Coming full circle and shifting gears

To everyone who has kept up with my blog I just want to say thank you. I learned a lot about social media and how hard, yet fun it can be to plan and post content. I learned more about WordPress and how to tag content and how to better promote what I post. Yes this blog was created as part of a project in my social media marketing class, I think this blog reminded me just how much opportunity there is in NASCAR and marketing in general. While the days of having one sponsor for years may be over, the future is brighter than ever for NASCAR. I hope my Pitch Black post showed you just what sponsoring a car or even sponsoring a race once can do for a company. Surely the big boys like Anheuser Busch, Miller Lite etc., will likely always be involved on a nearly full time level… I believe the future of NASCAR belongs to unknown companies or organizations who looking to explode onto the scene. I guarantee if done right NASCAR will give them more bang for their money then any other opportunity. So while I may or may not post anymore after this (if I do it will be more about current events/recaps of races) I just want to say thanks to all who gave my blog a once over. ūüĎĆūüŹĽ‚úĆūüŹĽ

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Marketing saves “The track too tough to tame”

Time to talk about one of my all time favorite tracks, Darlington Raceway. Darlington from its first race in 1950 has long been a crowd favorite and driver favorite despite the nightmares and headaches it often would give them. To understand Darlington you first have to understand her history. Harold Brasington a retired racer and enthusiast set out to build his own track in 1948 in Darlington, South Carolina after being inspired after a visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. So he purchased roughly 70 acres from a farmer and man named Sherman Ramsey and all was good. However the sale of the land depended on one factor.. Ramsey made Brasington promise not to disturb his minnow pond. Therefore turns 1 and 2 are wide sweeping turns while turns 3 and 4 are incredibly tight and narrow. Thus the egg shaped track was born. At the time it was designed for cars that would only go around it at around 140-150mph. Only problem (for drivers that is)¬†though is nowadays¬†one dives off into¬†the first turn¬†at nearly 200mph! Needless to say the track narrows up into a one lane groove really quick. When one races at Darlington it is not a question of whether they will smack the wall and get¬†a¬†famed “Darlington Stripe” it is simply a question of when and how many times. Thus from its creation Darlington was destined to be the ultimate measuring stick of a driver and would become an all around fan¬†favorite. Yet the fact that a track is loved does not always translate into ticket sales. With attendance declining in the late 90s and early 2000s NASCAR decided to give the famed¬†annual Labor Day race to a track in a mega market,¬†the California Speedway in 2003. Darlington’s fall¬†race was then moved to November in 2004 and¬†in 2005 with¬†NASCAR facing an antitrust¬†violation regarding its refusal to grant Texas Motor¬†Speedway a¬†“promised” second race, it was¬†obvious which track would give up a date to help¬†settle the issue. Thus¬†Darlington lost its most famous race the fall Southern 500 leaving Darlington with only¬†one race (Spring race)¬†in 2005 the Dodge Dealers 500. Needless to say with sagging attendance, a track¬†in desperate need of a repave and facility upgrades,¬†and now¬†only one date the outcome for Darlington looked all but certain. It¬†seemed likely the¬†track would go the way of other struggling¬†southern tracks like North Wilkesboro Speedway and Rockingham Speedway and disappear altogether. However things all changed with one move in May of 2004 with the hiring of new track president Chris Browning. Most would have given up but not Chris. Rather he saw the new spring¬†date as an opportunity to create his own marketing gimmick. What was once an off weekend (Mother’s Day), Browning decided to have the facility host all the drivers’ mothers and have them be the ones to tell their sons to “start your engine.” The fans ate this up and with ticket sales rising the track continued to play this up. Browning continued to work his magic by modernizing and improving fan facilities to enhance¬†the overall experience. However one of his best decisions proved to be deciding to have the track repaved which greatly improved the look of the track and enhanced the racing significantly. When Browning handed over the keys to now track president Chip Wile (Wile is now temporary¬†president as he has been promoted and will soon be leaving)¬†the track was no longer in danger of falling off the schedule.

