News Analysis: Lowe’s leaving Jimmie Johnson, 48 team after 2018

What happened: Hendrick Motorsports announced Lowe’s will not return to the team next season, meaning Jimmie Johnson will have a new primary sponsor for the first time in his career. Lowe’s, which has been the No. 48 team’s sponsor since 2001, said it will “now look to invest in other strategic initiatives.” Johnson’s contract runs through 2020, and he made it clear he’s “not going anywhere” despite being 42 years old. “I have more to accomplish in this sport,” he said. “I feel the best I’ve ever felt physically. I’m motivated. I’m focused on winning races and chasing more championships. Someone (a new sponsor) will be a big part of writing that story with us.”

What it means: This is the end of an era in several ways. First of all, Johnson, Chad Knaus, Hendrick Motorsports, the 48 car and Lowe’s have all so tied together for such a long time, and now Lowe’s won’t be there. It’s going to be very strange to see Johnson promoting a different company next season (and yes, I think he will race for at least two more years). But perhaps more significant for NASCAR, Lowe’s was one of the last remaining full-season sponsors on a car — something that was once the norm. Kroger and its various brands do all of AJ Allmendinger’s races and FedEx had 34 races on Denny Hamlin’s car last season (Sport Clips did two), so that’s basically the next-closest thing. But other than that, even many of the biggest sponsors only do half or one-third of the season anymore. That has increased demands on the drivers, because it’s essentially tripled or quadrupled the amount of contractual appearances and promotional work they must do, put a financial strain on the teams to constantly chase new money and made it more difficult for casual fans to follow the racing since the paint schemes change every week.

News value (scale of 1-10): Eight. It’s pretty significant when the seven-time champion and perhaps the greatest driver in history loses his full-season sponsor, especially when it was the longest sponsor/team combination in NASCAR. Though this news alone does not mean NASCAR is in trouble or somehow dying, it should be viewed as a significant point when writing about the sport’s history and recent struggles.

Three questions: Will Hendrick be able to sign another sponsor for the full season, or will Johnson be juggling several companies? What made Lowe’s decide to leave altogether, rather than simply cut back or reduce its involvement? What kind of impact, if any, will this ultimately have on how long Johnson decides to race?

22 Replies to “News Analysis: Lowe’s leaving Jimmie Johnson, 48 team after 2018”

  1. It’s probably a decent data point in terms of the “NASCAR is dying” narrative, but I can only imagine Lowe’s ROI was shrinking in so many ways already. Big news value indeed, but little surprise in my mind.

  2. “…other strategic investments.” (i.e. shareholder pockets)

    End of an era, indeed. The first Cup race I attended was Johnson’s debut.

    1. No shareholders want a company to divest from marketing in order to pay immediate dividends. It simply means that they will use that money for exposure in new places to reach more prospective buyers.

  3. I wonder if they will move to a different team where they will be allowed to do B2B like Menards does?

    1. In the past 2 months, Lowes stock is down 20% while the S&P 500 is only down 4%. I’m sure the 48 team gets top dollar from their sponsors. I’m also sure Lowes tracks 48 car TV time and TV viewership and I’ll bet both are awful this year. Not sure what the B2B deal at Menard’s refers to… B2B describes a way to do business, B2B is business to business; B2C is business to consumer; B2G is business to government. I’m sure Lowes engages in all three, but NASCAR sponsorship is not effective in B2G since it is mostly bid situations. B2B marketing involves taking your big contractor customers to races and using track hospitality tents with driver visits/talks/autographs.

      1. thank you, that b2b drop would have nagged at me all night……..had no clue what it stood for.

  4. Evolution of NASCAR business model, I think for the better. Teams are forced to be innovative and not rely purely with sponsors. For example I can see Dale Jr’s media company turning into another form of funding for their team.

  5. Isn’t Jimmie very health conscious like Mark Martin? Assuming he remains competitive, I wouldn’t be surprised if he runs another 7 years. But I do agree with you that he does at least 2 more years.

    1. Lowes is probably reacting to the news that Jimmy takes vitamins and exercises! I can not believe that they are going to accuse him of taking something illegal, I mean I don’t care for him but I give him his due. I mean 7,7 championships in this day and age! If anyone can grab 8,it’s him. Nascar keeps changing the rules to prevent him from beating the King-n- the Intimidated! They don’t want that to happen!

  6. All I can say is I’m in total shock. I thought Lowe’s would be with JJ until he decided to hang up his helmet. They’re crazy! Whatever road they decided to run down they’ll never find someone or something with such a prestigious and history making background. He’ll go down as one of the greatest athlete’s of ALL time.
    This is coming from one who used to scream “Anybody but JJ” But I have always thought he was/is one of the most underrated drivers in the sport. I even put his talent above Kyle Busch. You don’t win 83 races and 7 Championships without being the best out there.

  7. Great question, ‘What made Lowe’s leave altogether.’
    Did their marketing teams recognize the reduced viewership and racetrack attendance? Do they feel NASCAR, as a sponsorship investment, doesn’t reach their core or incoming consumer? I would be interested in hearing from marketing data crunchers on this case.

