A partnership between NASCAR driver Brandon Brown and a cryptocurrency coin named after the “Lets go Brandon” meme, a coded vulgar insult of President Biden, appeared to be in limbo on the same day the deal was announced.
Max Marcucci, a PR strategist who represents the racecar driver and Brandonbilt Motorsports, said NASCAR provided written approval of the car’s paint scheme and sponsorship for the upcoming season of the Xfinity Series, NASCAR’s second tier.
“We didn’t freelance this,” he told USA TODAY Sports, referring to NASCAR’s rules.
But after Brown’s team announced the agreement on Thursday, with a news release along with video and photos of the car, NASCAR informed Brown’s team it still is reviewing the details, according to Marcucci.
Video and photos of Brown standing in front of his No. 68 Chevrolet Camaro show the red-white-and-blue paint scheme that includes “LGBcoin.io,” the official name of the cryptocurrency coin, across the rear quarter-panel.
The acronym LGB stands for “Let’s Go Brandon,” a crass anti-Biden saying that started when a reporter misinterpreted a chant she thought was supporting Brown after he won his first career Xfinity race in October at Talladega Superspeedway.
James Koutoulas, a leading holder of LGBcoin, said NASCAR approved the sponsorship deal contingent on the use of the LGB acronym, rather than spelling out “Let’s Go Brandon,’’ for the paint scheme on Brown’s car.
Marcucci said he could not confirm that because he was not involved in those talks.
NASCAR did not respond to multiple attempts for comment.
Fox Sports and Motorsport.com both reported that NASCAR said the deal has not been approved and, according to Motorports.com, Brown’s team “jumped the gun’’ in publicizing the move.
But Marcucci said NASCAR provided written approval for the sponsorship deal before Brown’s team publicized it.
“I don’t know where the disconnect was,” Marcucci, vice president at LEVICK, a crisis public relations firm in Washington D.C. “I don’t know what happened, any internal conversations. But we’re just going to try to work through whatever happens next.”
In November, NASCAR repudiated its association with “Let’s go Brandon.”
“Do we like the fact that it kind of started with NASCAR and then is gaining ground elsewhere?” NASCAR president Steve Phelps said. “No, we’re not happy about that. But we will continue to make sure that we have respect for the office of the president.”
Koutoulas said he met Brown through a friend in November at Phoenix Raceway, site of the last race of the Xfinity season.
“Super nice guy,” Koutoulas said, but added that Brown was “pretty adverse to doing anything formal with us” because of the controversy.
About six weeks later, however, Koutoulas read a Dec. 19 New York Times article in which Brown lamented how his association with the “Let’s Go Brandon’’ meme has potentially damaged his appeal to corporate sponsors.
“Our whole navigation is, you want to appeal to everybody, because, all in all, everybody is a consumer,” Brown told the Times. “I have zero desire to be involved in politics.”
At that point, Koutoulas said, he reached back out to Jerry Brown, Brandon Brown’s father and the owner of Brandonbilt Motorsports, and soon a deal was in the works. He said Jerry Brown handled negotiations with NASCAR.
“(We) basically came up with a compromise with NASCAR that we don’t use the phrase ‘Let’s Go Brandon,’ that we just use the abbreviated coin name, which is LGBcoin.io,” Koutoulas said. “And they approved it, so we were able to get cars painted.
“We put together proposed car designs a month or so ago before any of this happened because we thought (Brown) was obviously the best guy to naturally do a national sponsorship with. So we had it ready to go and it’s been a kind a crazy week getting all of this negotiated and done.”
Jerry Brown did not respond to requests for comment.
Contributing: Michelle R. Martinelli