Media News

UPDATE 2-Camping World to sponsor NASCAR truck series

(Recasts with official confirmation of deal, adds Camping World, NASCAR comments, details, background)

CHICAGO, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Camping World, a recreational vehicle retailer, signed a seven-year deal to sponsor Nascar’s pickup truck racing series, replacing the toolmaker Craftsman, which had sponsored the series since 1995.

Camping World's deal is worth about $5 million a year, said a source familiar with the deal who requested anonymity. Sprint Nextel Corp S.N and Nationwide Insurance pay an estimated $75 million and $25 million a year, respectively, for their title sponsorships in NASCAR's two popular car race series.

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing boasts a fan base of about 75 million, a large stable of corporate sponsors and TV deals worth almost $4.5 billion through 2014.

However, attendance, merchandise and concession sales at Nascar events has suffered amid a weak U.S. economy and high gasoline prices.

Lincolnshire, Illinois-based Camping World already sponsors a truck driven by Ron Hornaday Jr., who won the championship last season.

“We feel strongly that this sponsorship will dramatically increase our customer base,” Camping World Chief Executive Marcus Lemonis said in a statement.

Craftsman, a unit of Sears Holding Corp SHLD.O, has sponsored the truck series since it began in 1995. It said last year that 2008 would be its last season as the lead sponsor.

The sponsorship was attractive to Camping World because many NASCAR fans treat trips to the track as mini-vacations, driving long distances and parking their RVs at nearby campgrounds.

“Camping and tailgating is an essential part of the NASCAR race experience,” NASCAR CEO Brian France said. “Thousands of RVs pack the campgrounds at every NASCAR event, often for three or four days at a time. This makes Camping World the perfect match.”

However, the RV sector has been hit hard as the tight credit market has forced consumers to cut purchases of such big-ticket items as motor homes, yachts, motorcycles and snowmobiles. And the sector was already in its fourth year of a downturn before the latest economic turmoil.

Motor home maker Fleetwood Enterprises Inc FLE.N said eariler this month it would close a Pennsylvania plant and fire 325 workers to cut costs, while over the past 12 months industry leader Winnebago Industries Inc WGO.N has slashed its work force by 42 percent, or 1,900 jobs -- 300 over the past six weeks alone.

Also this month, Brunswick Corp BC.N, the world's largest maker of pleasure boats and marine engines, cut its full-year profit forecast and sped up plans to close four plants, and MarineMax Inc HZO.N, the world's largest boat retailer, forecast a gloomy fourth quarter. (Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Derek Caney)