Daytona 500: What does NASCAR look like now?
Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share
20 February 2017
Daytona 500: Out with Sprint, in comes Monster Energy
A new season of NASCAR begins this weekend with its signature race, the Daytona 500. However, regular viewers will sure be confused when they see that the circuit is no longer called the Sprint Cup. It’s now the Monster Energy Cup.
“NASCAR also has a brand crisis. Who is it for? Who is it not for? In the days of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr., there was no doubt. It was for the hard-driving Southerner not afraid to buck the system and charge forward.”
What gives? Several factors figured into Sprint giving up its $50 million per year sponsorship, which it held since 2008. (It will show up at NASCAR races in other venues.) But Monster Energy, some reports suggest, will pay only $20-$30 million for its sponsorship.
That’s quite a drop. In fact, the market for motorsport sponsorship isn’t meeting expectations sport-wide. (Including Indy and other motorsport organizations.) Sponsorship increased 3.1%, but that’s far short of the expected 4.5% increase.
Why are sponsors so wary?
With Daytona 500 coming up, a look at the NASCAR brand
Let’s look at NASCAR, for moment, as Daytona 500 arrives. An identity crisis is unfolding in the sport, one that’s been building for quite some time. Its leaders expanded races into non-traditional locations, such as California, to increase the number of fans. A predicted boom was expected.
But it didn’t happen. Sellouts at races were rare, unless they were held in the more traditional Southeast where NASCAR began. Seeing empty seats was a new visual.
That doesn’t even take into account the absence of two of its biggest stars: Jeff Gordon (retirement) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (concussion). The new bloods, such as Joey Logano, just don’t attract the same fervent fan base.
NASCAR also has a brand crisis. Who is it for? Who is it not for? In the days of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr., there was no doubt. It was for the hard-driving Southerner not afraid to buck the system and charge forward.
Now, with another popular driver retired (Carl Edwards), what does NASCAR do?
It must redefine itself. That could be going back to its roots. But I suspect those days are over. NASCAR is a dangerous sport. And the league implemented new rules to increase safety. (The scary concussions suffered by Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s most popular driver, were a wakeup call.)
I don’t have the answers right now. The Daytona 500 will sell out. Diehard fans will arrive in droves. But what happens once the circuit goes outside its comfort zone?
If NASCAR wants increased sponsorship and not less, it must take a hard look at itself and identify the NASCAR fan. Its future is at stake.
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