I’ve been a fan of NASCAR since I was a small child (runs in the family) and got to experience the peak of the sport in the early 2000’s. Sponsors and money and TV deals were rolling in and it was just an exciting time to follow races despite the gimmicks that NASCAR leadership started introducing to keep the numbers growing.
The last few years have been difficult for me to watch from a marketing point of view. Major long term sponsors have abandoned the sport and its top drivers as costs of sponsorships skyrocketed (at least $25 million a year for a top team) and returns began to decline. Sponsorship is difficult to give firm ROI numbers for generally, but requires more than just writing a check… there’s the notion of “activation” of branding that has to be done at the track or in special events that tie in with the billboard cars moving at 200mph. In the mid 2000’s, races were destination events in themselves complete with large areas of entertainment and vendors provided by the same companies sponsoring teams. “Win on Sunday, sale on Monday” was a real and measurable metric. That’s just not the case these days. When I go to races and see the anemic amount of vendor stands and trailers, it makes me miss the fun times from the last decade.
With an aging fan base (the oldest of any sport in the U.S.) and historically low ratings, it looks like the marketing angle is not going to improve any time soon for the sport…
Kyle Busch‘s win ranks as the lowest rated and least-watched NASCAR Cup Series race since at least 2000. The previous lows were a 1.2 (multiple races) and 1.99 million (New Hampshire last year). Six of the ten lowest rated and least-watched races have taken place this season alone.
More races have had less than a 1.5 rating this season than in the previous 17 seasons combined.