‘Tis the season to celebrate the dynamic duo of consumerism and capitalism, and it’s time to answer a question that’s been weighing on my mind for a while now. Have any of you ever actually gone out of your way to buy something specifically because it was a sponsorship in a discipline of motorsport you watch?
I've been thinking about the way fans perceive sponsorship marketing—and how things have changed so drastically in the past two decades. Instead of those iconic liveries we grew to love—Ayrton Senna’s Marlboro McLaren, the Chip Ganassi Target cars, Dale Earnhardt’s Goodwrench Cup Car—that were reprised race after race for several years, many drivers have different one-off liveries every weekend. And instead of that big main sponsor that everyone knew, funding for increasingly expensive race cars is secured through multiple, smaller sponsorships. It’s a lot different now.
Honestly, I can’t think of the last time I actually made a conscious purchasing decision based on a sponsorship—aside from, maybe, absolutely refusing to pay for my husband’s energy drinks because both Red Bull and Monster have made some decisions that make me sigh heavily in disdain.
I think there’s a case to be made for iconic liveries. Back when I made my brief two-month foray into smoking when it seemed cool, I smoked Marlboros because of its iconic Formula One sponsorships. I knew nothing about cigarettes, but I recognized the name Marlboro from racing, and I went with what I knew. My family used to buy Valvoline because we were big Mark Martin fans. We thought Martin kicked ass, and the best way to get our own cars to kick ass was to use the exact same oil as our favorite driver. But I’ll be honest—I’d likely have picked up Marlboros and my family likely would have picked up Valvoline anyway considering the fact that these are both two of the biggest names in their respective markets.
But other than that, I can’t recall anything. Especially not recently. I don’t make Hugo Boss or Chandon money, and who the hell even knows what the companies are that sponsor IndyCars these days. What in the hell is the Gainbridge? What the actual fuck is Cly-Del? Can someone explain what Binderholz is? Not without Googling it. And I absolutely refuse to do so.
In my eyes, there’s not a strong enough brand association these days to make people care about buying the product being advertised. Yeah, the whole point of sponsorship is to make people buy more shit which in itself is an inherently stupid concept. But how the hell are you even supposed to go out and buy, uh, U.S. Concrete or Starcom or any of that other shit that gets slapped onto the side of a car every weekend? The sponsorships just don’t matter as much these days. Why can’t we just have a car livery that looks good just for the sake of looking good? Why do we need to be inundated with shit to buy every time we turn on a race? Does anyone even go out of their way to do that anymore?
But I want to outsource this to a crowd. Are your purchasing decisions influenced by racing? Or are you like me, where you have had entirely enough of The Brands and would just rather buy nondescript items so we can all stop debating the nuance of nine hundred different cereal options?