With the announcement of Monster Energy Drink’s title sponsorship of NASCAR’s premier category, now re-named the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup, a new era has dawned for the series. Perhaps most significantly, in an era of stagnant or declining ratings, at-track attendance struggles, and the continued fight to grab the attention of a digitally engaged, millennial generation, it’s an interesting time for the sport. Here are the key storylines to take away.
Lower Asking Price. With Sprint knowingly leaving NASCAR for an extended period of time, it’s been curious to see the announcement of Monster as the new title sponsor relatively late. The announcement was made in December, indicating a very late closing of the deal, and late start to the series’ re-branding efforts. It’s widely rumored the delay came in the asking price, with NASCAR estimating a nine-figure buy-in, however the Monster deal allegedly came at the low end of eight figures. Is this a sign of an increasingly declining value? It’s tough to argue against.
With 2017 upon us and the official takeover of Liberty Media controlling stake in the commercial rights to Formula One, a new era is upon us. At a reported $8 billion sale to become the majority shareholder, the world renowned media and distribution company has made the biggest investment in history in to the sport. However, with budgets for teams at an all-time high, and the sport struggling to maintain its footing compared to the “glory days,” 2017 and beyond will prove an interest learning and proving ground for the sport. Here are several storylines to look for.
Formula One Without Bernie Ecclestone. Easily considered the most divisive figure in Formula One, depending on who you ask Bernie Ecclestone is either the reason the sport has achieved such a level of success, or the single person holding it back from it. Having held up the sport’s commercial interests since the 1970’s, it’s easy to argue that Ecclestone single-handedly transformed the sport through the 1980’s and 1990’s. Unifying the teams under one negotiable umbrella, Bernie shifted the power of the sport from the race promoters to the series officials and teams, capitalizing and developing television and media packages that at the time had not been properly utilized. Creating a multi-billion dollar property, both teams and series management have profited from the sport’s multi-decade growth, however in recent times the health of the sport has been questioned, oftentimes at the expense of Ecclestone’s increasing financial demands from all of the series partners. In other words, Ecclestone was ruthless, determined, and single-minded on growth through relentless licensing and rights processing. For 30+ years, no one has ever asked “who’s in charge here?” Can the same be said of Liberty Media, which is by nature more of a management company than the cult of an individual leader? Is the time right for a larger management approach? Motorsport has notoriously only prevailed with a single-handed, autocratic management. Time will tell how the current management will succeed.