Sprint will not return as the primary sponsor of NASCAR’s top series upon the conclusion of its current contract at the end of the 2016 season.
“We are proud of our association with NASCAR’s top series but have made the decision not to extend our sponsorship beyond the next two years,” Sprint vice president of marketing Steve Gaffney said in a statement. “As we look to the future, Sprint is focused on investing in maintaining a competitive edge and providing consumers with the best value in wireless.”
The company’s name had been on NASCAR’s Cup Series since 2008 when Sprint and Nextel merged. Nextel took over from Winston as the tobacco company left after the 2003 season. When Nextel entered the series, NASCAR instituted the 10-race Chase format for the championship after crowning the season winner over a full season previously. Given the switch to the winner-take-all final race of the season in the 2014 Chase, it seems unlikely that a new sponsor would also mean a different title format. However, the Chase has been tweaked four times in 11 seasons.
“NASCAR and Sprint have enjoyed a long and productive partnership that has returned significant value to both parties,” NASCAR chief communications officer Brett Jewkes said in a statement. “We understand significant changes within Sprint and the highly competitive business environment it is in has led to a decision not to extend its Cup Series entitlement position following the 2016 season. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is a very unique, premium sports marketing platform with strong momentum, so we are very confident of moving forward in 2017 with an outstanding new partner. In the meantime, we look forward to Sprint’s partnership on the best racing series in the world for the next two seasons.”
NASCAR’s original contract with Nextel was for 10 years and $700 million. Sprint then extended the contract for three more seasons.
NASCAR recently found a new sponsor for the Nationwide Series in Comcast. The No. 2 series will be known as the Xfinity Series starting in 2015. Camping World took over the title sponsorship of the Truck Series in 2009.
In addition to the change in sponsorship, NASCAR has also seen a shift in its television coverage recently. ESPN and TNT concluded their agreements to broadcast Sprint Cup Series races at the end of 2014. For the next 10 years, Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series races will be split between Fox and NBC properties.
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