Diageo has announced its Crown Royal brand will become a primary sponsor of 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion Kurt Busch and the #97 Roush Racing Sharpie/Irwin car for select races throughout the 2005 season.

Crown Royal becomes the first spirits brand to enter the sport since NASCAR recently announced that spirits companies would be allowed to participate as team sponsors.

The Crown Royal sponsorship will be built around Diageo's existing relationship with Roush Racing, which started in 2003 with a primary sponsorship of Matt Kenseth and the #17 Roush Racing car for Diageo's flavored malt beverage Smirnoff ICE. That sponsorship continued for part of 2004 before switching to the #97 car late in the season. Diageo will utilise the Crown Royal brand's new association with NASCAR to promote responsible drinking with  NASCAR's adult fans.

"We're excited that Crown Royal will be entering NASCAR so prominently with a sponsorship of the sport's newest champion, Kurt Busch and Roush Racing," said Mark Waller, executive vice-president, consumer strategy and marketing, Diageo. "Our association with this world class racing team gives Diageo the opportunity to connect with millions of adult NASCAR fans, and remind them about the importance of responsible drinking. A multi-million dollar marketing budget supporting this sponsorship will include dedicated social responsibility messaging."