You’ve probably heard by now that Affliction will be sponsoring one of the cars in this weekend’s NASCAR race. If not, Affliction will be the primary sponsor for Mike Skinner’s 00 Toyota car which hopes to compete in this weekend’s Pepsi 500 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
Naturally, this has raised questions of whether or not this is a wise business decision for Affliction. If you’re not aware, sponsorship deals in NASCAR are on an entirely different level than they are in MMA, with the only exception perhaps being the UFC’s deal with Bud Light. Corporate sponsors spend millions each year to transform race cars into 180 mph billboards. Fightlinker.com first asked the question if Affliction was spending upwards of a million dollars to turn the 00 car into the “Day of Reckoning” car. Steve Cofield followed that up with a report that says the amount of money spent on NASCAR sponsorships has declined as of late, and perhaps Affliction is actually getting bang for their buck.
I’m not sure that’s the case though. It’s been awhile, but back in my college days I used to follow NASCAR rather intently. Back then, my roommate and I had this running bet from race to race on how well Mike Skinner would do. Our bet wasn’t based on what position Skinner would finish in though, it was on how long Skinner would make it before he crashed. He would literally wreck almost every single race! This isn’t my intended point, but does Affliction want to be associated with a wrecked race car? Do they want to take the chance of being the first ones with a visual representation of a failed MMA promotion in case they don’t make it? More importantly, do they really want to make Dana White’s lame NASCAR analogy become somewhat relevant?
Getting back on track (no pun intended), Skinner is not a regular Nextel Cup driver, he’s a NASCAR Craftsmen Truck Series driver. In fact, he hasn’t run a full Cup season since 2002. Because of that, he will have to qualify to even run in this weekend’s event. He’s started 8 of 24 races this season (likely hasn’t tried to qualify for all 24), so it’s not an impossible task, but the chance is there that he won’t make the field. Even if he does, Affliction isn’t likely to get much television exposure from the deal unless he makes his way towards the front. You’ll probably see him here and there throughout the broadcast, but any significant amount of air time is unlikely.
There is expected to be 90,000 fans in attendance at the race, but if Skinner hangs around the back of the field all day, I’m not sure how many people will be paying attention. I’ve been to quite a few races, and everyone’s eyes always seem to be glued to the front of the pack or their favorite drivers.
While I give Affliction credit for thinking outside the box with their marketing efforts, I’m not sold that this was a wise business decision. Truth be told, I don’t know how one race NASCAR sponsorship deals are structured. Perhaps, there are contingencies built in that dictate how much they have to pay based on how much air time they get, whether the car even makes the field, and where the driver finishes. If not, this seems like an awful risky move for Affliction. But, as they’ve already proven, the Affliction guys aren’t exactly risk-averse. While I hope it works out for them, it just seems like they could be putting their marketing dollars in better places. The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward though, so maybe they’ll get a little lucky and prove me wrong.