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NASCAR takes checkered flag in AT&T court battle
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ^ | 08/13/07 | SCOTT LEITH

Posted on 08/13/2007 4:27:30 PM PDT by Captain Jack Aubrey

A federal appeals court on Monday gave NASCAR a huge victory in the racing organization's ongoing battle with AT&T.

In a reversal of a lower court's decision, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that AT&T doesn't have the right to sue NASCAR over a sponsorship disagreement.

The upshot: NASCAR is close to being able to require that AT&T logos be stripped from the No. 31 car, which is driven by Jeff Burton. That finding is a big switch from May, when Judge Marvin Shoob of U.S. District Court in Atlanta granted AT&T a preliminary injunction that allowed the company's logos to appear on the car.

The whole controversy centers around AT&T's attempt to drop the former Cingular Wireless brand.

Cingular, based in Atlanta, has been a NASCAR sponsor since 2001, thanks to a deal with the owner of the No. 31 car, Richard Childress Racing.

When Sprint Nextel became the top sponsor of NASCAR's highest level of racing, the organization agreed to give Sprint exclusive sponsorship rights as a telecommunications provider. Cingular was "grandfathered" in, and thus allowed to remain as a car sponsor.

In late December, San Antonio-based AT&T took full ownership of Cingular, which formerly was a joint venture of AT&T and BellSouth. As part of the change, AT&T decided to drop the Cingular name, whether on stores or in advertising or through sponsorships.

The company soon asked NASCAR to approve a switch in logos on the No. 31 car. The organization balked, citing its deal with Sprint for the Nextel Cup.

The dispute set off a legal fight, starting with an AT&T suit against NASCAR in March. When Shoob later ruled in AT&T's favor, the No. 31 car was quickly redecorated with AT&T's globe logo. AT&T also renewed its sponsorship deal with Richard Childress Racing to run through at least 2010.

Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T's wireless unit, said the company was weighing its options in the wake of Monday's ruling. "We're continuing to pursue our right to put the AT&T name on the car," he said.

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said AT&T has five days to decide what to do, so the racing organization is unlikely to request immediate changes to the No. 31 car. Nonetheless, he hailed the ruling.

"NASCAR is obviously pleased," Poston said. "It is a victory for the industry and every driver, team and NASCAR partner."

The next Nextel Cup race is Sunday, with the 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich.

AT&T could ask the entire 12-member appeals court to reconsider Monday's ruling, which was issued by a three-judge panel. In an order also released Monday, the 11th Circuit said it would continue to expedite consideration of the case.

If the full court declines to hear an appeal, AT&T's last recourse is the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 11th Circuit panel ruled AT&T had no legal standing to bring the lawsuit in the first place and, for this reason, can no longer try and interpret Richard Childress Racing's agreement with NASCAR to its advantage.

The court noted that AT&T was not a party to the sponsorship contract signed by NASCAR and Richard Childress Racing. Moreover, the court said, AT&T was not the intended beneficiary of RCR's agreement and any benefit AT&T gained from it was merely "incidental."

AT&T's NASCAR sponsorship is among many things the company uses to market itself. Racing is considered a prime venue for advertising because it reaches a large group of intensely loyal fans.

Staff Writer Bill Rankin contributed to this report


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: 11thcircuit; atandt; atlanta; business; logos; nascar; racing; sprintnextel; stockcars
This is terrible news for the fans, RCR and Penske.
1 posted on 08/13/2007 4:27:33 PM PDT by Captain Jack Aubrey
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To: Captain Jack Aubrey

Because, of course, only one BEER and only one HOME IMPROVEMENT store is allowed to sponsor a car, right??

AT&T should just keep the darn Cingular logo and tell Sprint to %^&* off.


2 posted on 08/13/2007 4:30:40 PM PDT by Right Cal Gal (Remember Billy Dale!!!)
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To: Right Cal Gal
SO - the #31 is allowed to keep the "CINGULAR" sponsorship - So, AT&T takes thier current GLOBE logo and files a trademark change making the GLOBE the "CINGULAR" logo also. They then put the "CINGULAR" logo on the car with no lettering.

Everyone knows the AT&T , er I mean "CINGULAR" logo.

3 posted on 08/13/2007 4:34:11 PM PDT by commish (Freedom tastes sweetest to those who have fought to protect it.)
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To: Captain Jack Aubrey

Gee, I like NASCAR just for the racing. Personally, I pay no attention to the advertising.


4 posted on 08/13/2007 4:34:14 PM PDT by SGCOS
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To: Right Cal Gal

I think Cingular is dead as a brand. (Fine with me...I can’t stand these contrived names like Cingular and Verizon). Even the bill I just got says AT&T Wireless.


