So this seemed as good a time as any for me to make my pitch for the 2 sports I enjoy the most to get hitched. I grew up watching NASCAR. One of my uncles introduced me to it when I was 9 years old, and I've never looked back.
Other sports are fun to follow I guess. I follow many of them nominally just to stay informed. Baseball, the NBA, or even pro or college football - except to be an admitted fair-weather fan of local teams - has never knocked my socks off like racing. The only thing that now rivals my interest in racing is hockey.
As someone who has grown accustomed to trying to have my eyes follow action all over the track, hockey was appealing from the get-go. The speed of the game, the bone-crushing checks, the improv on both offense and defense, and odd-man rush toward the goal on one end of the ice while a scrum breaks out on the other end, etc. all mesh with my enjoyment of racing.
Over the last couple of years I've wondered about the possibilities of how NASCAR and the NHL can benefit one another. No question about it - both leagues want to expand their market share especially in non-traditional markets for both.
When George Gillett bought Evernham Motorsports and later Petty Enterprises, I was certain an NHL sponsorship package was nearby. Gillett owned the Montreal Canadiens, was a respected sports and business guy, and was now here in racing. But then, Gillett sold the Canadiens, and the partnership never materialized.
Its rare for one sport to use another sport to market/promote itself. In the early years of Joe Gibbs Racing, Dale Jarrett wore helmets with the logos of different NFL teams. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was sponsored a few times by MLB for the World Series and All-Star Game including most famously when he won the summer 2001 Daytona race following his father's death earlier that year.
But I think both racing and hockey are in a unique situation where I think cross-league marketing will work. Both are still considered largely niche sports. Pools for Super Bowl picks or NCAA March Madness Final Four brackets are an annual occurrence. Yankees, anti-Yankees, Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Red Sox, etc. still generate a lot of chatter around my workplace. Those of us who debate the Daytona 500 winner or predicted Cup champ number less than a dozen. And virtually no one around our place is bowing up over who is better - Ovechkin v. Crosby v. Sedin or Brodeur v. Kiprusoff v. Nabokov. So both racing and hockey have the opportunity to rub off a bit on each other's fan base and grow the interest level and excitement for both.
Consider the common markets for NASCAR and the NHL. I believe the NHL has a great opportunity to develop new fans within the NASCAR stands by rotating different skins on a car from race to race. For example, consider where NHL teams could be promoted thoughout the 30+ race NASCAR Cup season:
- Atlanta - Atlanta Thrashers
- Charlotte - Carolina Hurricanes
- Chicagoland - Chicago Blackhawks
- Daytona - Tampa Bay Lightning
- Dover - Philadelphia Flyers
- Fontana - LA Kings / Anaheim Ducks
- Phoenix - Phoenix Coyotes
- Homestead - Florida Panthers
- Kansas City - St. Louis Blues
- Loudon - Boston Bruins / Toronto Maple Leafs
- Michigan - Detroit Red Wings - even Brian Keselowski gets it. He ran a Wings scheme in the Nationwide race at Charlotte back in May.
- Pocono - Pittsburgh Penguins
- Richmond - Washington Capitals
- Sonoma - San Jose Sharks
- Talladega - Nashville Predators
- Texas - Dallas Stars
- Watkins Glen - Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils
- Montreal (Nationwide race) - Montreal Canadiens
At the grass roots level, Baker-Curb Racing's Nationwide program signed a cross-marketing promotional agreement with the Nashville Predators a couple of months ago. A show car promoting the Predators new 3rd jersey sits in the Nashville Arena.
From what I understand, a Predators car isn't going to hit the track, but there is always hope. And at least its a start.
With the number of competitive NASCAR teams needing sponsorship and the need for the NHL to expand its number of fans, TV ratings, and lines of revenue beyond gate receipts, I think this is a promotional relationship that's well past due.