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The “triangular” sponsorship relationship between Nature Bakery, the NASCAR Series Stewart-Haas Racing team and driver Danica Patrick has ended up in court. According to US press, the figure being claimed is over $30 million.

Nature’s Bakery and Stewart-Hass Racing entered into a contract for three years (2015-2018), which the sponsor terminated in January 2017. According to the sponsor, it terminated the contract because Danica was not meeting her obligations regarding promoting competing products on social networks.

Recently, Stewart-Hass Racing has filed a claim against the sponsor for breach of contract, alleging that it (i) did not have grounds to terminate the contract, and (ii) deliberately tried to postpone or avoid payments.

This “triangular” structure of the sponsorship contract is typical in the world of professional motor racing. Generally, the drivers assign the rights to exploit their sports image to their teams (any image related to their condition as a professional driver, or related to car racing or motorcycle racing, depending on the case) and keep the rights to exploit their personal image (as a private person without any relation to the sport in question).

As the team’s compliance of its obligations with the sponsors inevitably depends on their drivers’ behavior, it is essential for them to have solid contractual protection. This is fundamental in racing contracts.

The case stands out because it highlights the rising trend seen in recent years. Although racing contracts (at a certain level of competition) have always contained detailed regulation of the use of image rights by the driver and by the team, the attention given to social networks in these clauses has grown exponentially, and there is increasingly greater detail in the regulation. Terms such as posts and tweets are commonly used in these kinds of contracts.

While the case continues at court, the team has found another sponsor for Danica, as she now drives a car with different colors. Her social networks have, of course, also been updated.

Author: Teresa Méndez

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