5 posted on 08/13/2007 4:35:01 PM PDT by clintonh8r
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To: Captain Jack Aubrey

>>This is terrible news for the fans, RCR and Penske.<<

Why is that. NASCAR needs to be able to sell exclusive sponsorships. If another company can buy out a sponsor and force NASCAR to violate their own exclusive sponsorship rules then NASCAR sponsorships will be worth a lot less money and NASCAR will suffer.


6 posted on 08/13/2007 4:35:48 PM PDT by gondramB (Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words)
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To: gondramB

OH, you mean sort of like SPRINT buying out NEXTEL and renaming the series. Teams shouldn’t be allowed to do things like that?


7 posted on 08/13/2007 4:37:31 PM PDT by commish (Freedom tastes sweetest to those who have fought to protect it.)
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To: commish

>>OH, you mean sort of like SPRINT buying out NEXTEL and renaming the series. Teams shouldn’t be allowed to do things like that?<<

Did that violate an exclusive agreement? I’m genuinely asking - I don’t know the answer.


8 posted on 08/13/2007 4:39:42 PM PDT by gondramB (Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words)
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To: Right Cal Gal
Because, of course, only one BEER and only one HOME IMPROVEMENT store is allowed to sponsor a car, right??

Wrong. If NASCAR were sponsored by Budweiser for instance, you wouldn't have either Miller Light or Coors as car sponsors. That's the way exclusivity works at the league-level.

If your company were dumping a pile of money into a racing league why would you want your chief competitor drafting on your investment?

9 posted on 08/13/2007 4:42:01 PM PDT by Tallguy (Climate is what you plan for, weather is what you get.)
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To: commish

Hmmm...forgot about that.
I don’t follow the Busch series - is more than one brand of beer allowed to sponsor a car in that group - because I was pretty sure I saw a Tecate car racin’ around on a Saturday.

It’s ridiculous that NASCAR is messing with drivers’ sponsors. There’s no reason why Nextel/Sprint should have exclusivity.

Bring back the WINSTON!


10 posted on 08/13/2007 4:42:11 PM PDT by Right Cal Gal (Remember Billy Dale!!!)
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To: commish

Hmmm...forgot about that.
I don’t follow the Busch series - is more than one brand of beer allowed to sponsor a car in that group - because I was pretty sure I saw a Tecate car racin’ around on a Saturday.

It’s ridiculous that NASCAR is messing with drivers’ sponsors. There’s no reason why Nextel/Sprint should have exclusivity.

Bring back the WINSTON!


11 posted on 08/13/2007 4:42:14 PM PDT by Right Cal Gal (Remember Billy Dale!!!)
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To: commish
Perhaps more like Sunoco replacing 76 as the "official fuel" and then whining about the Shell/Pennzoil sponsored car winning the Daytona 500.
12 posted on 08/13/2007 4:46:42 PM PDT by michigander (The Constitution only guarantees the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.)
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To: Right Cal Gal

>>It’s ridiculous that NASCAR is messing with drivers’ sponsors. There’s no reason why Nextel/Sprint should have exclusivity.<<

The problem is that Sprint/Nextel paid $750 million dollars and got exclusive sponsorship rights. Thats a lot of money.


13 posted on 08/13/2007 4:50:01 PM PDT by gondramB (Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words)
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To: Captain Jack Aubrey

NASCAR is not about car racing. NBA,NFL, MLB is not about sports. It is all about how many BUTTS they can put in the seats.

.....Bob


14 posted on 08/13/2007 4:50:07 PM PDT by Lokibob (Some people are like slinkys. Useless, but if you throw them down the stairs, you smile.)
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To: gondramB

I can see that except for one thing. Cingular sponsored the 31 car before Sprint/Nextel took over the series. I would be fine if NASCAR said no to new sponsorships by mobile carriers, say, Verizon or T-Mobile. Nextel was bought out by Sprint, and Cingular was bought by AT&T - technically it’s not a new sponsorship - the 31 car is sponsored by the Cingular corporate entity, whether it’s Cingular or AT&T - it’s not a “new” sponsorship.


15 posted on 08/13/2007 4:50:23 PM PDT by Right Cal Gal (Remember Billy Dale!!!)
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To: Right Cal Gal

Our S-I-L and daughter will be driving on the 25th at the Altamont Raceway Park in Formula IV cars (4 cyl stock) with no sponsor logos displayed.

