Big bucks required by sponsor

After sevens years as title sponsor of NASCAR’s middle tier series, Nationwide Insurance reported last fall it was taking its funds to a higher source.

The company will become an official NASCAR sponsor and a 12-race sponsor for Dale Earnhardt Jr. starting in 2015.

NASCAR began looking for a company willing to spend millions of dollars to become a title sponsor. Officials are in advanced talks with Comcast Xfinity about taking over the secondary series title name.

Conversations with Xfinity, which is Comcast’s video service, have been going on for several months.

Sources familiar with the negotiations said the parties have not reached a contract, but that Comcast has emerged as a leading candidate for the sponsorship.

NASCAR chief sales officer Jim O’Connell said the company doesn’t comment on discussions with current or potential sponsors.

He added, “With regards to the Nationwide Series, we’re speaking to a number of companies in a number of different industries.”

NASCAR is asking $12 million to $15 million annually in rights fees for the title sponsorship of the series.

Media and activation commitments would take the total costs of the deal to more than $25 million.

In addition to Comcast Xfinity, NASCAR has met with a number of entities in the auto aftermarket category, including Advance Auto Parts and AutoZone.

Nationwide Insurance is spending approximately $10 million in rights fees for title sponsorship of the series. Its total spent, which includes activation at track and media spending, is in excess of $20 million. Nationwide Insurance took over sponsorship in 2007 after the 26-year partnership with Anheuser-Busch was not renewed due to the company wanting to restructure its sports sponsorship commitments.

The second tier stock car series enjoyed a stronger viewership in 2007. It was up 52 percent on equivalent figures from 2000, while the 2005 and 2006 seasons were the most viewed in series history.

Whoever takes over the sponsorship role will need to find new avenues for fans to turn on their TVs, visit tracks and purchase souvenirs. Viewership has seen a steady decline over the past seven years. Ticket sales at the track have dropped off due to price hikes.

The sport has lost its luster and is searching for a new star to shine far into the new millenia.

  • Baffled Biffle: Sprint Cup driver Greg Biffle is still working on a new contract to stay at Roush Fenway Racing.

Biffle admitted he has talked to other teams in the garage, but he was negotiating with Roush, the only team he’s driven for since his 1998 rookie season in the Truck Series. He won the Truck Series championship in 2000 and added a Nationwide Series title in 2002.

“My deal is definitely not done,” he said. “I’m trying to negotiate an extension. Nothing has changed.”

Biffle has maintained all year his priority is not to leave the organization. Roush President Steve Newmark said Friday that the team hopes to have some news soon to announce on Biffle’s No. 16 team “but nothing to report yet.”

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