A staple of sportscar racing for nearly 15 years, the Patron Spirits logo will no longer be in the scene starting in 2019.
While some may look at it as a symbol of sportscar’s (IMSA) lack of marketing viability, the real question may actually lie in whether or not the viability was ever there, and instead demonstrates the fragile nature of sportscar sponsorships and their attachment to an individual.
In this case, former CEO Ed Brown.
A passionate racer, Ed Brown, who helmed Patron throughout the entirety of their participation in sportscar racing, was also an active enthusiast. A driver himself, Brown was miraculously a driver in many of the Patron entries, and it is no great coincidence that Brown’s personal preferences in both car and category seemed to go hand-in-hand with Patron’s sponsorship investments.
This is nothing unique nor anything to be critical of. “Sponsored” gentleman-drivers are a big part of the history of the sport, and if anything Patron (and Brown) should be applauded for the many activation efforts they put on in the sport, when they could have just adorned his race cars and enjoyed the tax write off.
However, Brown stepped back from driving last year, and following the acquisition of Patron by Bacardi, Brown’s leadership role within the company he built is severely diminished. Therefore, the only reason for Patron (now run by Bacardi) to stay involved would be due to an actual perceived value in their activation.
That value is simply not there, and again this is nothing to be critical of as it’s a fairly recognized fact within the industry.
It does signal, however, that sponsorship and activation within sportscar is purely at the behest of the enthusiast behind the brand. If the enthusiasm wanes, or simply changes hand, the program goes away.