Today’s post is courtesy of guest blogger Paul Hemingway.
Despite being one of the most viewed professional sports in America, the top dog in terms of sports sponsorship revenues and holding the record for 17 of the top 20 attended single-day sporting events in the world, the proverbial bloom has come off the NASCAR rose over the past several years.
The sport, which just 10 years ago seemed to be the darling of Wall Street and middle America alike, has turned into a punching bag with industry analysts during Jimmie Johnson’s 5-time reign as Sprint Cup champion.
And as the sports landscape is littered with leagues and teams looking for innovative ways to go the extra mile to generate new fan interest, NASCAR has finally waved the white flag and has said enough is enough.
The historically-rich sport has taken its audience drop-off (both in the stands and on TV) quite seriously and has gone to the people themselves, a 12,000-member council of fans, to listen to their wants, needs and desires in the hopes of turning the tide as the sport kicks off this weekend in Daytona with the 53rd of the Great American Race.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the new, friendlier NASCAR – 2011 edition:
- New Cooler Policy – Fan can now upgrade from the traditional small lunch box-sized tote to a much larger 14×14-inch soft-sided cooler. The new policy means fans attending any event can be more hydrated, as much as five times more hydrated, with a cooler than can hold up to 32 cans of your favorite libation. This not only helps cater to the traditional tailgating roots of the sport but more importantly, allows fans to purchase their beverages in advance of their trip and not be subjected to inflated prices once inside a racing facility.
- New Backpack Policy – Gone are the days of the clear plastic backpack (those annoying see-through pieces that we only use at sporting events since no one in the outside world really wants to see the trash we all tote around)! Now a standard school backpack will be allowed through the gates upon arrival at any race track.
- Children Allowed in the Garage – NASCAR offers the best behind-the-scenes access in all of sports and this new outreach allows a new generation of fan the opportunity to experience this excitement up close and personal. The thrill of being in a NASCAR garage on race day cannot be duplicated and a revision on the old 18 plus-only policy allows any adult with approved access to bring his or her children in a NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide or Camping World Truck Series garage on race days.
- New Dress Code for NASCAR Pit and Garage Area – While attire must remain appropriate for any major sporting event or family environment, it has been relaxed to now include shorts, open-toed shoes, sleeveless blouses and skirts/dresses. Gone are the uncomfortable days of being covered from head to toe in 90+degree temps.
- New Points System – In a sport where the goal is to be the first to the finish line, NASCAR has sought to make its points system easier to understand and more accessible for the end user. Now, it’s 43 points for first, 42nd for second place, so on and so forth, all the way down to one point for last place.
- New Car Design – The new noses on the Sprint Cup cars are precursors to a major design overhaul in the next few years and were fashioned to create more brand identity for the machines and the car manufacturers who produce them. The idea is for your favorite Rick Hendrick Chevrolet, Roush-Fenway Ford, Penske Dodge or Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to look similar to the one you would see in your neighborhood dealer’s showroom.
While none of the above will single-handedly bring NASCAR back to the halcyon days when it was the fastest growing spectator sport in America, they do underline the fact that the sport’s sanctioning body understands its problems, and more importantly, is willing to take a proactive approach to try and correct them.
Paul Hemingway is a seasoned motorsports marketer and sports business professional. To connect, follow him on Twitter @PaulHemingway or follow his blog at paulhemingway.blogspot.com. You can also check out his previous Free Agent of the Week profile here.