The limitations are gone, the possibilities endless.
At least that’s the consensus among racetrack and NASCAR officials concerning new title sponsor Nextel, which hops on board with a $700 million, 10-year commitment to America’s most popular racing series.
Goodbye, Winston Cup. Hello, Nextel Cup, in 2004.
The Nextel deal, NASCAR officials said, will mean more prize money for the drivers, better fan-driver interaction using the giant telecom’s wireless technology and better race communication using Nextel’s systems. Race coverage on television and the Internet will also be enhanced by Nextel’s technology.
Winston, a cigarette brand of longtime NASCAR sponsor RJR Reynolds Tobacco Co., can’t advertise on television or radio, and the 18-and-younger market is off-limits.
Not so with squeaky clean Nextel, which already markets its products to consumers of all ages and locations.
"It opens up a whole opportunity for media promotion of our sport and to have our series sponsor be able to purchase national television or spot television and national radio and be able to promote our stars at even a higher level," said Bryan Sperber, president of Phoenix International Raceway, the site of Sunday’s Winston Cup Checker Auto Parts 500. "It also opens up enormous opportunities with the youth market that we have not been able to tap before (with Winston)."
Because tobacco giveaways to adults attending races are a regular marketing practice, will Nextel provide its young customers with free Jeff Gordon cell phones and backpacks with Nextel logos?
Word isn’t out yet on Nextel’s specific marketing plans, but those strategies will become clearer in the offseason, Sperber said.
"The youth obviously is our future, so we want to be sure we do it right in terms of marketing to the kids of America."
Winston has been a longtime supporter of stock-car racing, signing on with NASCAR in 1971. But it’s time to move forward, NASCAR spokesman Herb Branham said.
"Everybody’s excited about Nextel. It’s a new day."