In the past ten years, NASCAR seemed to have reached its peak, and with the economy declining and the racing being sub-par; it began to see drop in viewership as well as attendance at the tracks. In addition to the fans reacting to this, team owners saw their sponsorships go away. Fewer fans meant less money to the sponsors, because NASCAR fans are the most loyal to the brands/sponsors that they see on the track each week. The sanctioning body knew it was time to do something to get the fans back involved.
NASCAR took this big step back in 2013 when they decided that it was time to bring NASCAR to the next level. During the airing of the Daytona 500 they started to introduce Nascar as a brand – targeting a new audience, by offering NASCAR races in Spanish, and they had an ad campaign that they hoped would continue to add growth to the series. “To bring the NASCAR experience to life, we helped create a brand platform that reflects the roots and character of what makes NASCAR unique, personified by remarkable athletes who will ensure that this sport remains the greatest show on earth.” (NASCAR website) Trying to relive the heyday, this was going to be a big risk in re-engaging their fans again and to get them excited about the sport. NASCAR jumped on the social media bandwagon, knowing how important it was to engage the fans on levels that they could better interact. “But in 2013, NASCAR is going one step beyond in communicating and understanding their fans with the HP Fan Engagement Center, extending the dialogue with fans throughout the week beyond the days leading up to and after race day. Knowing “where” and “how” to engage consumers is imperative for brands to drive deeper engagement.” (McVerry, 2013)
Many say that NASCAR is smart in using the star power of the drivers, and letting them be a part of helping to recreate the brand. The addition of Danica Patrick to the series has helped to bring the female fans back to the track because they have a female to root for. NASCAR was able to use her “stardom” to help get people more interested again, I mean let’s face it, the woman did win the pole for the Daytona 500, the first woman to do that. It was like a gift to NASCAR.
NASCAR also encourages the use of social media by the drivers, crew members, media and fans. This is a huge risk in my opinion. To date, every one of the 43 starters of a NASCAR Sprint Cup race has a Twitter account. Drivers have used Twitter to wage verbal wars over, to have open question and answer hours with their fans, and to just discuss each week’s race. This is great, but the NASCAR fan is loyal to their drivers and they can take their responses to the extreme, and then you see Twitter wars between fans that are defending or tearing apart another driver. An example of this was just recently with the unfortunate accident that Tony Stewart was involved in where another driver lost his life. Twitter lit up that night and people were calling for Tony’s head before any of the facts of the accident were released. The negative posts against NASCAR for even thinking about Tony race was out of control, and then you had the Tony supporters that stood by him no matter what and raged the battles on Twitter.
The social media branding that NASCAR has supported faces is risks and challenges, but they seem to be doing something right because you are starting to see attendance go back up at the tracks and the TV ratings are back up as well. NASCAR is always evolving and changing to make the brand better each year.