Sat night (11th), SIL took 1st place in the main. Logos probably would have slowed ‘em down. :)

Exciting night of racing. One driver in the modifieds went airborn. No injuries, but I think he got a boost in his frequent flyer mile.


16 posted on 08/13/2007 4:50:28 PM PDT by Diver Dave
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To: Captain Jack Aubrey
As someone who works for a team that sponsors a Penske racer, I think that NASCAR is way off on this.. The Cup may be sponsored by Sextel, but each driver has their own sponsor and, the way companies change names, it is unfair to the drivers that they can’t keep a sponsorship just because a name changes.

The drivers have no say in who is the cup owner, and their sponsors are their only way to finance the millions required to compete.

But that’s just my humble opinion.

17 posted on 08/13/2007 4:52:37 PM PDT by mnehring (Ron Paul is as much of a Constitutionalist as Fred Phelps is a Christian)
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To: Right Cal Gal

>>I can see that except for one thing. Cingular sponsored the 31 car before Sprint/Nextel took over the series. I would be fine if NASCAR said no to new sponsorships by mobile carriers, say, Verizon or T-Mobile. Nextel was bought out by Sprint, and Cingular was bought by AT&T - technically it’s not a new sponsorship - the 31 car is sponsored by the Cingular corporate entity, whether it’s Cingular or AT&T - it’s not a “new” sponsorship.<<

My understanding is that the could have kept the Cingular name and kept the sponsorship. But once they put the AT&T name on the car that put NASCAR in danger of losing the $750 million.

An anology - say Coke was the main NASCAR sponsor and exclusive rights to Cola products.
Say that Perrier water had a NASCAR car.
Say Pepsi bought Perrier.

They should be able to keep Perrier on the car but not put Pepsi on the car. IMO.
Say Pepsi bought


18 posted on 08/13/2007 4:54:17 PM PDT by gondramB (Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words)
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To: Diver Dave

Dude! We’re just over the pass from Altamont!

Tell your daughter best of luck and let me know how she does!


19 posted on 08/13/2007 4:54:47 PM PDT by Right Cal Gal (Remember Billy Dale!!!)
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To: Diver Dave

Dude! We’re just over the pass from Altamont!

Tell your daughter best of luck and let me know how she does!


20 posted on 08/13/2007 4:54:49 PM PDT by Right Cal Gal (Remember Billy Dale!!!)
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To: Right Cal Gal

I should mention, that I like Cingular, and Bell South and AT&T and don’t like Sprint/Nextel but I’m talking about what is fair to NASCAR and what will keep NASCAR safe.


21 posted on 08/13/2007 4:55:27 PM PDT by gondramB (Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words)
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To: gondramB
They paid for cup sponsorship, not driver sponsorship. Drivers and Owners had no say in the cup sponsorship agreement.

Frankly, as retaliation, I would love to see Ryan Newman sport a Sextel Sucks logo in one of the next races.

22 posted on 08/13/2007 4:55:57 PM PDT by mnehring (Ron Paul is as much of a Constitutionalist as Fred Phelps is a Christian)
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To: SGCOS

“Gee, I like NASCAR just for the racing. Personally, I pay no attention to the advertising.”

Without the advertising, there can be no racing.


23 posted on 08/13/2007 4:57:04 PM PDT by Captain Jack Aubrey
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To: Captain Jack Aubrey

Just more proof that NASCAR is no longer about racing. It has become The Parade of Sponsors’ Logos.


24 posted on 08/13/2007 4:58:21 PM PDT by Gary Seven
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To: Captain Jack Aubrey

I bet the depositions are more exciting than the races.

Do you think the judge called a recess every time someone dropped a pen?


25 posted on 08/13/2007 4:58:49 PM PDT by gura
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To: gondramB

Yes...but Perrier and Pepsi are different products.
Cingular and AT&T are both wireless carriers.

If I recall correctly, NASCAR forced Winston to give up its sponsorship of the Cup, correct, because of the “connotation” of having a cigarette sponsor NASCAR? Does anyone know how much Winston paid NASCAR a year?


26 posted on 08/13/2007 4:59:02 PM PDT by Right Cal Gal (Remember Billy Dale!!!)
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To: Captain Jack Aubrey
There is an answer to this problem, everyone should read the contracts.

Maybe, just maybe, that's what the judge did.

27 posted on 08/13/2007 4:59:03 PM PDT by Martin Tell ("It is the right, good old way you are in: keep in it.")
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To: Right Cal Gal
Nextel was bought out by Sprint, and Cingular was bought by AT&T - technically it’s not a new sponsorship - the 31 car is sponsored by the Cingular corporate entity, whether it’s Cingular or AT&T - it’s not a “new” sponsorship.

