Cellular phone leader Sprint announced on Tuesday that it will be ending its relationship with NASCAR when their contract expires in 2016.
Steve Gaffney, vice president for marketing, explained that Sprint is “proud of our association with NASCAR’s top series but have made the decision not to extend our sponsorship beyond the next two years.”
Fox Sports pointed to Sprint’s desire to focus more on its core business priorities led to their decision to end the contract. NASCAR reaps roughly $70 million per year with the Sprint endorsement.
NASCAR senior vice president Brett Jewkes said in a statement, “We understand significant changes within Sprint and the highly competitive business environment it is in has led to a decision not to extend its Cup Series entitlement position following the 2016 season.” He went on to say that he was “confident of moving forward in 2017 with an outstanding new partner.”
Racing legend and four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon said that Sprint has “done a tremendous job marketing the sport from the digital side of things…. I think it’s been really great to have a partner to help transcend the sport. When you think of major players in how the sport has grown, I would definitely put Sprint very high up there.”
With Sprint heading in a new direction, NASCAR will select for only the fourth time since its inception in 1971 a new entitlement sponsor. R.J. Reynolds, sponsor of the Winston Cup, preceded Sprint and sustained a 33-year relationship with NASCAR before Nextel took over in 2004. Subsequently, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debuted in 2008 with the merger between Nextel and Sprint.
“The loss of Sprint will be huge,” Michigan International Speedway track president Roger Curtis said. “They’ve been such a great supporter of the sport — everything from the activation with the fans and Miss Sprint — bringing everything that they do to the track, the championship… I think NASCAR is healthy and will find another series sponsor, obviously, but Sprint will be missed, no doubt.”