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Caution flag flies on GM's motorsports budget

By Sharon Silke Carty, USA TODAY
DETROIT — General Motors is going after what was a sacred cow in auto marketing: motorsports.
GM (GM) says it will cut back motorsports advertising, putting in jeopardy its sponsorships of teams, tracks and all the ancillary marketing that goes with racing.

Expected among the biggest losers is NASCAR-related spending of an estimated $120 million to $140 million a year.

Last week, GM announced a program of "self help" to save and raise cash needed to survive the current car market downturn. The $15 billion plan through 2009 includes cutting salaried jobs, slashing production, eliminating the dividend and trimming marketing budgets, which include race promotion.

"Like all areas of the business, these areas have not gone without a certain level of scrutiny, and there will be modifications and changes in our promotional footprint," Troy Clarke, president of GM North America, said in a conference call on the plan. "We're not going to talk about the details today, and specifically NASCAR, but all those areas have been reviewed and will continue to be as we work these action plans through."

One consideration may have been that NASCAR began a transition in 2007 to a so-called Car of Tomorrow. In place of body shapes loosely based on a carmaker's product, all race cars would have the same generic body, differentiated with stickers depicting headlights, taillights and grille, as well as the car number and source of the engine. The goals were safety, lower costs for race teams and an even playing field for drivers.

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston says he's confident GM will continue to see NASCAR as an important advertising investment.

"Obviously, they're hugely a part of our sport and our industry," he says. "Hopefully they'll continue to recognize that the power of our fan base is that they are direct customers of theirs."

More here: http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2008-07-20-nascar-gm-racing-track_N.htm?csp=N008
 

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"Hopefully they'll continue to recognize that the power of our fan base is that they are direct customers of theirs."
The same could be said of any sport. Just because NASCAR is popular does not mean it is a motorsport that benefits GM product. GM can still put up billboards and sponsor races like Nextel without spending time and money on generic race cars.

I've long thought that when really talking about motorsports related to product, and as a way to sell the strengths of your product, that lower profile series like the Grand Am Cup have much more potential to improve GM's image as a company that engineers great cars than some sponsored cars in NASCAR. All the smaller production-based races need are more exposure to break through the barrage of non-stop NASCAR coverage. The Grand Am Cup ST Class (not to be confused with Grand Am racing which has cars like the CTS-VR with heavy modifications - you can tell a Grand Am Cup GT Class CTS-V apart from a CTS-VR, one looks like a regular CTS-V with some minor mods, the other like a full blown race car with fake headlight stickers), for instance, pits Cobalt SSs with minimal modifications against Mazdas, Hondas, etc. When they win, you can feel some GM pride. And you can go down to the showroom on Monday and pick one up.

Though it was a different story 20 years ago, no one is under the illusion today - except perhaps the sticker-heavy Monte Carlo guys - that a Ford Fusion is anything like a NASCAR vehicle carrying its name.

NASCAR is so generic today that the money spent on it shouldn't even be considered much different than advertising money spent in the NFL or NBA.

About the only justification I've heard is that pit crews of GM engineers can get some experience with racing like this that they can't get anywhere else. Well, I say that being in the pit crew for a Cobalt SS, Corvette or Cadillac CTS makes a heck of a lot more sense (as long as the series has strict rules keeping them close to production cars)...

Same thing with open wheel racing.

So when deciding whether or not to pull money from "motorsports", NASCAR and other non-production based racing should only be loosely considered as such.

Motorsports used to be a way for manufacturers to prove the superiority of their product, not just the pit team, driver, or some non-production engine with technology actually older than anything on the road (like a carburetor).

Keep some money in small series like the Grand Am Cup ST class, but don't blow huge wads on NASCAR and call it "for the sake of motorsports", because that is just not accurate anymore.

(The Mustangs are just sharing the track in the GT class with smaller ST class cars)


 

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^ Good post Ming, and I agree.

I'm really not posting this to beat up on NASCAR, but it's what I feel. Winning on Sunday does not mean selling on Monday anymore. GM should stop providing its $$$ to a motorsport that does in no way help production cars. We gave up on carbs and 4-speed manuals.

Maybe if GM were raking in the dough, my thought process would be different. But GM needs money, and needs to focus attention to where it'll get the best returns. And IMHO it's not NASCAR. Once things are better they can "make a comeback" like Dodge did.
 

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I used to totally enjoy Nascar. But it has lost is appeal and now toyolet and honda are in it. It just isnt enjoyable. Good on cutting the budget to nascar! They need to wake up. Anyway I would rather watch real racers turn left and right and race in the rain!
 

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I always felt they spent way too much on NASCAR. Reason being is they already have tremendous brand awareness there. They should be trying to break into areas where the brand is ignored.
 

