Monster Energy is the new entitlement sponsor of NASCAR's Cup Series, NASCAR CEO and chairman Brian France announced Thursday at the Wynn in Las Vegas.
Monster immediately replaces Sprint as the Cup Series sponsor, the premier division of NASCAR's three national tours. A new name for the rebranded series and a logo will be unveiled later, France said.
Also not known are the exact terms of the deal, though France the parties had entered into a "multiyear" contract with options that includes Monster becoming the title sponsor of the All-Star Race held annually in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Official Energy Drink of NASCAR.
Sprint was spending upwards of $75 million annually on its NASCAR title sponsorship, according to a July report by Forbes. ESPN.com sports business reporter Darren Rovell tweeted NASCAR is receiving "2.5X less annually than last deal."
"Monster Energy is a brand built on excitement and enthusiasm, qualities that align with NASCAR," France said. "This sponsorship position is the most unique in all of sports and entertainment, and we are thrilled to have a partner that will help us further elevate the series. Today's announcement is the culmination of a thorough search, one that resulted in the right partner at this important time in our sport's history."
Monster is NASCAR's fourth Cup Series sponsor since 1971. R.J. Reynolds, through its Winston brand, served as entitlement sponsor from 1971-2003, with Nextel replacing the cigarette maker in 2004. When Sprint purchased Nextel in 2005, it assumed Nextel's 10-year contract as the sponsor for NASCAR's No. 1 series and later extended that contract for three years through the 2016 season.
In December 2014, Sprint announced it would cease its involvement in NASCAR at the conclusion of the 2016 season, which wrapped Nov. 20 with Jimmie Johnson winning a record-tying seventh championship. In recent weeks NASCAR executives have said publicly it was close to finalizing a replacement sponsor. With the 2017 season-opening Daytona 500 a little more than two months out, both NASCAR and Monster will be tasked with maximizing their joint marketing efforts.
"Even though it's December and a bit late in the game, they have the activation tools, the plans and the people ... so they're ready on day one," France said. "They're a fun brand that's going to interact with our core fans in kind of a cool, neat way actually, and we've seen some of the plans, and they'll get bigger and more robust as we go along."
This is not Monster's first foray into NASCAR, having sponsored various drivers since the mid-2000s. Most recently, Kurt Busch drove a Monster-sponsored car in the Cup Series last year, while younger brother Kyle Busch is sponsored by NOS, a Monster subsidiary, in the Xfinity Series. Monster is also the entitlement sponsor of national motorcross tour.
One of the challenges facing Monster is integrating its successes in other motorsports avenues toward a NASCAR audience not always accepting of change.
"We do have some ideas about how we can make NASCAR more attractive to what I would call a different audience than is currently there without detracting from what is already a great audience and a great fan base," Monster Chief Marketing Officer Mark Hall said. "We have experience with that and those fans do relate to our brand, and we think there's an opportunity to bring some new ones in."
With a fan base that largely skews older, NASCAR has enacted a concentrated push in recent years to capture the attention of millennials, many of whom don't have the passion for cars as previous generations. Obtaining Monster as an entitlement sponsor should assist NASCAR in courting younger fans, the key demographic for the energy drink maker.
That ability to market toward a younger fan base is one of the specifics France said that made Monster an ideal partner. France described the company as "edgy" and said the word "fun" nine times during the 25-minute press conference.
"Obviously, they're an edgy brand," France said. "They're a fun brand. They get at a millennial audience in a different way clearly than we've ever been associated with, particularly at this level, and they know what they're doing. This is their DNA
"They understand how to reach across and excite our core audience and help us deliver on a new audience, and that was very exciting for us."