NASCAR Media Conference: Sprint Cup Series Announcement
Topics: NASCAR, Sprint Cup
July 7, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Appreciate everybody coming in out of the cool air. We are delighted today to be a part of this announcement, all of us at NASCAR. I wanted to let you know who's participating up here. Of course our chairman at NASCAR, Brian France; and chief marketing officer of Sprint, Tim Kelly; the vice president, Tom Murphy; and a guy all of you see all the time, the Director of Motorsports, Dean Kessel. So with that, we want to get things rolling here pretty quick. Brian, if you would take the floor.
BRIAN FRANCE: I will take the floor. First of all, good afternoon, everyone. I guess to make official what a lot of people have been talking about, which is a change of our top Series name.
I want to give you just a touch of background because when we originally entered into the first agreement with Nextel, we actually and they actually contemplated the possibility that this might happen. Obviously they didn't know at that point about being acquired by Sprint. But what they did know is they're in a fast moving industry in telecom, and they wanted to get better.
So it was never a huge surprise. The question for us is while it's never easy to change the name of your primary series, your most important series, which is now the Nextel Cup Series, it will be the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
In talking to the Sprint group for some time now, it's very obvious to us that their focus, and rightfully so, will be on the Sprint brand in the future, and it will really be that way in the future.
So the benefits that our industry can get by lining up with their premier brand and our premier series is pretty obvious. The activation, the fan element, just the resources that they can bring to the table are much greater than if they just went along under the Nextel brand.
I will tell you that we're really excited. I would say it's a very positive thing for the industry. I think it's going to help the exposure issue that we're always pushing ourselves. I think it's going to resonate well in every way.
TIM KELLY: Obviously this is a landmark thing for Sprint and Nextel. The two companies came together almost two years ago, and we're making what we think is a very important step in the development of our company and obviously the development of our brand.
I can tell you unquestionably there's tremendous passion within the Sprint Nextel organization for the premier sponsorship marketing platform, the premier racing series with NASCAR. It's with that excitement that we're making the announcement that we are today.
One of the things that we've tried to do consistently through our involvement in this sport is to really make it a better fan experience, and there are a number of things that have helped us do this. I'm sure a number of you are familiar with Fan View which connects the fan to drivers, and their crews in a way that really no other sport allows. We've enhanced the points fund for the Chase, that we've done several different innovative advertising campaigns with the drivers in the Series. And we'll continue to do those kinds of things.
We had a very important event just last week where we reintroduced our brand to the marketplace and really consolidated all of Sprint Nextel's marketing activities around the Sprint brand. And in our minds, what Sprint stands for is speed and innovation, and the new campaign with the tag line Sprint Ahead, is really designed to tell customers how they can get the benefit of instantaneous communication in bettering their lives and betting their mobile experience.
Obviously with that decision, now is the time to bring the new Sprint positioning around speed and link it to NASCAR, hence the announcement that we made today.
We think it really in many respects is a no-brainer. At the core of our brand and Sprint's speed, one thing racing fans really care about is speed, it's that competitiveness, the notion of getting ahead. So we think the equity in the Sprint brand now combined with the NASCAR Sprint Cup really takes it to a new level if you will, tremendous excitement.
This all takes effect in 2008, but all of our branding elements over the course of the 2008 season will begin to evolve and emerge as Sprint primary.
We're also for the year for the Chase going to launch a new promotion that again connects fans to what they care most about, which are the drivers. And I'm going to let Tom Murphy talk a little bit about that promotion.
TOM MURPHY: We're announcing today, and it will officially launch in Chicagoland next week, July 15, the Sprint Speed Million Presented By Motorola. It's one of our largest promotions we will have ever conducted in our history, and if it's successful you can expect to see it take on a life of its own and that's certainly what we hope. It's called the Sprint Speed Million Presented By Motorola. A lot of events around it will be exposed next week in Chicagoland, but it pairs one person in this country, one NASCAR fan, the ability to be guaranteed a million dollars when they pick the Nextel Cup Champion for '07.
So 12 fans will be chosen at random out of a national drawing that will take place. Entries will begin again on 7/15 beginning in Chicagoland, and we'll pare that down, drawing 12 fans paired with the 12 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers, and they'll compete with their driver throughout the Chase period. And then when the champion is crowned at Miami-Homestead, one fan will win $1 million, guaranteed.
So stay tuned, there's a lot more coming with the Sprint Speed Million Presented By Motorola coming up next week in Chicagoland.
