Friday, March 6, 2009

"NASCAR Now" Addresses GM Issues Head-On


The issues surrounding car giant General Motors were swirling on Thursday. CNN, MSNBC and the Fox News Channel were continually using words like bailout, bankruptcy and collapse. It was exactly what NASCAR fans did not want to hear.

Dealing with this type of issue for NASCAR's television partners could not be more tricky. Avoid it totally and a network can be accused of toeing the NASCAR party line. Present it simply as a news item and many fans will continue to be confused about what all this means for the sport.

ESPN veteran Mike Massaro was at the helm of Thursday's NASCAR Now. The production team for this show chose to jump into the deep end of the pool and face the GM questions head-on.

Massaro introduced Ed Peper, the North American VP for Chevrolet. He appeared shortly after Massaro had referenced the Thursday story in the New York Times talking about the crisis at GM as a whole. Peper was the perfect guest to set the tone and talk about the NASCAR implications of this mounting problem.

Peper answered "nothing" when asked what this latest news story meant for the Chevy interest in NASCAR. He rejected the notion of bankruptcy outright for GM and reinforced that the plan submitted to the Federal Government should allow GM to recover and eventually payback any loans given to them by the taxpayers.

As fans have heard many times, Peper reinforced that nothing sells more cars and trucks for Chevrolet than the company's association with NASCAR. While some track and associate sponsorships have been ended, Peper was strong in his assertion that Chevy is in with NASCAR for the long haul.

To gain a financial and business perspective, CNBC correspondent Darren Rovell appeared on NASCAR Now for the first time this season. Rovell has been a favorite of this show for the past two years where sports business issues are concerned.

Rovell did not disagree with Pepers, but made it clear that what the Chevy executive "wants" to do might not fall in line with what the Federal Government might "make" him do where NASCAR is concerned.

"It doesn't matter if you think your marketing works," said Rovell. "You can't do that anymore." Those are ominous words.

His suggestion was that money given to GM was going to come with the mandate to eliminate NASCAR participation. "Sports marketing has changed in the last week alone," Rovell said. "Even if you can prove that (it's) win on Sunday, sell on Monday, it doesn't matter. It doesn't look good around this time and what the country is dealing with."

What Rovell is advancing is the growing notion that the US auto makers who get Federal money may be forced to curtail any sports spending completely. This issue has already arisen with companies who sponsored everything from football stadiums to golf tournaments being forced to withdraw the funding in order to get Federal help.

"There are going to have to be concessions made," said Ricky Craven. He was the next guest on NASCAR Now and spoke to the salary issues in the sport. "Drivers will have to make concessions," he said. "We don't talk a lot about that...but they will have to make less money." Craven agreed with Rovell that the auto maker issues now on the table are going to have a direct impact on the sport.

This is the type of NASCAR TV that works for everyone. Peper stated the case from the auto maker perspective, Rovell added a sports business view and Craven closed the topic by continuing his run on ESPN of speaking plainly and honestly on a wide variety of NASCAR topics.

This season NASCAR Now has been the leader in addressing the economic issues in the sport. The TV series now seems to be far removed from the "gotcha" journalism of last season, including the Ron Hornaday public relations disaster. Massaro is in his first year as a fulltime co-host of this program and Thursday proved once again that ESPN VP of Motorsports Rich Feinberg made the right choice in adding him to the team.

Hopefully, the news being reported this season will change for the better, but at least now fans know where they can go to find it.

If you would like to add your comment about NASCAR Now this season or this specific show, please click the comments button below. This is a family friendly website, so comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thanks for your patience.

14 comments:

Ken said...

NA$CAR and the teams need to be very concerned with the government dictating a stop to the automobile companies' sponsorship. You have to remember that of the 18 people chosen for the committee to oversee the auto industry, only two drove American branded cars and two don't even own a car. Most of the foreign cars owned by the group were the snobby "upper crust" kinds of cars that wouldn't be caught dead at a race.

I own a 2008 Impala and I don't feel it has any connection to racing and I feel the same way about my Ford F-150. The "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" does not work for me and I don't it applies to many people.

Anonymous said...

Mike did a great job. Nicole, are you watching?

darbar said...

This was one of the best and more informative shows this season, with regards to the growing economic problems of Nascar. I found the comment of "race on Sunday, buy on Monday" to be a little out of the loop, so to speak, when you consider that the cars racing today have absolutely nothing to do with any kind of car you can buy in any dealership, regardless of manufacturer. Perhaps if Nascar hadn't gone the way of IROC, that statement could still be true, but GM or any other manufacturer cannot use that as a marketing tool.

Now as for the drivers having to make concessions, that could make for some interesting reading. I think the golden goose the drivers have been enjoying has laid it's last golden egg. We've already been reading stories of how cost cutting measures have already been taking place with some drivers giving up their private jet trips and all that. But, I really do hope that Nascar Now will keep up with how the drivers will react to any team owner who might ask for wage concessions, from not only drivers, but team members also. Some drivers have already said they'd be happy to take pay cuts, but it remains to be seen how much money they'll be willing to forgo.

