Earlier this month, the news broke that GEICO will not return in 2021 to sponsor the No. 13 Germain Racing Team that competes on the NASCAR circuit. It’s a move than many motorsports reporters, such as Adam Stern at Sports Business Journal, see as the mega-insurer stepping back from sponsoring individual teams.
While none of the Miss GEICO Offshore Racing Team partners—Scott Begovich, Scott Colton, Gary Goodell, Marc Granet and Gary Stray—can guarantee their long-term relationship with their longtime sponsor, the current sponsorship deal is good through the 2021 season.
With Steve Curtis and Brit Lilly in the cockpit during the Crystal Coast Grand Prix in Morehead City, N.C., earlier this month, the team’s No. 1 Victory catamaran hit the racecourse for the first time in more than a year. Photo by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
But the pressure to perform is on the fiercely competitive team, which has back-to-back Super Boat International Unlimited-class world titles (2013 and 2014) to its credit. And not so ironically given the metrics-driven nature of corporate marketing and sponsorships, that has more to do with exposure and “impressions” than it does with winning races.
Add to that the large-event complications created by COVID-19, which may or may not ease next year, and the pressure on the team increases even more.
“We are under contract for 2021,” Colton said. “Everything rides on a first- or second-quarter vaccine and return to normal. We have to generate impressions. If people are still fearful and cancelling large public gatherings then everyone needs to be concerned.
“We are used to having a bulls-eye on our backs but we will have all eyes focused on Miss GEICO in 2021,” he added. “It will either be really good or disappointing—hopefully the former.”
Stray agreed, and said the team’s 2021 exposure push could lean heavily toward the racing side.
“I honestly believe we will do more boat racing than boat shows in 2021 because they are not going to encourage indoor close-proximity engagements due to the virus,” he said. “The boat races are obviously outdoors with the possibility of people safely social distancing where the crowds are not confined to a bleacher-style arrangement. I think offshore racing actually has an upper hand on most other sports due to the beach spectator arrangement.”
According to Colton, the MISS GEICO team will not display or participate in any boats between shows January and April because of the pandemic. That means the 2021 Miami International Boat Show, where the team traditionally displays one of its offshore racing catamarans near the main entrance, is off the table.
Said Stray (left with Miss GEICO throttleman Steve Curtis), “I honestly believe we will do more boat racing than boat shows in 2021,” Photo by Cole McGowan copyright Miss GEICO.
Where does all of this leave the team after the 2021 season? To some degree, the Miss GEICO team’s fate is out of its hands.
“We will only have a couple of races in 2021—Cocoa Beach, Lake of the Ozarks, Sarasota—and maybe one or two Offshore Powerboat Association regional races—before GEICO has to make a decision about 2022 and beyond,” Colton said. “The key word is trust. After 14 years, GEICO knows that they can trust Miss GEICO to be professional in our performances and to deliver as promised. The trust also lies with science and a successful vaccine so that GEICO feels confident that indoor boat shows, massive outdoor events and social gatherings will resume in the third and fourth quarters of 2021.”