Memo: It’s Called Racing, Not Branding
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Let’s see what’s in the old Friday Morning Memo today:
Rather quietly last week, NASCAR met with its race teams and some media to explain a series of marketing studies and initiatives designed to increase the sport’s fanbase.
The explanation of the initiatives included all the latest business-speak buzz terms.
A piece in the SportsBusiness Journal summarized: ” Among their immediate plans for action, they said they would develop a youth-specific website and continue to integrate action sports athletes who appeal to 18- to 34-year-olds. NASCAR also will design the sport’s first Spanish-language promotions for upcoming races in Chicago, Phoenix and Miami; hire a director of digital and social media; work with tracks to improve Internet connectivity at races; and add staff to the Industry Services team to help drivers develop a brand strategy.”
Reaction from drivers who attended the meetings ranged from luke-warm but willing to be a good soldier, to not really into it.
Jeff Gordon sounded like he was in the former camp.
Absolutely, he said, everybody in NASCAR needs to take a hard look at the product. “I think a lot of what they are saying makes a lot of sense and (he is) looking forward to seeing some get implemented,” Gordon said.
But, Gordon also said that more demands on drivers’ time could cause problems. “The
key to me on that was letting us know early. I think that we can find ways to fit important things into the schedule to give back to the fans but we’ve got to do it efficiently and we’ve got to do it in advance,” Gordon said.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. also agreed the sport needs a boost. He did not seem to favor an approach which would focus on turning drivers into action heroes.
“Things need to evolve,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “This sport has always evolved. Look at cars in the ‘70s, the ‘80s and the ‘90s. That always needs to change and be changing. We need to flow with the technology. But, I think we need to stay concerned and focused on the competition side – what happens on the race track. That is what we sell. We don’t sell personalities. It is cool to have personalities and it is great when drivers have good personalities but the fans show up to see a race. We need to make sure we put on a race.
“So, we need to focus on that and anything else we can do to improve their experience which I think NASCAR is focusing on as far as the pre-race. What they buy when they buy the ticket. What they get; what they see and what they experience is real important too. But, what it all comes down to, if the race itself is not as good as it should be, that’s what we need to stay focused on.”
Well said by a guy who has a knack for nailing common sense.
Race fans, old school and new, are tired of being viewed as little more than the targets of marketing campaigns. They very much notice that thanking sponsors and “partners” takes precedent over talking about actual racing in post-race interviews.
Sponsorship and marketing have become a part of racing. For the better, I think as they have improved many aspects of the sport. Respectful advertising most certainly has a place in the sport.
But the business aspect of the sport should not overwhelm the competitive aspect of it. Racing should be he horse and branding the cart it pulls. Not the other way around.
Memo to self: Time to amp up those ad sales for the website.
Two wrecks, two reactions
I’m a Mark Martin guy. Even though he ripped me a new one a couple years back, I like the guy to the point of holding him up as the best that auto racing has to offer. To me,
Mark Martin is what racing is so seldom about these day but could be/should be/used to be about on a more regular basis.
It’s not just his driving skills and accomplishments which make him praise-worthy. I like his whole approach to racing. I like his sense of fair play, respectfulness, perspective.
Take the weekend of racing in Daytona last weekend. There were two incidents which were handled two different ways by two different drivers. Both, to me, said plenty about the people involved.
One occurred in the Sprint Cup race and involved Martin.
Late in the race and with shots to win, Martin and Joey Logano came together on the track and a wreck resulted. Logano survived and went on to a good finish. But Martin’s car was toasted.
Replays showed that the wreck was one of those of undeterminable cause. Both drivers could have blamed the other. Except neither did. Martin, in fact, issued a bit of a mea culpa but certainly, certainly did not have to.
The other incident occurred in the Nationwide race on Friday. Heading to the finish line on the final lap, Danica Patrick as involved in a big wreck. A racing wreck where, again, blame is tough to assess.
Though assess blame she did. Emphatically. She called out veteran Mike Wallace and was quite snarky in doing so. She told reporters Wallace was like a fish out of water. She did this despite the fact that replays show that it was a tip from behind from teammate Aric Almirola which got her sideways.
Almost all drivers play the blame game. Some do it more than others.
Patrick had a great weekend at Daytona. She, finally, looked like a real gosh darn NASCAR driver. Practiced well, qualified well, learned well and raced superbly. Four almost three hours, she showed that some day, she can and will win NASCAR races.
But then she dropped the turd into the churn with her post-race fingerpointing – something she honed to a skill in IndyCar.
It got old with open-wheel fans, it will get old with NASCAR fans.
As I heard it, I flashed back to Hall of Fame voting of a last month and a nice talk I had with Cotton Owens. The vote had been taken, but the results not announced. I told Owens I have voted for him. Owens said he was not sure whether he was worthy.
I think there is a place for quiet humility in racing.
Memo to self: This dang computer just will not write good stories.
During Thursday’s open media session at Kentucky Speedway, some poor schlub got
Tony-ized as Stewart laid down the law on asking questions.
A snipped of the process follows:
HOW DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’VE DONE SO FAR THIS YEAR?
Stewart: “Terrible. We’ve had a terrible year. Not been anything like what we’ve been used to by any means.”
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
“If I knew that, I would have fixed it, don’t you think? You’re new to this racing stuff aren’t you?”
Welcome to Sprint Cup, kid. We’ve all been there.
Memo to self: Scratch that question about whether Stewart likes winning better than losing I was planning to ask next week.
The voting for the second quarter Driver of the Year Award was held this week. Carl Edwards was top vote-getter from the 21 media members covering auto racing.
In the interest of transparency, here is how I voted:
1. Del Worsham – Top Fuel NHRA
2. Will Power – IndyCar
3. Kyle Busch – NASCAR (all three series)
4. Dario Franchitti – IndyCar
5. Carl Edwards – Cup and Nationwide
6. Ricky Taylor/Max Angelelli (Grand-Am)
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments