When you think about it, sponsorships are more important in auto racing than any other professional sport. In baseball, football, soccer, hockey, golf, etc., individual players often have endorsement deals, but they don’t need them to compete in their sport. Racers very much depend on their sponsors to compete, even at the top levels.
Here’s a quote from the United States Auto Club FF2000 Media Guide: “As a marketing vehicle, auto racing is a proven winner. No sport attracts more corporate sponsorship dollars.”
As a result, racers are very adamant about keeping their sponsors happy, and it’s a big part of the sport—a detail that many might not think much about, like myself.
When I recently went to Fontana, California, for the Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race, I was talking to some of the folks at Oakely, who outfits Clint Bowyer and other NASCAR racers. For this race, Bowyer had a new look, sporting the colors of PEAK Antifreeze and Motor Oil, which are mainly blue and black, as opposed to his usual sponsor colors of red and yellow for 5-hour Energy.
As we were standing in the garage area, Bowyer walked up to us with a smile jokingly pointing at his shoes. His racing suit was black with blue accents, but his racing shoes were black with red and yellow seams. Apparently he didn’t have his new shoes yet with blue seams so he was giving the guys at Oakely a hard time about it. It was all in good fun.
Obviously blue seams on his shoes weren’t a big deal, and I doubt anyone even noticed. However, Bowyer also left his driving gloves back at the shop on accident, so the only ones he had were red and yellow. He had to make an emergency call to Oakley to get him black and blue gloves out to the track that day, even just for practice.
I wondered why it was such a big deal that his gloves didn’t match his suit, and, of course, it all has to do with his sponsorships. Anything that could be visible to the fans needs to line up with the racer’s sponsors. That just goes to show how crucial that partnership is between the racer and the sponsor—both sides are looking to benefit from the deal, so they both need to go above and beyond to honor the agreement.
It should also be noted that there is no other sport like auto racing that provides the corporate sponsor with so many different ways to merchandise and market its racing association, including on the driver’s gloves.
The role of the sponsors in auto racing has long been recognized as a major and necessary component of the sport.