a new spon­sor in place by early fall. The de­lay had pro­duced un­cer­tainty for a sport that has suf­fered at­ten­dance and tele­vi­sion rat­ings de­clines in re­cent years.

“I’m so ex­cited for it,” said Joey Logano, who fin­ished sec­ond be­hind John­son and watched the news con­fer­ence with sev­eral other driv­ers in a Las Ve­gas Strip ho­tel ball­room. “I’m sure it will be a great part­ner for our sport. Sprint has been un­be­liev­able through my ca­reer.”

The lack of a deal led NASCAR to an­nounce details of its 2017 sea­sonopen­ing non-points race at Day­tona with­out a spon­sor, some­thing Sprint had han­dled in the past. Monster En­ergy will spon­sor NASCAR’s All-Star race, which Sprint had done.

Steve Phelps, NASCAR’s global mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer, said they talked with “hun­dreds of brands” about the spon­sor­ship deal, fi­nal­iz­ing it a day be­fore NASCAR’s sea­son-end­ing ban­quet at the Wynn Las Ve­gas.

“I know the in­dus­try was start­ing to get a lit­tle bit ner­vous about the tim­ing of this. But the tim­ing is ac­tu­ally per­fect,” Phelps said. “We didn’t step on our cham­pi­onship and what hap­pened in crown­ing a seven-time cham­pion. We didn’t step on our ex­ist­ing part­ner, and we were very, very pa­tient to find the right part­ner.”

Monster’s caf­feine-filled en­ergy drinks, known for its green clawed-M logo, are tar­geted to young con­sumers and NASCAR has stressed the im­por­tance of find­ing younger fans.

“We do have some ideas about how we can make NASCAR more at­trac­tive to what I would call a dif­fer­ent au­di­ence,” said Mark Hall, Monster’s chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer.

Monster En­ergy was al­ready in­volved in NASCAR, serv­ing as pri­mary spon­sor of Kurt Busch’s No. 41 Cup car at Ste­wart-Haas Rac­ing. It has also spon­sored Kyle Busch in the Xfin­ity Se­ries.

Kurt Busch said his in­di­vid­ual spon­sor­ship deal and long-term per­sonal ser­vices con­tract with Monster will con­tinue.

“It won’t af­fect our sit­u­a­tion,” Busch said. “They’ve been very happy with what we’ve done to­gether.”

Monster cre­ated ad­di­tional pub­lic­ity this week with its logo splashed on Tiger Woods’ golf bag as he makes his re­turn from in­jury in a tour­na­ment in the Ba­hamas. It has also been a spon­sor in mo­tocross and For­mula One.

Monster Bev­er­age an­nounced last month that third quar­ter net sales in­creased 4.1 per­cent to $788 mil­lion from the same pe­riod a year ago. It an­nounced a strate­gic part­ner­ship in 2015 that gave the Coca-Cola Com­pany a 16.7 per­cent stake in Monster. The two com­pa­nies share dis­tri­bu­tion net­works.

Monster takes over for Sprint, which in­her­ited the NASCAR deal when it merged with Nex­tel in 2008. Sprint an­nounced in De­cem­ber 2014 that it would not ex­tend the deal.

Nex­tel has re­placed cig­a­rette maker R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which had spon­sored NASCAR’s top cir­cuit since 1971 un­der its Win­ston brand. That deal ended in 2003 in part be­cause of the tobacco set­tle­ment with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment that re­duced the in­dus­try’s abil­ity to ad­ver­tise.

Thurs­day’s an­nounce­ment gives NASCAR and Monster a lit­tle more than two months to pre­pare for the start of 2017 sea­son, which be­gins with the Day­tona 500 on Feb. 26. Pre­vi­ous ti­tle spon­sors have spent tens of mil­lions of dol­lars pro­mot­ing the sport.

“They un­der­stand mo­tor­sports. They un­der­stand NASCAR,” France said of Monster. “They un­der­stand how to reach across and ex­cite our core au­di­ence and help us de­liver on a new au­di­ence. That was very ex­cit­ing for us.”

“It’s a dif­fer­ent kind of agree­ment, for sure, in that it has ac­ti­va­tion in dif­fer­ent ways and me­dia in dif­fer­ent ways. But we’re quite pleased with the agree­ment and there will be no changes at all (to op­er­a­tions bud­gets). In fact, I think you’ll see some ad­di­tional ac­ti­va­tion and ad­di­tional things that will oc­cur.”

— NASCAR Chair­man Brian France

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