auto racing · my thoughts on

My Thoughts on Series Sponsorships Vs TV Ratings

By David G. Firestone

One more TV rating and series sponsorship rant. The good news is that last week, Monster Energy agreed to a contract extension with NASCAR to sponsor the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The bad news is that this deal lasts until the end of the 2019, and according to Bob Pockrass “NASCAR COO Steve Phelps said it is “highly unlikely” that partnership would continue beyond that.” The sponsorship is worth $20,000,000 per year according to Pockrass.

This sums up NASCAR’s sponsorship woes perfectly. They can’t get a long term series sponsor for the Cup Series, and they keep signing these short term deals, which require a lot of work to keep going, and don’t inspire confidence. This also hurts future sponsorship opportunities, because other companies are watching this, and might not want to spend the kind of money that Monster spends on a short term deal.

Now while that sounds bad, for IndyCar, the situation is so much worse. IndyCar is losing Verizon as the series sponsor at the end of the season. They are on the hunt for a new series sponsor, which doesn’t sound bad, until some numbers are discussed.

First, the amount of money is suspect. According to Auto Week: “The IBJ[Indiana Business Journal] cited a source close to IndyCar that would like a new sponsor willing to pay $10 million to $15 million in cash and another $10 million to $15 million to advertise and promote the series per year.” Now that doesn’t sound so unreasonable, but then some more information comes to light, this time in the form of television ratings.

According to Sports Media Watch: The season opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg “earned a 0.8 rating and 1.14 million viewers on ABC, flat in ratings and down 5% in viewership from last year (0.8, 1.20M) and down 20% and 18% respectively from 2016 (1.0, 1.39M). Though barely, it was the least-watched IndyCar opener since 2015 (891K).” That doesn’t sound so bad, until you look at the race at Phoenix “…had just 253,000 viewers on NBCSN (-26%).”

If those numbers don’t show that IndyCar is asking for too much money, than I don’t know what does. A Saturday night race, with no real racing competition, at an established track only draws 253,000 television viewers? Those number could be justified if IndyCar was running opposition to NASCAR, but with no competition, those numbers are awful! Hell ESPN’s Formula 1 is drawing bigger numbers! The race at Bahrain drew over twice the audience than IndyCar, with 683,000 viewers.

$20-30 Million for 253,000 viewers is beyond unrealistic, and if these are the kind of ratings that IndyCar can draw, then maybe the season is going to be shortened even more. Television advertising is down, and I’m really wondering how much longer IndyCar can last in its current form. How much more money can the sport lose? I really don’t see how this can last.

One final note, I’m not going to discuss this anymore than I already have. I’m done, and I’ll pick up if and when IndyCar picks up a series sponsor.

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