The Associated Press is reporting that Microsoft is stepping into NASCAR as a sponsor through a series of multi-year agreements with both NASCAR and with Hendrick Motorsports.
As part of the deals, Microsoft will now be the Official Technology Partner of NASCAR and a major technology partner of Hendrick Motorsports. The technology company will also be the primary sponsor of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car at both the June 28 race at Sonoma Raceway and August 2 at the Pocono Raceway in an effort to promote the upcoming launch of the new Windows 10 operating system.
For the technology partnerships, Hendrick Motorsports is set to deploy both Windows 10 and Microsoft Azure into their team operations to gain insights into their performance and aid in improving their competitive edge. Hendrick Motorsports will also be incorporate Microsoft technology across team, business, and IT functions.
Steve Guggenheim, Microsoft's Corporate Vice President of Developer Experience and Evangelism said of the deal:
“NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports are perpetual innovators in motorsports. This sport demands constant innovation, to have its boundaries pushed, so that the sport delivers the exciting experiences expected by fans. The Windows mobile inspection application we launched last year is a great example of how innovative solutions can push boundaries and make the racing experience even better. We’re looking forward to the next solutions that we can deploy with both NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports to push each of our organizations forward.”
This isn't Microsoft's first foray into major technology sponsorships of America's most popular pastimes as Surface Tablets have been prominently displayed in the NFL, on the sidelines in use by teams as well as commentators. But this expansion of advertising sponsorships may be a part of a more recent push by Microsoft to change its general perception in pop culture, sports and entertainment. As Microsoft's Shawn Sanford, senior director of lifestyle marketing, spoke of a "brand-perception shift" during Microsoft's acquisition of naming rights for the former Nokia Theater.
As the launch of Windows 10 gets closer it probably shouldn't be surprising to see Microsoft finding new ways to get in front of different customers and promote the next major iteration of their ecosystem.