Monday, March 4, 2013

NRA and NASCAR: Fit or Fail?

NASCAR's efforts to position itself as a mainstream could take a hit in the wake of an announcement by the National Rifle Association that it will be title sponsor of a Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in April. The NRA 500 will give the organization a platform for connecting with an audience whose values match well with those of the NRA. A theory used to explain how sponsorship works proposes that image transfer occurs from the sport being sponsored to the sponsoring brand. Thus, the NRA stands to benefit from NASCAR's brand associations of "fast," "exciting," and "traditional values."

The image transfer benefits of NASCAR sponsorship are evident for the NRA. However, transfer brand associations can be a two-way street. In this case, NASCAR's image will be affected by perceptions that people have about the NRA. Gun rights are a controversial issue these days, and negative associations that people might hold about the NRA could impact their associations with NASCAR. While it is possible that loyal NASCAR fans will accept the Association with the NRA, the very audience that NASCAR hopes to appeal to could be turned off by this partnership.

The NRA can  attempt to overcome criticism of its Sprint Cup Series race sponsorship through a communication strategy that builds a case for its partnership with NASCAR. Doing so could persuade people who may be skeptical about the pairing of NRA and NASCAR that the brands share certain positive traits or beliefs. A fine line seems to exist between making a convincing presentation of the positives of a NRA-NASCAR linkage and alienating people sensitive to the issue of guns and highly publicized crimes like the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings.

It is believed that limits exist on the appropriateness of corporate sponsors; not every brand willing to spend money on sponsorship is a suitable partner. Some people will argue such is the case in this situation. It is up to the NRA and its partner, the Texas Motor Speedway, to position their relationship as a venture that is beneficial for the two parties and their audiences. - "NASCAR to Sponsor April Race at Texas"