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Wow, I completely agree here Ming. In addition to that, the drag racing, and modified stock vehicles can and usually bring automotive experience in performance. We've gotten a lot of things from these types of endeavors.

I don't know what age group Nascar is supposed to appeal to, but I don't really like it because of the lack of actual automotive variety.

I very much enjoy racing where the vehicle is almost as important as the driver.
 
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I agree with Ming. From my perspective, NASCAR has lost much of it's appeal to me. Two factors affect that. One, Dale died. And second, the COT sucks, from a fan perspective.

I agree that supporting "lesser" series like the Grand Am Cup (Koni Challenge and Rolex Series) and the ALMS can help GM's appeal more than supporting NASCAR.

And in supporting the Rolex Series and ALMS I am confident GM gets lots of data to help make their street cars better.

I have lately been more excited about the Rolex Series and the ALMS. In large part because in those races you actually need to down/up shift and turn right once in a while.
 

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With the "COT" NASCAR deliberately moved as far away from reality as possible. It's nothing more than an orchestrated money making show now.

Perhaps GM would be best served by making a deal with Toyota to slap Chevrolet stickers on a Camry.
 

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Please excuse my ignorance, but what is COT?
 

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COT = Car of Tommorow or now Car Of Today. The new car with the big wing. All cars are the same just stickers. So whats the point.
 

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COT = Car of Tommorow or now Car Of Today. The new car with the big wing. All cars are the same just stickers. So whats the point.
The point is chassis engineering, setup and drivers are all more important parts of the equation now that one of the variables is gone.

It makes good sense to dial back sponsorship, but I think I'd keep myself attached to one of the big owners like Hendrick.
 

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NASCAR is becoming its own now, it doesn't need much relation to manufacturers since they just provide the motors now,for the most part.
 

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Just peel off those Impala SS headlite and tailight stickers...slap on Camry stcikers and GM is out of the NASCAR circus!

NASCAR jumped the shark several years ago with rule changes.....

Take the money GM and put it into real racing....
 
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Related to this topic. Does anyone know the level of involvment for GM with the Gainsco and Sun Trust Pontiac Dayona Prototypes, or the GT GXP.R in the Rolex Series?

By the way, this is NASCAR. Back when you could run down to your dealer and buy the car that won on Sunday,

 

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NASCAR is becoming its own now, it doesn't need much relation to manufacturers since they just provide the motors now,for the most part.
Yeah, just the motors - oh, and a few hundred million dollars in promotional consideration.

I'm sure that NASCAR management is crapping bricks at the prospect of GM, Ford, Chrysler, or Toyota reducing their motorsports budgets, since NASCAR takes up the largest portion of at least the first three by far (not sure about Toyota though). You better believe the sport will be hurting from any reduction from GM, not just the supply of engines (which I'm sure would still continue anyway).
 

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COT = Car of Tommorow or now Car Of Today. The new car with the big wing. All cars are the same just stickers. So whats the point.
For an automaker's sponsorship, there is no point. NASCAR was trying to even the playing field so the drivers, and crews would be what's in competition. They took the car out of the equation.

That bears repeating - THEY TOOK THE CAR OUT OF THE EQUATION. So exactly what is it that GM is sponsoring? The same exact car that Toyota is sponsoring? And it's more than just the car bodies. The frames (cars have frames?), the motors are so restricted and formulaed that they are practically identical versions of 70's technology (cars have carburetors?).
 

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I for one watch to cheer the GM product, if there is no GM car in the race, chances are I’m not watching, who to cheer for? Even if it is just a sticker on the outside, the heart (motor) is still GM. The whole win on Sunday bla bla bla, has been dead for awhile, but that is mostly because it use to be that when your car broke you bought a new one, not a big used market or extreme high pricing, or so many choices. It still equates to sales because I know of at least 3 friends that i have turned on to NASCAR over the years and all 3 traded in there foreign car the next time around and went GM. they all put their driver # stickers on and kept on cheering.
 

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nascar stopped being interesting since they stopped all advancement of technology in it. when they stopped being street cars thats when it lost the point

i agree with ming that those races with production mustangs, cts, cobalts, rsx cars should be more important in marketing and promoting a product than nascar.

just look at what rally racing did for the Subaru WRX

Alan
 

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I used to totally enjoy Nascar. But it has lost is appeal and now toyolet and honda are in it. It just isnt enjoyable. Good on cutting the budget to nascar! They need to wake up. Anyway I would rather watch real racers turn left and right and race in the rain!
Why would anyone not like Toyota competing? If you deny them even a chance for a spot at the starting line, you are implying that they are better than you. You think your brand is better? Prove it through competition! That's what racing is all about! (well .... used to be)
 

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i don't think they should pull out all their ties w/ NASCAR..maybe they should just cut spending...GM has had a history w/ NASCAR since the beginning so why end now..
 
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