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Sunday, November 2, 2008

root for the suit!

Jerry Seinfeld used to talk about sports fans and how they didn't root for the particular player as much as they rooted for the uniform worn by the player, because, he said, whenever a player was traded he was instantly the enemy. Even a longtime player for your team became no more than an enemy combatant once he put on a different uniform. Very few sports fans continue to follow a player who is traded, at least in team sports. Race fans however are a different breed of fan, you see, we root for the driver, no matter the sponsor, team owner, car manufacturer, or any of the million other variables in the racing world. We pick a driver, for whatever reason, and unless they retire or do something completely stupid we tend to stick with them for years, through winning and losing, through the politics of the sport, and through changes in teams, numbers, and sponsors. Think about the merchandising alone, there are generally 4 major sponsors for every car. The Marquee sponsor who gets the major paint scheme for most of the season and covers more than75 percent of the cost of the season. Then there are the secondary sponsors, who cover specific races, or functions of the team. These sponsors get their primetime paint job for their specific races or functions. Now a REAL fan will simply HAVE to have all the versions of the car, the T-shirts with all the sponsors, the various models and other clothes and ballcaps and gods know what. When the driver changes teams he generally changes numbers and sponsors, so it starts all over again. Perfect Examples in recent years is Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin. Jr. left his father's company to go with a new company, leaving his old sponsor and number with DEI. He went from the red #8 Bud car, to the green & white #88 Amp Energy car. Mark Martin in the last 4 years has gone from the #6 Viagra car, to "retirement" to part time driving to back to a full schedule at DEI in the #8 Army car. All the while holding his fan base who have been buying his merchandise and keeping him in plenty of gas and peanuts. Isn't America a cool place?

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