AT&T Files Lawsuit Against NASCAR For Violating Company’s Right To Sponsor The No. 31 Race Car
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T - News) filed suit against NASCAR today, claiming the motor sports regulator has violated the company’s right to sponsor the No. 31 race car. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court here.
The No. 31 car is owned by RCR Racing and driven by veteran driver Jeff Burton. Burton currently ranks third in the 2007 NASCAR Official Driver Standings with 453 points.
The suit was filed after NASCAR rejected a plan to change the paint scheme for the No. 31 car. The proposed change would introduce the AT&T globe on the rear quarter panel. Cingular is currently transitioning its brand name to the name of its parent company, AT&T; now that AT&T’s merger with BellSouth is complete.
AT&T’s suit alleges that NASCAR is effectively trying to force the company out of the sport, and notes a grandfather clause in the sponsorship agreement, which was designed to protect its rights after Nextel assumed the role of title sponsor in 2003.
“There is nothing in our contract that prevents us from changing the Cingular brand name to our new brand, AT&T, on the No. 31 car,” said John Burbank, vice president of marketing for the new AT&T. "Cingular’s grandfather clause, which was provided to us by NASCAR before we signed our agreement with RCR, states we can continue as a sponsor as long as we do not increase our brand position on the vehicle we sponsor and do not move to a different race team. What could be clearer?
“We have attempted over the past several months to resolve this situation in a reasonable manner that would benefit all parties, but it has become obvious that we need to take this step to help make that happen,” said Burbank.
“We don’t understand why NASCAR would not want to find ways to involve as many sponsors as possible. That would be in the sport’s and the fans’ best interest,” said Burbank. “This action to file suit was taken reluctantly, in order to allow us to remain a leader in a sport in which we have a ten-year tradition -- a sport that we, like millions of Americans, admire and love.”
“Cingular, and its parent company, AT&T, have been great for our sport and for Richard Childress Racing. The plain fact is that there has been no change in the company’s ownership; they’re simply trying to change their brand name,” said Richard Childress, president of Richard Childress Racing.
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