Though millions more would be spent on continous fan improvement projects, marketing would have to save Darlington once again when in 2013 it was announced it would lose its Mother’s Day weekend race. The campaign Browning had built was now gone. Yet Chip knew all was not lost. The race being held in April now meant fans may have a better overall experience. Cooler temperatures for racing and tailgating would be a plus, and the fact that more college students could attend (no more¬†final¬†exam and graduation conflicts)¬†certainly was encouraging. Wile would not have to worry about this long as in 2014 he was able to convince the NASCAR brass to bring back the traditional fan favorite the Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend to be run in 2015. Wile and his team of staff did not stop there as they came up with a¬†brilliant idea¬†to launch a five year marketing¬†campaign to make the race a throwback to the glory days of NASCAR. In 2015 the race took on an 1970s era inspired vibe. The track walls were¬†painted in the old fashioned Winston white and red,¬†many of the cars raced paint schemes that were iconic during the 70s, drivers¬†and crews also wore retro uniforms. Heck even NBC brought back their vintage 1970s logo and had grainy film for select highlights and moments during the broadcast. If that wasn’t enough the announcers even wore vintage ties and suits from the 70s era. Between the overall vibe, the amazing race souvenirs/memorabilia that was produced the fans absolutely loved it. As the paint schemes are being announced for this year’s 1980’s inspired event fans should remember what¬†almost came to be. We could have lost what is now one of the most highly anticipated races on the schedule each year. Darlington could have become another victim of the times and the almighty dollar because in reality she was a ship that had already¬†sunk.¬†Yet the story of Darlington is not sad. Rather it is a lesson of what a little hard work, and markting¬†ingenuity can do. Bean counters and hard times¬†almost killed Darlington… Marketing saved¬†it.

The future is fast approaching

Knock, knock, vroom, vroom… You can hear me, and smell me as I fly by in a zoom… Throughout the history of the automobile one has always been able to hear and smell the internal combustion engine at work. Naturally that sound and smell are amplified by miles when it comes to racing. But as the cost of fuel is so volatile, and the green energy movement continues to grow, auto manufacturers are moving closer to electric only. Is it therefore possible NASCAR and other forms of motorsports could find themselves in a pinch? The answer might surprise you, excite you and possibly incite you. If you are a pure fan of raw noise, and the smell of burning oil and gasoline (like me) then you may want to run the other way… But if you are a fan of instant horsepower, and clean energy you may want to continue reading. Spoiler alert… Electric racing is already here and it is called Formula-E. A little side note here for the doubters but electric engines are bad to the bone and they are the future. Yes they aren’t as fast but very soon as technology improves they may become quicker than gasoline engines. When you floor it in your gasoline powered car you do not get 100% power right away. It takes time for the engine rpms to rise. After all you are dealing with a moving machine with hundreds of parts. However when you floor it in an electric powered vehicle you get 100% of the torque and power right away. There are no pistons, crankshafts, valves etc… that need to get moving first. Surely anyone can understand that instant power beats hesitant power hands down. Not only that but there is far less routine maintenance that needs to be done. You don’t need to worry about mechanical parts that need to be replaced or tested again before use. There are no oil changes that need to be done, no tuning after excess amount of miles. However electric motors aren’t quite there yet and primarily for one reason. Yes they lack the top speed you would expect out of anything with the formula title in its name but most importantly they lack time. By time I mean the battery life isnt quite there yet. It’s not even close. At least not enough to consider running a 500 mile race like you would regularly see in NASCAR…According to McLaren who produces the engines and electrical components in the Formula E cars, drivers can expect 20-25 minutes of driving before they have to pit for another car. So while electric motors may not be ready for NASCAR today they may very will be sooner rather than later as technology improves at a pace never before seen. Despite these battery issues Formula-E is growing in popularity with many races being held throughout city streets across the world. So while you may not have a Formula-E race scheduled for your particular town any time soon there is a good chance you can already get in on the fun like I have. Many indoor karting facilities across the country are now switching to electric powered karts simply for the cost saving reasons I mentioned above. So I’ll end this post encouraging you to get out and find a place to race an electric kart because it may just make a fan out of you like it did me. And for an internal combustion engine lover/worshipper like me that is saying something. Perhaps green energy has a place in the hearts of rednecks after all.

Win on Sunday sell on Monday

So I posted a picture of a Toyota Celica the other day now didn’t I? That Celica was from a 2002 race in the NASCAR Goody’s Dash Series. It just reminded me of what NASCAR used to be and what I hope it can one day be again. It used to be a manufacturer driven sport. There literally once was a time where a driver would buy a car off the showroom floor, bust out the lights, tie or weld¬†the door shut and he would be ready to go. Manufacturers ate this up. It was so easy to promote a car that was identical to the one out on the track dominating the competition. Americans and specifically NASCAR fans bought into the idea that if it is good enough to win on a NASCAR track then surely it must be good enough for me (in fact many of the innovations that took place in the American¬†automobile actually came about or were improved upon thanks to NASCAR).Thus win on Sunday sell on Monday was born. There was also something just flat out cool about feeling like you had the same car Richard Petty or Bobby Allison did. If you are a football fan or fan of any other sport you buy a jersey, but you can’t buy a drivers suit if you are a NASCAR fan now can you. The production version (street car)¬†of what is out on the track is the closest thing you can get to a jersey. One thing that cannot be overstated is that NASCAR fans are the most brand/sponsor loyal of any fans out there. For instance as I mentioned in one of my very first posts I drive a Monte Carlo because my hero and icon Dale Sr and Dale Jr did. To this¬†day I still look back¬†fondly on the Chevrolet¬†Monte Carlo 400 with the Looney Tunesheld at Richmond International Raceway from 2001-2002. It was just a cool time to own a Monte Carlo with all the neat sponsorship/marketing and race¬†events going on. But enough about that what about the competition aspect of things?

