Blake Koch, a NASCAR driver who competes for Rick Ware Racing, was nearly sidelined recently after losing his primary sponsor, in part because of his Christian beliefs. Fortunately for Koch, however, ChristianCinema.com intervened by sponsoring him for a race and by starting a campaign to help him find a more permanent solution to his financial problems on the track.
"It shows me how much God has his hand on the situation that he would bring along ChristianCinema.com at just the right time," said Koch in a statement. "I'm excited about how they encourage families in their faith, which is extremely important to me. God is always faithful!"
Koch was told several weeks ago by ESPN that his primary sponsor, Rise Up and Register, wouldn't be allowed to run a commercial on the network because of "political and religious overtones."
As a result of the network's decision, the sponsor dropped its support of Koch. He nearly had to sit out the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at the Texas Motor Speedway in Dallas last weekend because of the loss, that is until ChristianCinema.com stepped in.
"We're excited to support Blake and his stand for his faith," said the website's CEO, Bobby Downes, in a release. "This is a great opportunity to keep him racing and at the same time bring awareness about Christian movies that reflect family values."
In order to help Koch beyond just one race, however, the company has also started the #KeepBlakeRacing campaign to make others aware of his need for a long-term sponsorship partner. The company is also promoting awareness by offering a free month of DVD rental service for the first 10,000 people who sign up to their site using the promotional code "BLAKE."
On Mar. 29, Koch appeared on "Fox and Friends" to discuss just how he lost Rise Up and Register, whose goal is to encourage one million people to register to vote this year, as a sponsor. Koch said that despite ESPN's claim, religion isn't mentioned at all during the ad and it didn't endorse any particular political party or candidate.
A voicemail message from Rosa Gattie, senior vice president of corporate outreach for ESPN, that was left on Koch's father's phone was played during the segment of "Fox and Friends."
"The spot was declined for political and religious overtones which we avoid by all of our standards. We looked at the website ... you know ... as well ... at Blake's website and do see the religious aspects of this. So those are the reasons," said Gattie.
When asked if he would "tone down" the Christian message on his website for the sake of maintaining sponsors, Koch said that he wouldn't.
"Absolutely not ... I'm not willing to hide my Christianity."
In a March 29 blog post on his website, Koch made it clear that he still likes ESPN despite his disagreement with the network's decision.
"I hope everyone agrees that my personal faith shouldn't have an effect on whether or not my sponsor can air a commercial," he said. "I have no intentions of talking bad about ESPN, I love ESPN and they do a great job covering our races, but they should air our commercial."