Days after lamenting his plight, NASCAR driver at center of 'Let's go Brandon' chooses to embrace viral slogan
Brandon Brown is now choosing to embrace a right-wing slogan that took off after he won at Talladega in October.
Less than two weeks ago, the Xfinity Series driver lamented to The New York Times that he was unable to get sponsorship because of the "Let's go Brandon" meme that had become an inside joke in conservative circles. Thursday, Brown announced a sponsorship for his car from LGBCoin, a cryptocurrency with "no intrinsic value" that's attempting to profit off of the slogan.
Brandon Brown announces he has a full-season Xfinity sponsorship deal from LGBcoin … a cryptocurrency created to take advantage of the Let’s Go Brandon theme. Team says that NASCAR has approved the paint scheme: pic.twitter.com/nagl6s88J8
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) December 30, 2021
Brown's announcement of the sponsorship also comes as NASCAR has tried to distance itself from the slogan, which has come to mean "F*** Joe Biden" after fans at Talladega chanted those three words about the president following Brown's darkness-shortened race win. The NBC reporter interviewing Brown on the track apparently thought the fans were chanting "Let's go Brandon" and right-wing internet influencers jumped at the opportunity to capitalize on her comment by making it a euphemism.
In November, NASCAR president Steve Phelps said that it was an "unfortunate situation" that the euphemism took off.
"We do not want to associate ourselves with politics, the left or the right," Phelps said before the final race of the season. "We obviously have and we've always had as a sport tremendous respect for the office of the president no matter who is sitting.
"I think it's an unfortunate situation. Do we like the fact that it kind of started with NASCAR and then is gaining ground elsewhere? No, we're not happy about that. But we will continue to make sure that we have respect for the office of the president."
NASCAR has the right to not approve any sponsorships and told Motorsport that the sponsorship has not been approved yet. Yahoo Sports has reached out to the team for clarity regarding the situation.
NEWS: #NASCAR says @LGBcoin_io sponsorship for @brandonbrown_68 has NOT been approved. Team "jumped the gun" in its announcement.
— Jim Utter (@jim_utter) December 30, 2021
Matt DiBenedetto, a Cup Series driver who currently has no ride in NASCAR, apologized for embracing the slogan over the final race weekend of the season. DiBenedetto apparently thought he could ingratiate himself to conservatives over the course of the Phoenix race weekend in the hopes of attracting a team and sponsorship for 2022 by endorsing the term. Instead, he found himself apologizing in an Instagram video the next morning for his actions at the track.
'I have zero desire to be involved in politics'
In a Times feature published Dec. 19, Brown said that he had no desire to get involved in politics, though he did say that he was a Republican. He told the Times that he felt he had to stay silent as the meme went viral, though a sponsor had a variation of the slogan on the hood of his car at a race in Martinsville two weeks after Talladega.
It’s go time at @MartinsvilleSwy as driver intros are getting ready to roll! @Larrys_Lemonade | #LETSGOBREWBIES pic.twitter.com/4eBiZAfifk
— Brandonbilt Motorsports (@BMSRaceTeam) October 30, 2021
Brown told the Times that he had struggled to draw corporate sponsor interest despite his newfound name recognition because of the political nature of what had happened.
“This whole Talladega race win was supposed to be a celebration, and then it was supposed to be something that I was able to use to move up, and I really wanted to capitalize on that,” Brown told the paper. “But with this meme going viral, it was more of, I had to stay more silent, because everybody wanted it to go on to the political side. I’m about the racing side.”
Brown is clearly choosing to get political and let the side of his car speak now. And it's now hard to go back and read the Times article with a straight face. It's very unlikely that negotiations for this sponsorship materialized out of nowhere over the holidays in less than two weeks after the article was published.
It was easy to feel for Brown before this sponsorship deal. As right-wing outlets and political candidates have profited off of merchandise with his first name on it, he didn't seem to be gaining much from what had been the biggest moment of his NASCAR career. Companies were not jumping to sponsor his car in the weeks after the win.
Now, it's nearly impossible to have any sympathy for Brown after his delayed embrace of the meme. He can't both be the victim of circumstance while also attempting to capitalize on those circumstances. And by taking his sponsorship, he's clearly choosing to capitalize on the slogan before it fades away.
That capitalization, however, isn't without risk. Cryptocurrency is an unpredictable market and very few political memes have long-term staying power. Bundle those environmental factors with a cryptocurrency aimed at a very specific target political market worth 0.00000000002356 Bitcoin on the morning of Dec. 30 and it's worth wondering how fruitful the sponsorship will turn out to be.
Brown needs it to flourish to pay his team's bills. If it doesn't, he'll be left holding the bag while no longer being able to claim he's an apolitical race car driver simply trying to win races.