Would it not make things so much more interesting to see drivers race cars that match up as close as possible to the production version’s specs? This would give manufacturers a renewed sense of belonging and purpose when it comes to NASCAR. Just imagine if the rules stated that each car can only race the same engine block that comes in the production car. No more seeing a Toyota¬†Camry or Ford Fusion out there unless they went back to the drawing board and at least offered a v8 model to satisfy the rules. Imagine also¬†if¬†a racecars body had to match the exact same dimensions as the production version (this ended with the return of the Monte Carlo in 1995)? I¬†imagine we would see several new models as I cannot fathom most manufacturers wanting to race long boxy 4 door sedans.¬†There would be no losers here.. Race fans would get to drive passenger cars that not only closely resemble the cars they cheer for out on the track but were designed aerodynamically for the track.. Manufacturers would be once again¬†driven to compete against one another, and whenever their cars wins they would have all the bragging rights in the showroom that week. Manufacturers would once again see their biggest incentive to stay¬†in the sport come back.¬†Surely this option is better than what we have now where minus the decals all the cars are nearly identical and manufacturers question the return for their investment in NASCAR.

Lastly I feel this could be a great way to differentiate the Xfinity Series from the Sprint Cup Series. If Cup is considered the “pro level” and Xfinity is thought of as the “college level,” would it not make sense to see them race much more mechaniclly different cars? Perhaps limiting the Xfinity Series to running v6 engines would be the best option. It would differentiate the two series from one another, and would allow manufacturers to get more models involved. For instance now Chevrolet could run the SS in Cup and perhaps the Malibu in the Xfinity Series. Perhaps this would also serve to discourage Cup drivers from running in so many Xfinity races as the cars now would be even more different than ever before. The benefit to running in the Xfinity race would now be greatly reduced.¬†Add to that the idea of limiting the number of companion races the Xfinity Series shares with Cup and running at new tracks and¬†you start to help the series regain its own unique identity with its own stars. Ultimately from a marketing standpoint the future is as bright as NASCAR can think to make it and as bright as they want to make it.

 

 

So…

So I put out that teaser last night and now I’ll explain. It’s a short story but I really learned what marketing in NASCAR could do for a business when I saw Jeremy Mayfield’s Pitch Black Mountain Dew car. The angry look of the car and the dark purple and green colors, in addition to the black just really caught my eye. Until then I had never even heard of or seen Mountain Dew Pitch Black. But the next time I went into a store with my mom after she got gas for the car (I was just a kid back then in 2005) I made sure to look around for the drink. Sure enough I found it and fell in love with it. To this day Mountain Dew Pitch Black is still my favorite drink and I clamor for it every time Mountain Dew decides to bring it back. In fact I have even advocated on their social media page for it, and have recently voted for Pitch Black as the drink Mountain Dew should bring back. I think it was that moment when I realized the true potential of NASCAR and it was that moment when I became fascinated with sports marketing. Now for the picture of the Toyota Celica??? Well you will just have to wait for the next time to find out about that;)

Put the Star back in All Star

Every sport has their night to shine. Their night where all the stars come out to play. For NASCAR it is a Saturday night in May at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and it’s known as the All-Star race. But lately it has been anything but. In its first race it earned the moniker “One Hot Night” and it saw the winner get knocked unconscious just after crossing the finish line. It was the only time that I can recall where the winner did not make it to victory lane. It soared and grew in popularity from the first one in 1992 all the way through the mid 2000’s. However the past seven or eight years have seen a measured drop in excitement as well as attendance. Therefore I would like to propose two options. Option one would be to keep it at Charlotte but go back to the elimination style format and the field inversion method that was used when it was known as the Winston. That method created high levels of drama because it made every single lap matter. In a field of around 20-23 cars if you fell back to the last 5-6 positions in each round you were eliminated. That caused drivers to race hard and not take any laps off like we often see now with the dull 4 segments each consisting of the same amount of laps. I get that no one likes to see a Dale Jr or Jimmie Johnson eliminated but as a true fan of racing I have no problem with it. If my driver isn’t fast enough to keep up that night then he doesn’t deserve to advance to the next round. It’s called an All-Star event for a reason. Lastly it was hard not to love the random field inversions after the segments ended. It really caused drivers to roll the dice to try and guess how NASCAR might invert the field. It also usually meant that the guy who won the segment before may have to come from the back of the pack to have a shot to win it. All in all the Winston version of the All-Star never failed to put on a good show.

