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Do they really mean it?

Posted: February 20, 2014 8:33 a.m.
Updated: February 21, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Gentlemen, start your engines! It’s NASCAR season again, with the Daytona 500 coming up Sunday. There’s always a high amount of excitement in the air this time of year, as everyone starts the season with the same record and number of points -- zeros all across the board.

Sponsorships and endorsements fuel the economy of most sports, but I can’t think of a single sport that lives on sponsorships more than NASCAR. The cars and drivers alike are adorned with the logos of many sponsors, major and minor. During interviews the drivers always refer to their cars with the sponsor’s name. That’s part of the deal.

“Well, I tell ya, the Bass Pro Shops Chevy was running good out there today and we left everybody else in our wake as we trolled our way to victory lane. I really appreciate Bass Pro Shops for making this possible.”

It dawned on me while watching a race on TV a couple of years ago, “I wonder if these guys actually use the products of their sponsors, or is this all just about money?” One thought led to another. “What if, to prove that they really believe in the companies that give them massive amounts of money for the exposure, the drivers were required to actually use those products during the race?” Let the hilarity begin!

In all honesty, those thoughts came to me because of the high number of cars sponsored by breweries and liquor companies. Drinking and driving are wrong and I am absolutely not encouraging it, but … like the car commercials always say in small print at the bottom of the screen, “Do not attempt. Professional driver on a closed course.” So, what if the drivers of those cars were required to consume a certain amount of their products during the race? Maybe drink a beer or take a shot of booze every 10 or 15 laps. As fast and as far as they go, that would be a lot of drinking. They could be co-sponsored by Depends adult diapers, too. Hey, just sayin’.

So then I started thinking about the other sponsors and what their respective drivers would be ordered to do. Many cars are sponsored by oil companies or other auto-related goods. That would be easy and would be the most sought after sponsorships in the sport. Just put Pennzoil in your engine or use Goodyear tires or paint your car with DuPont paint to qualify under the new “sponsorship rules.” Too easy. But what about Lowe’s and Home Depot? I say that during the course of the race the drivers have to build and paint a birdhouse, which would be judged after the race for quality. Kind of adds a whole new degree of difficulty, doesn’t it?

The driver for UPS would have to deliver packages during the race. What can brown do for you? The driver of the Sprint sponsored car would have to talk on his (or her) cell phone the entire time. Maybe Danica Patrick would be a good one for that.

The driver of the aforementioned Bass Pro Shops car could be required to fish during the race. Impossible? Not with some ingenuity and creativity. Put a plastic “kiddie pool” stocked with small fish in the car with him. Watch out for the sloshing.

There are race teams sponsored by McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell. Pretty obvious what those drivers would have to do, but would it be fair to make them stop periodically at a drive-thru window? I say yes. Looking at the list of sponsors for 2014, there are some I honestly can’t think of what their race day activity should be. Target? Dollar General? Curb records? Caterpillar? No, I’m not going to advocate somebody driving a bulldozer during a race.

But, back to my original point: saying NASCAR is big business is a tremendous understatement, but is there any real product loyalty between the sponsors and the race teams? I would hope there is.

I would bet that there’s one guy who is glad my idea for sponsorship rules has never been implemented, for if it were, what would he be forced to do? Mark Martin used to drive a car sponsored by Viagra.

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