When news hit that the National Rifle Association would be sponsoring an upcoming Sprint Cup NASCAR race, it felt…a little odd.
The NRA 500, scheduled for April at Texas Motor Speedway, isn’t the same thing as other sponsored races, such as the Subway Fresh Fit 500 or the Kobalt Tools 400. The NRA is a political hot potato, no matter what side you’re on, and could alienate some fans and limit the number of new ones NASCAR can attract.
NASCAR and the NRA have had a decade-long relationship, which includes some sponsorship in NASCAR’s lower tier series (the Nationwide Series), but this is much more public and more widely noticed.
Those in favor of this sponsorship from a business perspective see a synergy between the NRA and the NASCAR demographic. As Jim Henson, director of Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas said, “Sponsoring the race is not quite preaching to the choir, but it’s playing music the choir likes.”
Maybe so, but it still isn’t clear what NASCAR gets out of this other than the sponsorship money (which wasn’t divulged). Does the NRA segment of the NASCAR base need more reassurance that the France family (who owns and runs NASCAR) holds the same values as it does? Does the sponsorship attract new fans?
There’s no advantage for NASCAR in this deal. It works for the NRA as a public platform, but it could further promote the stereotype of the NASCAR fan that isn’t always true. In a time when NASCAR is taking the Sprint Cup on the road to other parts of the country, such as California, this is a sponsorship holding it back.