TIM KELLY: Now what I'd like to do is do an interesting unveil of the new logo. You can see an interesting painting we have of what appears to be a tire in front of this. I'd like to invite contemporary artist Bill Patterson to the stage, and he's going to quickly have this turn into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series logo.
(LOGO IS UNVEILED IN A PAINTING BY BILL PATTESON)
Q. Why now, Tim?
TIM KELLY: Well, obviously this coincides with the launch of new advertising campaign that I talked about earlier and really refocuses our company around the Sprint brand as a kind of master brand for what we do, so that obviously played into the timing to a large degree.
And then also kind of recognizing what's required in implementing a name change on behalf of all the people involved in the sport to make sure that they had enough time to cement their marketing promotions and their branding plans for next year's corporate new identity.
Q. The re-brand, so to speak, and the announcement of the Winston, the old sponsor, but the million dollars with the fans involved, that's got to be pretty big.
TOM MURPHY: We think it's one of the largest promotions in the sport, and we want to make sure it's connected right away with introducing or reintroducing Sprint to the fans, the 75 million fans of NASCAR, as the premier racing series, the Nextel Cup. We thought this was a unique way of introducing the Sprint brand and preparing everybody for '08 when we are fully engaged with the Sprint brand being the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
This is also a way to continuously show our dedication to the fans and bring the fans closer to the sport through things like Fan View, and it enhances the experience, and that's what it's all about, increasingly using things like NASCAR to help differentiate our brand, evidenced by this, evidenced by the promotion that we're engaging in, you can expect to see the Sprint brand as part of things like the All-Star Challenge next year; versus the Nextel All-Star Challenge it'll be the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Challenge, things like that. So this is the first step in that.
Q. Is there going to be a Sprint for the Championship next year? I know that you're probably going to wait for another grand opening announcement on that. And also, on this fan thing, correct me if I'm wrong, but what is the view about this? Was there not a fan promotion last year under Nextel in which fans were identified with drivers in the Chase? EDITOR'S NOTE: There was not a promotion in 2006 pairing fans with drivers.
TIM KELLY: I'll take the first part, and Tom, maybe you can talk about the promotion. We're anchoring, if you will, our relationship around the Sprint brand, so things that we do in the 2008 season that previously had been branded Nextel will become Sprint, so that would apply to All-Star, that would apply to Chase, things of that nature.
TOM MURPHY: In terms of the difference in the promotion, I think one of the big differences is somebody is guaranteed to win a million dollars. That's a first for us, and this is the first time where we've driven a large promotion around the Sprint brand into the sport. I'd say those are the two big differences for us.
Q. The obvious question is: Is there concern about -- there's been a Sprint series in American racing for decades. Number one, have you paid use of that so they won't steal it, and number two, is there any concern about fans delineating between Sprint car racing and sprint car racing?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, it's obviously something we talked about, but I think we feel pretty comfortable with their ability to view the Sprint brand in the telecom industry very different than anybody else has obviously. There is a Sprint Cup. There are sprint cars and some other things, but we're very comfortable with the unique branding that will be done in this series, and all the equity that it has on its own will help to mitigate any kind of confusion.
Q. How does this affect NASCAR's posture and court position on the AT & T situation, and also how does it affect Sprint's posture and position on the AT & T situation?
BRIAN FRANCE: I'll just say, we have a contract, that, number one, allows us this to happen, and number two, we want it to happen. This is good for NASCAR so it won't have any effect in my view. We're under an appeal at this stage, now, with that particular ruling you're referring to, and that's all I can comment to. But it has no effect at all.
Q. So you're still trying to protect your exclusivity?
BRIAN FRANCE: We certainly are, and we intend to do that and we intend to prevail on that.
Q. For two years or maybe even more than that we've been waiting for an announcement on a name. We've heard about focus groups and all other sorts of things, research you've done. This seems kind of simple. Can you explain to me what your research showed, why you chose this instead of something else?
DEAN KESSEL: It does seem simple on the surface, but I can tell you it was an 18-month process evaluating different looks and feels of it.
We talked to a lot of fans. We worked very closely with NASCAR, Jim Obermeyer and his group, on really looking at focus groups throughout the country on what would resonate very, very well with the fans, and we felt like we kept coming back to this. You'll notice that the Cup is still in the name, as well, and there's a history that's positioned with that name and what it resonates with the fan was very important to everybody in the sport. So we felt like it was important that -- we looked at Championship Series, we looked at Series alone, we looked at a lot of different looks and feels to it, but we kept coming back to this.