Now for option two which is the option I prefer… Move the All-Star race to an all-star track, North Wilkesboro Speedway. North Wilkesboro was one of the founding tracks of the original 1949 NASCAR schedule and at the time when it was removed from the schedule it had hosted the most Cup races. Although the official meeting to form NASCAR occurred in the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1948 many legends of the sport such as Junior Johnson and Benny Parson argue that the actual non formal meetings really occurred in Wilkes County. Thus no track is more deserving of an All-Star race than North Wilkesboro because it is truly an all-star track. Yes it only holds around 40,000 fans but that is perfect amount for an exhibition race and NASCAR won’t have to worry about a single empty seat. It is also only a little more than an hour drive from Charlotte where it is held at now. It would still be considered a home race for all the teams, and drivers that reside in Charlotte. Families and friends that go to CMS could still easily go to NWS. Not to mention the man that owns NWS also owns CMS so no one would be taking the event away from him. The All-Star race should be held at a short track where drivers can rough one another up and throw it back to the tracks they all cut their teeth on. It’s just not safe or reasonable to expect that on a mile and a half track where speeds approach 195 mph. Lastly to really make it “One Hot Night” make it for the highest purse in NASCAR history. Let it be a throwback race where all generations of NASCAR cars are available for the teams to use. If the winner drove a generation 1 car they get the max amount of money ($6 million). If they drove a gen 6 car they get $1 million presumably because the gen 6 car should have the biggest advantage. NASCAR fans yearn for the days of old and I can only imagine what it would be like for one night to have cars from all eras of NASCAR history on the track. Just imagine Dale Jr winning in a Plymouth Superbird for crying out loud. Short tracks with slower speeds really would allow NASCAR to pull out all the stops and put the Star back in the All-Star race.

Teasers

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I’d like to offer you two pictures to tease you on an upcoming post. They have to do with¬†what got me interested in marketing related to NASCAR, and what gives me hope for the future of the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Room and Time to Explore

As was addressed in previous posts it is time for NASCAR to move and explore. It is time for the sport to go to new venues. It is time for the sport to race in front of news fans and more importantly in front of more diverse fans. It is time for the sport to shake things up. The majority of the tracks have been on the schedule now for better than 50 years and some even longer and there is no thought among the brass to do anything different. Martinsville for example¬†has been a staple of the Sprint Cup circuit since the inaugural season in 1949. Now let me make clear I am not advocating for removing tracks such as Daytona, Darlington, or Martinsville which are the equivalent of a Lambeau Field, Wrigley Field, or Madison Square Garden.¬†However it is time for NASCAR to consider ditching struggling tracks for new venues.¬†It sounds like a broken record but ask ten¬†NASCAR¬†fans¬†what they think about the¬†current mix of tracks and I’d bet eight out of ten would tell you there are too many “cookie cutters.” Cookie cutters refers to the typical d shaped mile and a half tracks which make up the bulk of the schedule. Most fans then will go on to tell you that what they most want to see are more short tracks.¬† Short tracks are where the legends of the sport built themselves into what they are.¬†These are the kinds of tracks that encourage beating and banging and for that matter they are also the kinds of tracks that¬†all the drivers started out on. They are what Friday night racing¬†in America is all about.¬†Because they are small, cheap to build, and just flat out exciting¬†short tracks litter the country.¬†I can just imagine the¬†huge amount of unique tracks scattered all across the country that NASCAR could visit for a one off race. Just imagine the media storm and the flat out circus¬†it would be for¬†the thousands of fans that would follow¬†NASCAR all across the country to tracks scattered across the backroads and backyards of America.¬†I can only imagine how thrilled and excited sponsors would be to have their product in front of excited crowds¬†who may have never seen or heard much of NASCAR before.¬†Sure NASCAR would keep the most historic venues and would run them on the weekends like always but why not entertain new venues and also race at them during the¬†week? Why not host a 100 lap race in some small county in Georgia as the teams travel back to North Carolina after a race in Texas? After all that is what the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series used to be all about… experimenting that is. Who knows what diamond in the ruff may just be out there for NASCAR to discover and one day race at in the Sprint Cup Series. There may just be another Martinsville waiting to take its place in the history books as one of the premier places to watch a race. And besides with the majority of tracks on the Cup schedule significantly reducing their seating capacities what does NASCAR have to lose? #nascar #reenergize #marketing #America #cars