  8. …..you KNEW I would chime in on this news bro! (I being the one who started the tagline NASCAR R.I.P. 1948-2017 last year after juniors retirement)

    The reason Lowes did this as soon as it could is an easy google search away: Lowest TV ratings for the 2018 Daytona 500 since 1979, and just for the fun of it I checked the Vegas race TV ratings which came in 24% lower this year than last years DISMAL TV ratings from the same weekends race from last year.

    Can you say “freefall”?

    TV ratings so far all year long have come in an average of 20% or more LOWER this year than last years incredibly terrible TV ratings. We are talking continual RECORD drops in the viewing audience . And don’t even get me started with the illusion that more and more people are watching on their “smart devices”. Those numbers are also tracked, and it seems less than 100,000 people a week are “steaming” NASCAR races according to sources I found online…

    Lowes just cannot at all justify the millions of $$ it cost them to advertise to “the incredibly shrinking audience” that is todays NASCAR…..even if they were on Jimmy Johnsons car…

    At this point it is almost certain that this sport is in for a RADICAL upheavel long before the end of the current TV contract…..

    Already you are only seeing 36-37 cars at any race, and many of those cars are looking more and more like “start and park” teams and not REAL competitors….

    And yet Brian France has kept his usual, liberal idiocy of being in COMPLETE DENIAL of what is so obvious to the rest of us when it comes to NASCAR’s smaller and smaller audiences…

    Like I said last year and will continue to say:
    NASCAR R.I.P. 1948-2017

  9. Sport’s drying up. Anyone who thinks differenrly is delusional. I’m sure the decison was easier as JJ rarely promotes the brand unless paid to do. As he has become more passionate about his lifestyle, Aspen, biking., No way their marketing data indicated he related with the Do It Yourself crowd. Every post is about his Aspen biking or skiing. That’s not what resonates with a Lowe’s customer. You never Saw Jimmy fixing stuff or tinkering with tools or building materials b/c it wasnt a passion of his. Hard to sell a consumer with little authenticity.

  10. now which manufacture will be the first to leave ,with piss poor management low rating ,spec cars and engines coming .. jr was the biggest drag on hendrick trying to get him to win to hell with the rest of group and chevys new zl1 getting bitch slaped buy 2 grogcery getters ,worse than the SS and it will not get any better! parity right!!!! 7 time cant dive them…………….

    1. ….all of which have NOTHING to do with “Why Lowes Left” the 48 staring in 2019….

      As far as manufacturer’s we actually might get Dodge BACK…..But its a bit too little too late….

      …but the rest of your rant has NOTHING to do with the subject at hand…sorry buddy.

  11. I was reading that Monster pays only $20 million to sponsor the entire series. Lowe’s was reportedly paying $35 million just to the 48. Maybe they know Monster is leaving and they are preparing to make it the Lowe’s Nascar Cup Series… Just sayin…

  12. @ TJ: As of less than a month ago, Monster STILL has NOT renewed its title sponsorship of NASCAR for 2019 and beyond. Monster asked for AND GOT, another extension from NASCAR despite the urgency for NASCAR to begin planning for 2019….and we are only talking about a $19 million sponsorship. That used to be the figure needed to sponsor a car, now you get the WHOLE SERIES for that paltry sum…

    This REAKS of desperation on NASCAR’s part when it used to have suitors lined up at the door to sponsor the series for 3 or 4 times what Monster paid!

    Now imagine how difficult it must be for owners who are NOT named Hendricks, Gibbs, or Haas when those giants are now having “sponsor troubles”.

    This is huge gang!

    You see NASCAR trying “cost cutting” programs everywhere (new air guns, limit on crew members at the track, etc.) but it is FAR too little too late.

    NASCAR, because of its infinite wisdom and its current TV contract cannot give the fans and teams what is REALLY needed (and wanted) as far as “cost cutting” is concerned: That is: A MUCH SHORTENED SEASON !

    Now, NASCAR may be FORCED to live without the “incredibly failing Brickyard 400” if attendance is not dramatically higher this September. I have an “insider” with leadership there who told me that the track WILL NOT continue to operate at the loss being caused by NASCAR, all while INDY 500 attendance is high. They have to have at least 70,000 people in attendance for them to break even. REAL estimates from the 2017 Brickyard 400 put attendance at a scant and pathetic 30,000 people. It just costs TOO MUCH for the Hulmans to put on the Brickyard 400 if the race can only muster that tiny an audience. They WILL shut down that race-NASCAR TV contract be damned…

    That is not sustainable for track owners like the Hulmans. And don’t think OTHER tracks aren’t considering the same thing…..

    So Monster Energy is mulling over “title sponsorship” of NASCAR when all of a sudden it see’s news like Lowe’s leaving….how do you think this is going to figure into their thinking?…..

    NASCAR R.I.P. 1948-2017

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