Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR
By: Toby Christie - Follow on Twitter @Tobalical
Lowe’s Home Improvement has been the primary sponsor for each of Jimmie Johnson’s 60 Sprint Cup Series victories, and of course all five of his Sprint Cup championships. But according to an anonymous source who is close to the situation; the sponsor will not be renewing their contract after the 2013 season.
The source said that Lowe’s will be, “Dropping [full-sponsorship of the No. 48 car] in December.”
What the source didn’t rule out was a secondary sponsorship. Our source went on to say that Lowe’s may continue to be a secondary sponsor for Johnson’s team after the 2013 campaign, but that Lowe's overall is looking to go in a different direction with their advertising campaign.
What this seemingly all boils down to is a case of dollars and cents.
Think about it. Lowe’s has been spending a decent chunk of change on NASCAR sponsorships since they came into the sport as Brett Bodine‘s primary sponsor for the 1995 season. From there they moved to the No. 31 of Mike Skinner in 1997, and then to Jimmie Johnson in 2001. Each of these moves was with a top-tier team (Junior Johnson Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports) which means that you have to pay top-tier money to have your name plastered on the hood.
Although it hasn’t ever been publicly released how much Lowe‘s spends per year, they have to be spending at least the industry average of $15-20 million dollar per season to have their Logo on Johnson’s racecars, and they‘ve been doing that since the early 2000s. Add in all of their television, radio and internet advertising as well as giveaways, and you’re looking at upwards of $60 million being spent per season on Lowe’s Racing -- if not much more.
The fact that Lowe’s would be cutting back on it’s sponsorship would also fall in line with the rest of the industry. Many of the teams in the sport today rely on two - or more - sponsors to help them fill the slate of races sponsorship-wise, and this is mainly due to the increase of cost to compete in the sport since the turn of the century. Even companies like Pepsi Co., who have sponsored Dale Earnhardt Jr. since 2008, are cutting back the amount of races that they’re on the hood all in an effort to reduce costs.
If you’ve been following their company, Lowe’s has been shaking up it’s business structure over the last few years. The sports marketing division has been no stranger to numerous additions and subtractions over that time. All of this would fall in line with our source saying the company will be going in a different direction.
We reached Team Lowe’s Racing’s public relations person Tara Guger who had the following to say:
“This is obviously a contract year for us. We are still actively in the middle of negotiations with Hendrick Motorsports.”
Just a day later the Lowe’s director of sports marketing - Chel Crook - was tight-lipped when we flat-out asked if Lowe‘s was leaving Jimmie Johnson‘s racecar at the end of 2013.
“I have no comment on that. I would probably get smacked around if I were to comment on that,” said Crook.
Usually where there is smoke in the NASCAR rumor mill, there is fire to be found. Another thing to consider is the fact that Lowe’s Home Improvement’s biggest competitor The Home Depot is cutting back on it’s amount of races that they will sponsor Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 car (down to 21 races) in 2013. Also during that 20 race stretch, The Home Depot will be replacing their orange paint scheme with a red Husky scheme instead to give their line of tools some advertising space instead of the store as a whole.
So the need to stick around in NASCAR to keep up with the Jones’ is no longer necessary. Also it’s easier for Lowe’s to walk away knowing they’ve given Jimmie Johnson the opportunity to answer the question that was posed at the beginning of their partnership; Can you win? Johnson has won, and he has won big for the organization over the last 12 years.