NASCAR will have new title sponsors in two of its three major leagues next season. The Cup Series sponsorship is shifting from Nextel to Sprint, which is simply a shift of brand association within the Sprint Nextel family. The other new title sponsor represents a new partner for NASCAR, Nationwide Insurance. Nationwide will replace Anheuser-Busch's Busch beer brand as title sponsor of NASCAR's secondary national series. The deal is for 7 years at an estimated $10-12 million annually.
Nationwide's commitment to auto racing on this scale is noteworthy. Until a few years ago, insurance companies avoided association with motor sports. The widely held view was that sponsoring a sport in which accidents, injuries, and even deaths can occur would not be a congruent association for an insurance company to have. That position has softened as Allstate and State Farm have both had sponsorships with NASCAR Nextel (too early to say Sprint?) Cup drivers and races. The lure of a coveted audience and the presence of major competitors were too great to ignore. Actually, the association can be used in positive ways. Allstate and State Farm have both used their NASCAR platform to promote safe driving. Nationwide will surely use the 7-year association with NASCAR to promote responsible driving as well as its insurance coverage.