May 15, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Rick Hendrick didn’t get to be one of NASCAR’s most successful owners by not seeing the trends and directions the business is going.
Hendrick, and his entire Hendrick Motorsports organization, have done an excellent job of putting together partnerships to keep his empire at the top of the NASCAR heap.
He’s done it for more than 25 years, despite partners that have come and gone.
He’s doing it again, now, in preparing for the possible departure of the National Guard from Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 car.
The increase in sponsor announcements with new partners Nationwide Insurance and DC Entertainment being announced within the last few weeks, and also with Mtn Dew stepping up its activation with a series of videos, are clear signs that Hendrick’s team is working ‘round the clock to get more companies on board the 88 in case the Guard departs.
It’s not inconceivable that they will – witness two reports of note from the past couple weeks.
A USA Today report indicated that despite the more than $26+ million spent on activation and sponsorships in 2012, there was not a single recruit signup at a NASCAR event.
While that doesn’t factor into account local branches where the Guard could attract –and sign – new recruits, it’s still a worrying report.
Then there’s this from Sporting News’ Bob Pockrass, veteran NASCAR reporter who is among the best at deciphering the business side of the sport:
The Army National Guard has a new leader in Judd Lyons, who took over in January. At a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing last week, Lyons vowed to re-examine the effectiveness of the National Guard sponsorship. He said the Guard is conducting more in-depth surveys of those enlisting to determine what led them to enlist, which in turn should help them understand the value.
Political pressure of military sponsorships in NASCAR is nothing new. It’s been going on for several years. And that’s the way it should be — those in charge of spending taxpayer dollars have an interest in how those dollars are spent.
When a change at the top happens to any company – especially one whose motorsports’ spending have been as closely scrutinized as the Guard’s has been – you have to begin preparing for the eventuality that the deal is closer to the end of its life span than the beginning.
The Guard has backed Dale Jr. and the 88 since his move to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.
If you’re the Guard, you’ve supported NASCAR’s most popular driver through thick-and-thin, and through what have been more trying years than actual delivery on track.
Junior’s made the Chase each of the last three years, but prior to his much appreciated Daytona 500 victory this year, he’s won only two other races in his stint at Hendrick. He’s still never won a championship, even though he has a good shot to this year in his last season with crew chief Steve Letarte (another area Hendrick will need to address for 2015).
Sponsors demand ROI, even if they happen to have one of the sport’s most marketable drivers, and even if they have the most popular driver.
But they don’t stay on forever. And at only seven years together, the Guard-Dale Jr. relationship isn’t at the length of a Jeff Gordon-DuPont or John Force-Castrol type relationship of 20 or more years.
Hendrick prepared for the eventuality of DuPont’s departure as Gordon’s primary backer by having other associates ready to step up, and ultimately putting together a deal with the AARP’s Drive to End Hunger that has now been the primary backer on the 24 car for several seasons.
You can tell he’s doing the same now on the 88 to keep Dale Jr., in the face of what appears to be a slowly phased down withdrawal by the Guard.
Sep 4, 2015, 3:45 AM EDT
The Italian GP weekend kicks off with FP1 at 4am ET on Friday.
Sep 3, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT
Here’s all the information you need to know about this weekend’s 61st annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis:
Sep 3, 2015, 6:54 PM EDT
The biggest and most important drag race of the season takes place this weekend with the 61st Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis.
Sep 3, 2015, 3:27 PM EDT
The GP3/16 breaks cover at Monza ahead of its introduction next year.
Sep 3, 2015, 2:39 PM EDT
Mercedes goes all-in ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, fully upgrading the power units on both of its cars.
Sep 3, 2015, 1:23 PM EDT
FOM comes out in support of “first class partner” Pirelli.
Sep 3, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT
Silly season has been a let down in 2015. Perhaps it is therefore fitting that McLaren is now the team to watch in the driver market.
Sep 3, 2015, 12:13 PM EDT
Hamilton goes blonde for Monza. He’s not alone in F1 annals.
Sep 3, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT
Perez expects to confirm his plans for 2016 in the next two weeks.
Sep 3, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
Debris, not structural problems, to blame for tire failures at Spa.
Sep 3, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
Luke Smith and Tony DiZinno make their picks ahead of this weekend’s race at Monza.
Sep 3, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
The European season comes to a close at Monza this weekend. Can Lewis Hamilton enter the final run of flyaways with an even bigger lead?
Sep 3, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
James Hinchcliffe a few weeks away from his driving return.
Sep 3, 2015, 5:38 AM EDT
Williams confirms an unchanged line-up for 2016, keeping Bottas and Massa together for a third season.
Sep 2, 2015, 6:16 PM EDT
The TV times for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
Sep 2, 2015, 4:33 PM EDT
$2,500 fine levied against No. 22 team for pit road infraction.
Sep 2, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT
Jann Mardenborough steps up from GP3 into GP2 this weekend.
Sep 2, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
Hinchcliffe recalls racing, commentating on Justin Wilson.
Sep 2, 2015, 12:26 PM EDT
Leah Pritchett looks to make her mark even more in NHRA Top Fuel, going into U.S. Nationals.
Sep 2, 2015, 11:22 AM EDT
Dixon offers a rebuttal to Montoya’s dig about a “poor” season.
- WATCH LIVE: FP1 for the Italian Grand Prix on Live Extra from 4am ET 0
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- F1 2015’s silly season is proving to be a let down, but who could yet spice it up? 3
- 2015 Italian Grand Prix Preview 0
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