2013 First-time Nominee Feature of the Week – Ralph Seagraves
Ralph Seagraves called himself “just an ol’ cigarette salesman.” He had been employed by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. since 1955 when the U.S. Government banned cigarettes from television and radio beginning in January 1971. Seagraves, at that time, was in the position of President of Special Event Operations and it was his task to determine where the company would spend their sizable advertising budget. He chose NASCAR. Seagraves was a large man with a booming voice and flashy rings on nearly every finger. He was an “over the top” character with the look of a prize fighter. He convinced the sanctioning body to shorten their schedule to a more manageable 31 events instead of 47. He also had them drop most of the ½ mile speedways and lengthened the races to a minimum of 250 miles to make each race a major event. With his guidance, the Miss Winston program was put into place and the race tracks were given a face lift with paint jobs bearing the signature Winston-brand red and white colors. Signage was everywhere and promotion was constant. NASCAR racing was transformed almost overnight and the investment made by the Reynolds group caused many other fortune 500 companies to look at NASCAR and the amazing value of their advertising dollar. The era of big-money sponsorship had arrived.
Ralph Seagraves’ call became the most successful sponsorship program in all of sport and helped propel NASCAR into a national sport. His contribution to the sport certainly deserves recognition.