By Barry Janoff
February 23, 2013: Nascar is legendary for its plethora of marketing alliances, with more than 70 official partners for the parent organization and a bevy of others for each individual driver and/or race crew. On race day, cars and driver togs are moving billboards of company brands, each vying for the attention of TV viewers and fans in the stands.
Scott Speed and Leavine Family Racing, based in North Carolina, have gone in the other direction.
When LFR's No. 95 Ford Fusion hits the Daytona International Speedway track on Sunday, it will have small logos from sponsors such as TeaZa herbal energy, B&D Electrical, TWD drywall, WRL general contractors and JTS truck sales, as well as the Fusion badge.
But the car being driven by Speed, which will start the race in row 16 (31st position), will be clean of almost all other marks except for large logos for satellite TV provider Dish Network and the kangaroo image for its Hopper digital video recorder. Financial details between Dish and Leavine were not disclosed.
And that, according to Dish, could drive Daytona 500 broadcast network Fox hopping mad.
Dish says that it reaches more than 14 million satellite TV customers. But it has gotten into hot water with the major TV networks — CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC — because a Hopper feature, Auto Hop, enables viewers to record TV shows without commercials. Dish said that the major networks do not run TV commercials for the brand, which tout Auto Hop and Dish's Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR.
This past May, CBS, Fox and NBC each filed lawsuits against Dish Network, claiming that Auto Hop violates copyright laws. Fox's suit went even farther, claiming that Dish's Auto Hop is “destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television ecosystem.”
On Friday, Fox filed a motion in Los Angeles District Court to block sales of Hopper because of an "On the Go" feature that enables subscribers to stream content over the Internet from their home TVs.
“The world of technology moves fast, but Fox keeps trying to wave a yellow flag and put consumers under caution, attempting to slow their access to the best in TV entertainment,” Joe Clayton, president and CEO for Dish Network, said in a statement. “The Hopper is in the pole position as the fastest in the consumer technology race. We are giving consumers what they want, when they want and where they want it. Fox is trying to hold up traffic. You can’t stop the future.”
If Speed does well during the race, Fox will have little option than to show his car and its prominent Dish logos. Concurrently, Fox can bypass the No. 95 car if lags well behind the leaders and fails to make noise during Nascar's season-opening event.
“Everybody skips commercials, and if Fox, CBS, ABC and NBC think that’s illegal, well I guess that makes us a nation of outlaws."
Dish is willing to take that chance.
“Everybody skips commercials, and if Fox, CBS, ABC and NBC think that’s illegal, well I guess that makes us a nation of outlaws,” said Clayton. “We might as well make the No. 95 car the Dish fans’ getaway car in what is sure to be an exciting race on Sunday!”
Either way, Dish will be tracking Speed via Internet and social media, including Twitter and Facebook. And Speed himself said he plans to support Dish both on and off the race track.
According to Speed, “I’m a big Dish fan and am excited to return to Daytona International Speedway Sunday with the Hopper riding shotgun. Hopper is great for people like me: We can record more programming and take our favorite shows with us.”
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