Three weeks ago it was announced that Ford would be leaving professional drag racing at the end of 2014. John Force Racing is arguably the biggest name in drag racing and the loss of support from Ford was surprising; but, JFR said they would move on. However, like a batter in baseball, JFR has suffered a second strike with another huge loss in sponsorship. Castrol, a sponsor of John’s dating back almost 30 years, will be leaving at the end of 2014 season as well (source: Autoweek).
Said Rich Pond, head of US Marketing for Castrol at BP (British Petroleum),
“We have decided to pursue new ways to engage with our consumers and customers”
Success not enough
With such a successful partnership and strong presence by John Force in racing, those are unsettling words by Mr. Pond to say the least. Castrol’s partnership with JFR is the longest current active sponsorship in sports. By the end of the 2014 season, Castrol will have been the major sponsor with John Force Racing for 29 years, one year short of the all-time record for sports sponsorship held by Budweiser and drag racing’s Kenny Bernstein.
The partnership is a unique one in that BP doesn’t usually fund race teams with dollars directly so much as they support the team with the necessary equipment, supplies and the facilities to accomplish goals. Still, the value and outlay they have invested with John Force has been huge over the years and won’t be easily replaced.
Castrol has been with John through nearly all his racing triumphs so the blow to JFR will be equally financial as well as personal and emotional. John Force said as much:
“Castrol has been with me for so long now; they really are part of the JFR family. It’s gonna be tough to part ways.”
Just two years ago, Castrol had stated that their relationship with John Force and his team had been a key in establishing the Castrol name as the brand of choice among American race fans (source: Autoweek). Obviously something business-wise has changed recently for BP.
Castrol is the major sponsor on John’s car as well as his daughter Brittany’s Top Fueler. One of John’s other daughters, Courtney, along with son-in-law Robert Hight have Castrol as an associate on their Funny Cars. The one bright side with all of these losses – if you can call it a bright side – for JFR is that they will have a year and a half to find new partners to take up the fiscal slack as both Ford and Castrol will continue through the 2014 season. It’s just this writer’s estimation from over 30 years of marketing experience, but the loss of funding to JFR is likely in the $5 to $10 million range – some gauge it at closer to $20 million.
The legacy that is John Force and JFR will continue as they are perhaps the best promotion-minded organization in drag racing, if not all of motorsports. The transition won’t be simple or painless but expect the JFR organization to regroup and move forward. Nevertheless, the losses of two giant sponsors in three weeks with one of the most successful racing teams in history should give pause to all in motorsports.
With one of the more historic female racers in the world – Erica Enders-Stevens – having problems with Pro Stock sponsorship as well (see related articles), it brings to question the overall condition of the sport. Is it the economy? Could be as the recession never really left. Regardless, let’s hope there isn’t more bad news in the offing for JFR or any other team.
Three strikes and you’re out?