Race Weekend Central

Voices From the Heartland: For Johnny Benson, Sponsorship vs. Coverage Should Be a Moot Point

It was reported this last week that the defending Camping World Truck Series champion, Johnny Benson, had a sponsorship dilemma. The team’s lack of sponsorship was already well known. The problem was, Johnny and his Red Horse Racing team now have a sponsor lined up… however, they were told that if he used the said sponsor, the networks that cover the races would not give him coverage.

“We have somebody in the works to do it, but TV said they would avoid us if we had this sponsor and it’s a gun manufacturer,” Benson said. “We are not sure why that would be the case, but that’s the information they are giving us. We have to choose whether we want to head down that road or not. We would hate to have good finishes and run in the top three and have TV avoid us for that reason. Originally, I said NASCAR had revoked that, and it wasn’t. NASCAR called me Tuesday after I had said that they had shot it down,” Benson said.

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“Apparently it is the TV. It is a very interesting scenario. We have had other [gun] manufacturers in there and why it is an issue today, I don’t know. I haven’t had a conversation with them yet to get to the bottom of it. I think we are going to have to explore it. Money is money. That’s going to have to be one of the things we have to do. But it’s awful hard to sell a sponsorship if they know they are not going to show us. That’s a tough place to be in for both sides.”

Naturally, that little tidbit, once it was out there, got a few people up in arms (pun intended if you want it to be.) That was all that was said and that was published on April 1. Since then, there has been no ‘updates’ or rebuttals.

At first glance, one might think that it was an April Fools’ joke, but that is not the case. What it really boils down to, in this journalist’s opinion, is that there is really no story here at all. Well there is, but the powers that are involved are WAY over thinking the whole thing.

Naturally, since SPEED Channel covers all but two of the truck races this year and FOX has already broadcast their two, most fingers were pointed at SPEED. This is a safe, common-sense assumption, but since Johnny never mentioned them by name, I had to check it out.

Contacting the SPEED Channel, I was told by the VP of Media Relations that “SPEED was not involved with Johnny on this topic and did not discourage or break up this potential opportunity.” and I was given the ‘official’ SPEED response….

SPEED does not discourage any race team or sporting venue from partnering with any sponsor or business of its choosing and does not omit coverage of any race team, sporting venue or sponsor within the context of race coverage or related news programming. However, SPEED does abide by Newscorp’s company-wide adherence towards not accepting advertising or conducting on-air promotions to certain products which include firearms, weapons, ammunition. These guidelines are not exclusive to Newscorp, would not come as a surprise to any major firearms company and have been practiced for many years within the television industry.

Ok, I said to myself, if it is not SPEED, then just who exactly IS it that will not provide coverage? I mean, who else is covering the race? So, it was off to Red Horse Racing to see if they would tell me a) what network was it, and b) who was their potential sponsor?

I have to say, in all honesty that I did not get a straight answer to either question. The first one is not hard to figure out. There simply is no other network that could deny the team the coverage. As to what gun manufacturer is looking to sponsor Johnny, there are only a finite number, so anyone who knows anything about guns could probably narrow it down to a handful.

What I did get from RHR is this, their official response. “Red Horse Racing is trying to work with all parties involved to reach some middle ground that respects everyone’s concerns and policies but still serves our sponsor’s needs. We do not want to negotiate this out in the press.”

Of course, when it comes to posturing from companies, whether it be SPEED (let’s face it, SPEED is the only coverage left all year) or RHR, you will get this kind of non-committal response. From my conversation with representatives from RHR, the thing that is REALLY going on is this (and if you read between the lines of SPEED’s official response, it really is clear.)

What the NETWORK is saying is simply, even if your guy is running up front, the announcers will not say the sponsor’s name! It will simply be something like “ …the No. 1 of Benson heads into turn 1….”

Now here is where the NETWORK thinks you and I, the fan, are stupid! First of all, it’s Johnny Benson, the defending series champion! Do you not think he will be running up front most of the time? Second, these are brightly colored race trucks we are talking about! The name of the (oh my God, it’s a gun manufacturer! Lord, save us!) is emblazoned all over it!

Do the networks really believe that the average Joe is so stupid as to not see what name is on the truck, regardless whether your announcers SAY the name or not?

That is where this ‘non story’ is at ladies and gentlemen. The network isn’t saying they will not provide coverage, how can they NOT if the man is running up front or near the front? What they are saying, if you read into the last few lines of their ‘official’ response, is simply, we will not say the sponsor’s name.

But hey, you know what? Me and the average Joe, we ain’t that stupid. I see the name on the truck! It is in big and bright colors… why, many of us have that brand in our gun cabinet! And there is many more of us than you think!

My advice, SPEED, get over yourself! Most intelligent people mute the damn TV anyway and watch the race!

Potential sponsor for Johnny Benson, defending champion of the CWTS… sponsor that fast truck while you can!

All that matters is that your name is ON the truck! When it finishes up front, it is still in the picture, no matter what the network wants to call it! And with a number like No. 1, you cant go wrong!

Listen up ALL networks… us fans, we ain’t that dumb!

Stay off the wall (and pass the ammunition!)

Jeff Meyer

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The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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