There are a lot of Truck Series teams looking for sponsorship ahead of Friday night's race at Las Vegas.
Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis asked Monday night if any teams running the race were interested in taking his sponsorship offer for the race. Lemonis, whose company is the title sponsor of the Truck Series, offered teams a base rate of $15,000 for the sponsorship and said that it would increase based on where a team finished. If a truck with a Camping World sponsorship won the race, Lemonis said he'd pay that team $50,000.
The response to Lemonis' initial tweet was significant on Monday night. Numerous teams and drivers took him up on the offer. At least seven of the 40 teams on the entry list were either self-sponsored or had no sponsorship at all. And at least one truck will have Camping World on it instead of its originally listed sponsor.
The gesture highlights a flawed system
Let's get this out of the way and make it clear. What Lemonis and Camping World is doing is largely unprecedented for a NASCAR title sponsor. The money he's offering teams is a clear benefit for Friday night. Especially to smaller teams without the resources of the top teams in the series.
But the offer's mere existence highlights how flawed NASCAR's sponsorship model currently is, especially in the Truck Series where race payouts are the lowest of NASCAR's three national series. The offer feels like the NASCAR version of a GoFundMe for someone's unexpected medical expenses. While the sentiment and the generosity in those campaigns are appreciated, the campaigns only exist because of a flawed healthcare system.
It costs a lot of money for teams to try to be competitive with little financial return to be gained. Engines and tires are expensive. With limited money available via race winnings, teams have to turn to sponsorships in an attempt to break even or even pay for their tire bill or race travel for a week. And they have to convince those sponsors that their investment will be worth it in terms of TV time and in-race exposure.
The ratio of sponsorship costs to brandexposure and return on investment is why sponsorships that cover all of the bills are hard to come by. Teams at all levels of NASCAR are searching for sponsors. Numerous trucks have been unsponsored through the first two weeks of the season. With so many teams constantly looking for companies to put on their vehicles, it's a buyers' market for potential sponsors. Demand creates lower prices.
If the sponsorship model was working normally, a driver like Sheldon Creed wouldn't be forced to take Lemonis up on the offer. Creed is the defending Truck Series champion and his truck gets a lot of time on television. He's one of the most prominent drivers in the series.
Yet he's had little sponsorship for the first two races of 2021 and ran a completely blank truck last week at the Daytona road course. Shouldn't the 2020 champion have a relatively easy time finding sponsorship?
Lemonis' offer also seems to be at a deep discount. Especially for a team trying run competitively. Sure, some money is better than nothing. That's indisputable. But $15,000 over the course of a 22-race season is just $330,000. And $50,000 for winning all 22 races is $1.1 million. A truck and driver that successful are worthy of far more sponsorship than just over $1 million.
Could that deep discount impact teams' potential bargaining power with other companies going forward? It's a valid question. The head of a very influential company in NASCAR has now publicly listed what he believes are worthy sponsorship prices. Any company approached by a Truck Series team for sponsorship can now point to the numbers Lemonis tweeted and use them as a starting point for discussions.
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