Perhaps we'll see a return to the old style of racing and not so much reliance on technology and assistance from the four manufacturers. That might not be such a bad thing. Like the CNBC reporter said, maybe teams will have to field teams for $15 million a year instead of $25 million. But in all, this could be interesting, if not this season, most definitely in 2010.

Dot said...

I hope the gov't doesn't stop car makers (Big 3) from being involved with NASCAR. There are the other aspects of racing that is helping the economy; gas, food, lodging, etc. Even though spending is down, fans are still going to the races.

But, on the other hand, I don't feel too sorry for the car makers. They should've re-examined their business models years ago.


How long has it been since someone has tracked the win on Sun, buy on Mon sales? And, what happens if Chevy and the rest can't be involved in NASCAR anymore? Are Honda, Nissan and Hyundai going to step in? Maybe BF & Co invented the COT so there would be minimal modifications for the foreign guys.

Btw, NN was a good show today. I almost forgot to mention that.

cvt said...

Until this Kabuki theatre of whether GM continues to receive direct investment from the Federal Govt or it resolves it's financial issues in a courtroom, it's participation in NASCAR will be at risk.

Bad news doesn't get better with time. Get in the courtroom,hash it out with a judge,and get back to profitably building vehicles people want to buy. And you can market them anyway you want.

Aven said...

If the government gets involved, the car companies would have to present a business case that the sponsorship causes a cost effective increase in sales. If they can't make an effective case, I think the involvement will be slowed or curtailed.

GinaV24 said...

I thought this was a good show and it certainly laid out a lot of interesting points. I hate the idea that the government might mandate that GM or any brand can't participate in NASCAR. That said, I agree with others that NASCAR's decision to go to the IROC car has made the "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" premise moot. The car that is on the track bears no resemblance to my street car. NASCAR chose this path, now they have to live with it.

Anonymous said...

Darn it!

It sounds like NN has actually become a show worth watching. I have not watched since 2007.

I will give it a try again.

As far as fans showing up. I have attended Michigan's June and August races for the last 8 years. I gave up my camping space and tickets for the three weekend events. I can't afford it and will be watching on TV. That is the plain and simple economic facts of our household. I need to do some trimming and $1,000 will need to be spent on higher priorities.

Anonymous said...

"Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday" was true back in the 1960's/70's when Nas-cars were essentially "Street Stocks" or "Super Stocks". I got as much enjoyment out of watching them race as I do watching todays cars. We can't go back to "stock" cars because of safety reasons. Most fans I talk to do not relate to the cars we see racing today to cars we can drive. The only way I can tell one "brand" from another on the track is by the decals and the shape of the quarter windows. NASCAR engines have no similarities to passenger car engineseither. Get the costs down, period. I like good racing. Don't care if it's at 160 mph or 180 mph.

Tracy said...

Good show. Scary, but good. NN has the right stuff going on with Mike Massaro.

My husband says GM was building cars Americans wanted to buy - just not in the quantities they produce. Brand loyalty is well and alive in our household - and if Dodge does a crash and burn, my husband will never own another truck. He's already talking about stockpiling extra trucks plus parts. I'm not kiddng.

Why isn't anyone paying attention to the huge drop in sales for the Prius and the rest of Toyota? Wait, maybe because it's not American and the government can't tell Toyota what to do. Good for Ford, staying out of this governmental bailout tar pit.

Gymmie said...

@anon 9:17--yes the show has gotten SO much better since the Erik KooKoo and Doug Banks days. Ryan tried very hard to make a presentable show last year. He started to grow on me and I do miss him. I need to channel surf and try to catch him in his other role. I do hope if someone is out they let him sub.

Rockin Rich said...

Gymmie @3:16PM — 3/6:

Alright!! TDP Comedy Competition is back!

Eric KooKoo. Love it! I don't recall seeing that when he was around in 2007.

Great to have this site, and frustration outlet, back isn't it??!!

JT said...

What excellent comments on this post!

GM is about to take Chapter 11 and will be semi-nationalized. If GM is looking to bankruptcy to shed its UAW contracts and pension obligations, then they will probably be forced to throw their NASCAR sponsorships into the fire, too.

3bud said...

With GM facing what it is, and other manufacturers also having not so great numbers, it makes me wonder ,Did Brian France have the right idea with the COT after all? Make the the body's basically the same, in the future run a spec engine, and NASCAR can continue on.I've always been a Chevy guy and the recent news is sad on many levels, but perhaps Brian had a little more insight then given credit for when they put the COT concept to work. Hopefully all will work out,but there a signs that sponsorships may not be possible with government involvement. Just a thought.