Give NASCAR A Chance

By: Amy Martin

We tend to dislike what we don’t know. Many people don’t understand, or better yet “get,” NASCAR. Whether it’s a factor of the old points system (which just changed) or pure lack of exposure, many people make fun of the so-called “monotonous day of left turns and mullets.”

I took a trip to Daytona 500 as a complete NASCAR Rookie and gave NASCAR a chance this past weekend and I swear on my iPhone I didn’t see one mullet. Here’s what I learned:

Drivers are unusually accessible. I noticed this is a similar characteristic of UFC on this front. Drivers do fan Q&A’s and autograph sessions THE DAY of the race. The Daytona 500 happens to be the biggest day of the year for NASCAR. I don’t think Brett Favre was chatting it up with thousands of fans the day of the Super Bowl.

I received a magical “hot pass” and could go anywhere. It was uncomfortably exciting having unlimited access and at times I worried about getting in the crew’s way. I was a part of the action and wasn’t the only one. Bottom line, fans have access.

Here’s my theory on this strategy, why it’s smart for any sport and why social media will amplify the strategy if embraced by sports. (A.K.A. my key business takeaway from this weekend):

  • Access leads to connection. (Fans are able to sign the actual race track.)
  • Connection leads to relationships. (At all ages.)
  • Relationships lead to affinity. (You can’t fake this affinity.)
  • Affinity leads to influence. (There’s a reason so many brands are attracted to NASCAR.)
  • Influence leads to conversion. (These fans would likely buy anything this driver is selling.)

Which means NASCAR fans treated exceptionally well by the sport are more likely to buy the products attached to the cars. Smart. Here’s an example of the fan affinity I witnessed.

So, let’s look at some numbers:

  • 150,000 fans in the stands were impacted by the philosophy above – a huge number for one sporting venue on one specific day but perhaps not big in the grand scheme of sports.
  • 30 million viewers watched on TV
  • 500+ million users on Facebook, 175+ million on Twitter and last year YouTube had 700+ billion views. This winning formula comprises the max potential reach.

Point being, there is huge potential when you apply this same access via social media to a larger audience. What if the same behind-the-scenes access available to fans physically at Daytona 500 was available to those billions of potential fans who are not watching the race on TV?

Fans like this one:

It turns out I wasn’t alone in my NASCAR-phobia. The response I received from non-NASCAR fans who followed my Daytona 500 adventure was overwhelming. Many who thought they disliked NASCAR had actually just never given it a chance. After seeing behind-the-scenes photos, video and other content from my time in Daytona, some decided to tune into the race for the first time ever.

And that was just me. What if NASCAR allocated more of its manpower to engaging fans and non-fans on social media utilizing the same all-access philosophy they provide those who physically attend events?

If my #GiveNASCARAChance experiment is any indicator, I would say they could tap into an enormous pool of fan potential simply by showing the true spirit of the sport – a unique mixture of athletic, engineering and mechanical prowess, a sport that truly appreciates its fans– and eclipse the overriding (false) stereotype of mullets and boredom.

I’m always stressing the importance of exposing the human behind the brand. This is being done in the physical world but why not extend it to the larger virtual world?

Of course, when it comes to racing, the cars are the stars. This makes sense for the manufacturer and the sponsors involved because the brands involved stay the same but drivers change. The representatives evolve in accordance with changing times, but the brand holds true. What if the car became the voice of the human? It’s happened before.

I’ll admit it, I was wrong about NASCAR. After removing my stigma-laden misconceptions, I was left with a new understanding of the sport: It’s unpretentious. Fans are comfortable and confident and the staff is happy to be there. I noticed a level of underlying respect exchanged between fans, staff, crews and drivers. It’s a unique and refreshing experience that I had no idea I would love. NASCAR has huge potential to reach new audiences and relevancy and social media may be the perfect channel to do convince people to give it a chance. Your move, NASCAR. Gentlemen, start your engines…

Interested in learning more about NASCAR? Here’s more of my adventure leading up to the Daytona 500:

http://youtu.be/HuxuB1crPq8

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