Nextel Could Rev Ad Sales Rev Spending

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Turner Sports and FX officials must pull over for a pit stop to figure out how Nextel Communications — the newly announced NASCAR title sponsor — will figure into their coverage and advertising inventory, starting in 2004.

That's when the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing's 36 premier Winston Cup races will become the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, under a 10-year title-sponsorship deal disclosed last Thursday.

Sources place the value of the sponsorship at some $70 million annually, with $30 million earmarked for media spending.

Turner Sports president David Levy declined to comment on whether Nextel's deal would tighten Turner Network Television inventory considerably — Winston, a cigarette brand, couldn't buy commercials.

A Fox Sports Networks spokesman said: "Nextel indicated a desire to be involved with many of NASCAR's various constituents. Fox and FX are extremely confident that Nextel will consider a strong presence in our broadcasts an essential component of its overall NASCAR strategy."

It was unknown at press time if Nextel would allocate media dollars to local cable systems.

Some observers believe Nextel's deal will not affect FX and TNT's ability to sell other wireless providers. Even NASCAR's official telecommunications sponsor, AT&T Wireless, does not have on-air category exclusivity, they noted.

Under prior deals, Cingular and Alltel back individual NASCAR racing teams.

Nextel's wireless devices also figure to come into play at the tracks and on the tube relative to communications between drivers and their pit crews.

Winston parent R.J. Reynolds had agreed to a five-year contract extension last July, with some placing the value of that agreement at $45 million annually. But the tobacco giant, after suffering nearly $60 million in losses during the final three months of 2002, told NASCAR in February it wanted to park its long-running association with the circuit, of which it had been the title sponsor since 1971.

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