NASCAR’s Brandon Brown: “Let’s Go Brandon” chants hurt marketability
One of the great stories from the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season was the unlikely first career win of independent driver Brandon Brown on the Talladega Superspeedway. Brown drove for his family team and took the lead late in Talladega’s autumn race and was given a late warning when the impending darkness prevented a final restart, inches first.
For Brown, it was a defensive and emotional surprise victory – and one that also made him an ignorant player in America’s ongoing culture war.
During his post-race interview, a group of rowdy fans began an “F — Joe Biden” chant that was misunderstood as “Let’s Go Brandon” by an NBC reporter. The slip went viral quickly and took on a life of its own. Over two months later, the catchphrase “Let’s Go Brandon” has become a rallying call for political and media opponents of President Biden. It also had an unfortunate impact on Brown’s racing career.
In an interview with Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal, Brown stated that the “Let’s Go Brandon” slogan and its later notoriety made it difficult for him to find sponsors. Brown, who has been driving full-time at Xfinity for his family’s team since 2019, has found brands reluctant to bond with someone drawn into the political arena.
Here is what Brown said of the Sports Business Journal:
“It’s hard for a brand to commit to someone who might divide their customer base. If I split Coca-Cola, why should you talk to me? So the short answer is: It’s difficult to get in touch with partnerships just because it’s seen as a ticking time bomb: “What does he do to vote or to say and how would that affect our consumer base?” It’s too big a risk. ‘ I get it on their part, but it makes it really hard to write everything down. “
Given his circumstances as an independent driver, Brown is particularly sensitive to sponsorship issues. In early 2021, Brown’s team was threatened with shutdown due to a lack of sponsorship, leading the 28-year-old from Woodbridge, Virginia, to post a used car seller-style ad to advertise empty space in his car that ended up going viral.
Over the past week, Brown went on a media tour to try and recapture the narrative that now surrounds him. He was the subject of an article in the New York Times titled “Brandon Just Wants to Drive His Racecar,” and he also wrote a comment for Newsweek in which he openly talked about holding back and turning down numerous press inquiries, admitting, ” Afraid of “being canceled by my sponsors or the media because I’m involved in something that has little to do with me.”
Brown noted in the New York Times that he was a Republican, but also made it clear that he had no desire to get involved in politics. He’s even got advice from NASCAR on how to deal with the delicate situation.
“The unfortunate thing is that my name and career are at stake and the risk is high. If I do something wrong in this arena, my name as a driver falls off very quickly,” said Brown. “Even a career at NASCAR, if I didn’t make it as a driver and try to get another job in the community, I’ll always be the ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ guy. I’ll always be known for that and like me dealt with this situation. “
Ever since Brown has been in Xfinity racing full-time, he has built a reputation for being a high-flyer with a small team on the track. Brown drove for Brandonbilt Motorsports and made it to the playoffs in 2020 before taking career highs in the top 5 (three) and top 10 (nine) with his maiden win in 2021. Brown’s successes were made with limited sponsorship from companies like Larry’s Hard Lemonade, Trade The Train, and others.