Cingular was specifically grandfathered. It was an exception to the exclusivity arrangement that NEXTEL negotiated with NASCAR. As I understand it Cingular was not even allowed to drop back to a secondary-sponsorship. Once they gave up on the 31-Car they were out. That shows you how tightly NEXTEL negotiated the exclusivity arrangement. And you can bet NASCAR was paid a premium for it as well.

28 posted on 08/13/2007 4:59:07 PM PDT by Tallguy (Climate is what you plan for, weather is what you get.)
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To: Captain Jack Aubrey
Advertising helps the audience connect to an individual driver. Not only do you have employees of the sponsored companies, but you have relationships to the consumer type you are.
29 posted on 08/13/2007 4:59:14 PM PDT by mnehring (Ron Paul is as much of a Constitutionalist as Fred Phelps is a Christian)
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To: gondramB

“Why is that. NASCAR needs to be able to sell exclusive sponsorships. If another company can buy out a sponsor and force NASCAR to violate their own exclusive sponsorship rules then NASCAR sponsorships will be worth a lot less money and NASCAR will suffer.”

Cingular and Alltell were team sponsors before Nextel arrived. The teams they sponsor depend on their money, $15 to $20 million, a year to cover costs. NASCAR wants to kick Alltell and Cingular out of the sport. NASCAR will not lift a finger to replace their money for those affected teams.


30 posted on 08/13/2007 4:59:54 PM PDT by Captain Jack Aubrey
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To: mnehrling

>>They paid for cup sponsorship, not driver sponsorship. Drivers and Owners had no say in the cup sponsorship agreement.

Frankly, as retaliation, I would love to see Ryan Newman sport a Sextel Sucks logo in one of the next races.<<

I don’t know how that works — there is TV revenue and Cup sponsorship revenue. I would guess teams agree to certain terms in order to participate.


31 posted on 08/13/2007 5:00:58 PM PDT by gondramB (Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words)
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To: Captain Jack Aubrey

>>Cingular and Alltell were team sponsors before Nextel arrived. The teams they sponsor depend on their money, $15 to $20 million, a year to cover costs. NASCAR wants to kick Alltell and Cingular out of the sport. NASCAR will not lift a finger to replace their money for those affected teams.<<

That’s a reasonable point - when they change the cup sponsor it would cost certain teams money.

i guess that’s why they grandfathered Cingular and Alltell.

But its really ATT’s responsibility to do due diligence before they bought Cingular’s parent - they should not have counted on the NASCAR relationship because it was only grandfathered for Cingular.


32 posted on 08/13/2007 5:10:37 PM PDT by gondramB (Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words)
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To: Captain Jack Aubrey

Cingular is Latin for “This sucks as much as Celluar One.”


33 posted on 08/13/2007 5:17:02 PM PDT by Doctor Raoul (What's the difference between the CIA and the Free Clinic? The Free Clinic knows how to stop leaks.)
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To: Right Cal Gal
Yes...but Perrier and Pepsi are different products.
Cingular and AT&T are both wireless carriers.

Not true. Cingular was ONLY a wireless carrier. In addition to wireless, AT&T offers long distance and local telephone services, DSL and other Internet services, etc.

34 posted on 08/13/2007 5:47:35 PM PDT by SunStar (Democrats piss me off!)
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To: Captain Jack Aubrey

Thanks for the FYI

Big money is at play and lawyers are not yet done.

It will be interesting to see how far up the court system this issue continues, if at all.

Even if AT&T does not prevail, RCR will undoubtedly find another sponsor for the 31 car. Jeff Burton is a stand up driver that should draw the attention of many corporations.

JMHO


35 posted on 08/13/2007 11:34:33 PM PDT by NYTexan
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To: NYTexan
As I’m understanding this, if this decision stands, AT&T will NEVER be able to use their name and logo on a Cup car so long as Nextel is the Cup sponsor.
Can’t see them hanging around if that’s gonna be the case.
36 posted on 08/14/2007 5:27:02 AM PDT by Roccus (Able Danger??? What's an Able Danger???)
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To: SunStar

Ah...good point. They should have kept “X” guy on the car. Simply can’t figure out why NASCAR dumped Winston - like what? NASCAR fans shouldn’t smoke and a tobacco company is not a good cup sponsor?

I hope Jeff gets a good sponsor for the 31 ride to replace Cingular/ATT. He’s one cool dude.


37 posted on 08/14/2007 6:47:30 AM PDT by Right Cal Gal (Remember Billy Dale!!!)
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