RENO, Nev. – Organizers of the National Championship Air Races in Reno have reached a $1.2 million deal with the Swiss watchmaker Breitling to be the title sponsor of the 50th annual event this fall.
The three-year agreement helps shore up the financial backing of the races at Reno Stead Airport after a deadly crash in 2011 sent insurance costs skyrocketing and put the future of the competition in jeopardy.
Mike Houghton, the president and CEO of the National Championship Air Races, said the Nevada Commission on Tourism is continuing its role as the host sponsor of the event Sept. 11-15 under the banner TravelNevada.com.
Houghton says they wouldn’t have made it to their silver anniversary without the state stepping up to help in the aftermath of the crash that killed a pilot and 10 spectators and injured dozens more.
“Last year, we worked with the state of Nevada to create a unique partnership,” Houghton said. “Without their support, (the races) would not have happened.”
Houghton said the new deal represents a doubling of sponsorship money from Breitling, which has been a financial backer of the competition for 13 years.
“This is a natural fit,” said Thierry Prissert, president of Breitling USA.
“It’s an amazing celebration of the world of aviation and racing, which Breitling is all about,” he said. “We’ve been making watches for pilots since the 1950s.”
As part of the agreement, Breitling will promote the air races to its international audience and also promote Nevada tourism.
Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, who oversees the tourism commission, joined race organizers Wednesday in announcing the title sponsorship at a news conference in Carson City.
“This is a big day,” Krolicki said.
He said it allows state tourism officials to build on the global publicity they generated with last year’s marketing effort, which promoted the one-of-a-kind event with historic planes racing wing tip-to-wing tip at speeds over 500 mph.
“The sponsorship … made sure the air races had their 49th year so that we could celebrate their 50th year,” Krolicki said, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Houghton said this year’s event will feature racing in all the traditional classes, plus entertainment including the debut of “Jet Man,” the world’s first jet-powered aerial performer.