Can somebody please explain to me at what point it became commonplace to openly discuss sponsorship deals that were “in the works” or “close” to being done? I’m going to pick on two organizations here, but they certainly aren’t the only offenders. Within the last several weeks we’ve had both Ty Norris and Cal Wells from Michael Waltrip Racing, and Aric Almirola from Dale Earnhardt Inc. appear in media pieces using phrases like “we’ve got quite a few things in the works,” “things are in the funnel,” and “I believe we’re in really good shape.”
What do those phrases even mean? Reading and hearing about these startling revelations from teams reminds me of a saying: “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” I’m sure every race team from Sprint Cup all the way to the bombers at your local short track have deals “in the works.”
With my personal background and knowledge of the sport, I realize that its important for these organizations to appear as though they are moving in a positive direction and for them to put on a “happy” face for the media. But does anyone actually believe them?
Yeah, I don’t.
Besides in the media, another place that phrases like these are used is within the team itself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from management and team executives that sponsorship deals were nearly done, only to have them fall apart at the last minute. And with named sponsors no less! You’d think that if the brass were going to actually name names to employees, they’d be fairly certain a deal was done. I’d rather not know anything during the negotiations. I prefer to hear about my team’s sponsor announcements for the next year on NASCAR Now. At least then you know its probably fairly certain.
A story that I’ve heard several times during my career, and one that always gives me the shivers involved a major Cup team and their near signing of one of the shipping giants. The deal had been negotiated, agreed upon, and the team had signed the last bits of the contract. When they were finished, management handed the completed contract off to an employee to be overnighted to the sponsor. The deal breaker came when the employee sent the contract to the sponsor using their competitor’s service! Shortly after the package arrived, the sponsor nixed the deal and proceeded in another direction. Talk about a bad day.
An important lesson to be learned from all of this, is that it doesn’t matter how “close” you are. No sponsorship deal is officially done until the press conference happens and that all important check clears the bank.
We know that in the current economic climate times are tough. Sponsorship is hard to come by for some teams, while other teams have to beat sponsors off with a stick (see Richard Childress Racing). But for those that are struggling, you don’t have to lie to us. We aren’t stupid. And we aren’t going to hold you personally responsible if it doesn’t work out. Trying to convince a company to spend $25 million a year on a single sponsorship is a difficult task at best. Please don’t underestimate the intelligence of your employees and fans by trying to convince us otherwise.