Nissan Motorsport bullish on sponsor prospects

Wednesday 10th September, 2014 - 5:50pm

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Norton will leave the sport at the end of the season

Norton will leave the sport at the end of the season

Nissan Motorsport is confident of rolling out four fully funded Altimas next season, despite confirmation of current sponsor Norton’s impending exit.

The internet security giant has elected to walk away from the sport after a seven-year involvement, which currently sees it backing Nissan’s James Moffat and Michael Caruso driven entries.

The Melbourne-based operation’s commercial manager Nick Ryan says that the team has already been “very active and having healthy discussions with potential partners” to replace Norton.

It must also re-sign whiskey giant Jack Daniel’s, which has backed the team since its formation in 2009 but has yet to recommit for next season.

“They’ve been clear on their firm intentions towards continuing next year and we will, in due course, come out with announcements around that,” said Ryan on Jack Daniel’s.

Although currently running two Jack Daniel’s and two Norton backed cars, Ryan confirmed that the squad is discussing all options, including single-car sponsorships.

“The global approach that you see in motorsport now, there are not many multi-car sponsors out there,” he said.

“We are talking to people about two-car programs, but we’re talking about single-car programs as well.

“We’ll put together what is the right formula for us and for our potential partners.”

Ryan is adamant that Nissan Motorsport will be able to retain all four of its current drivers, including the out-of-contract Caruso, and won’t have its line-up dictated by commercial terms.

“We’ve always been public in the stance that we wish to remain unchanged in our driver line-up,” he said.

“Our position is that the sponsorship position doesn’t affect in any way, shape or form our intentions of continuing with Michael.

“We’ll work through in the natural process finalising things with him and, regardless of what’s happening now in the (sponsorship) market, that won’t change.”

Team owner Todd Kelly recently categorically ruled out a move away from its current four-car model on the grounds of economies of scale.

“With what we need to do development wise with the engine and the car, it’s impossible to do that without all of our manufacturing capability,” he said.

“It wouldn’t be affordable to out-source any component of that and the manufacturing capability that we have doesn’t stack up unless we have four cars.

“If we went back to two cars, we wouldn’t be able to release many staff at all, so it makes no sense to think about that.”

Ryan meanwhile reports that the team’s existing partners have given a positive initial response to the new-for-2015 television deal that will see just six events live on free-to-air.

“(V8 Supercars CEO) James Warburton did a presentation to all our partners on the program and they were excited by what they saw,” he said.

“It’s not just the broadcasts, it’s all the additional programming that’ll be wrapped around that as well.

“In terms of viewership, time on air and all that side of things, it’s early days but they’re all excited.”

Ryan said that the new television package has not triggered any discussions that would see the squad cycling different primary sponsors across the cars throughout the year.

Teams in categories such as IndyCar notably struggle to attract sponsorship for events with lower television ratings brought about by the season being split over different broadcasters.

“I think that you’ll only see that (a cycling of primary sponsors) if teams aren’t able to confirm major sponsors,” he said.

“Those running a segmented model now aren’t doing so because of broadcasting, it’s because of the challenges in the marketplace.

“Out of the discussions we’ve had there haven’t been discussions about segmenting rounds.

“It’s a program that delivers 11 months of activation around it, so to come in and come out would limit that benefit and probably confuse the market to some degree.”

While Nissan Motorsport’s on-track performances have been largely disappointing over the last 18 months, Ryan says that the sponsorship situation will not put any extra pressure on the team over the coming races.

“The way that the partner and the team activates and leverages is the key to any program,” he said.

“Success is really just the icing and for us, we’ve had long-term agreements with most of the 55 business partners in our team. They’ve ridden a wave of challenging times and also success.

“But in saying that, we’re all here to win and succeed, and certainly from the team’s perspective, success on the track is key.

“Once we can start achieving a little bit more on the track it can only add more to potential partnerships.

“But at this point in time results have no bearing on the commercial outcomes that have occurred.”