And I think quite frankly the simplicity of this, it works very well.
TIM KELLY: I think with the Sprint name, it's an intuitive name to associate with this sport. I think that goes without saying. And then the work we've done to position our brand in telecom around the concept of speed again marries perfectly.
But the last point is as we look at our branding strategy within Sprint and where we're going to be deploying our resources, spending our dollars to create the equity in the Sprint brand, the lion's share is going there, and I think it's been in the interest of both the NASCAR fan, obviously NASCAR racing and Sprint to put the focus where the majority of the effort is going to be, and this is where we're investing.
So to leave the Nextel brand on the Cup at this point just would be inconsistent with where we're driving our investments in the future, and I think that will benefit all involved.
Q. Brian, along those lines, it was the Winston Cup for so long, then it was Nextel Cup, then you gave them the option to change their name, which they've now obviously done. Once their contract runs its course, if they don't re-up, it could change yet again. What concern for you guys here with the sanctioning group as far as getting some consistency?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, I think in a perfect world we would like to not be changing the name, or as infrequent as possible. That would be our goal.
However, there comes a time when there's a great opportunity that outweighs that issue. Although we wouldn't want to do it often, we're pretty confident, very confident, that this particular change, as Tim and the whole group here has alluded to, is going to be very beneficial to the industry.
And we have a lot of years left. No one can predict the future entirely. But it's our view that this is something we can build around for a long time. And frankly, I will say this, we don't want to be -- we told Sprint a long time ago, long before they had gotten their plans to where they could make their own decisions, we didn't want to be apart from them if their main efforts were going toward the Sprint brand, which obviously it is. That's where we would like to be.
They agreed wholeheartedly and they had a lot of work to do to get themselves around their own strategies, which they've done. So we're flattered and we're happy that we, as Tim said, are right in the middle of their biggest effort, which is putting equity in the Sprint brand. We'll be a big part of that.
TOM MURPHY: In nearly 60 years we've only had three sponsors, of the series in nearly 60 years.
Q. Tim, this year NASCAR has seen more than its share of controversy. How is that sitting with the board of directors?
TIM KELLY: Well, this sport has been terrific to us, and the thing that's most important is we continue to have this massive fan appeal. It's a great platform for us to differentiate our brand and connect with our customers, and we haven't seen that erode, we only see that getting stronger. I think the move that we're making here will bind the two organizations together even closer. We believe NASCAR is on the right path. It's a business that's generating a terrific benefit on our business, and we want to invest together and continue to grow it in partnership.
Q. You're comfortable then with the controversy, that that's a positive light?
TIM KELLY: Again, I think it's something that the organization goes through and it deals with, and it's dealt with in the manner that it feels best. Things happen in all sports at different points in time. We're very proud of our association here.
Q. For the Sprint people, what can you do with Sprint as the name that you couldn't do as Sprint Nextel? Like what sort of things will you be able to offer now with the name change, and what sort of an undertaking is changing the name? How many signs? I mean, it seems massive to just make this decision and then change the name.
TIM KELLY: It is a massive decision. The Sprint brand is going to and does stand for everything Sprint Nextel brings to market, so our world class handsets, our great data services, our Nextel Direct Connect, our push-to-talk feature, all that lives within the Sprint brand. And making this change really gives us the ability to bring all of those benefits, features, capabilities to customers from the point of view of one entity.
So that to us is the big strategic move that we're making with the consolidation of our branding strategy. It's a lot, you've got retail dealers, we've got a lot of track signage.
There's a couple of elements that I think increase in our ability to go to fans. One of them is data application that will be rolling out. It today exists and it's about to get a whole lot bigger and better. Imagine, if you will, watching the snippets of a race or live racing right on your handset. This happens to be a Nextel logo'd handset, so you'll see a lot more things like this.
You'll see a lot more interactivity based on data applications that roll out from our Power Vision service that enable you to participate as a fan if you're not at the track or you're away from your 42-inch plasma screen; you'll be able to consume the sport through the handset. So imagine Fan View in your pocket ready to go.
TOM MURPHY: And I think as far as the blocking and tackling around changing things, that's why we're doing the announcement today, because it's going to take us from this point forward to be ready to be back here in 2008 under the Sprint Cup umbrella. So it's extensive, a lot of things.
And quite frankly there's a lot of trickle-down that takes place with this, as well, amongst a number of key stakeholders, notably in this room, and souvenirs. It just touches a lot of different elements. So the point to do it now was critical for us to get it as soon as we could.
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