By admin | January 11, 2011
By Richard Allen
The reader should keep in mind while reading this piece that ‘NASCAR’ is used as an all encompassing term meant to include the sanctioning body itself as well as the television and print media that cover the sport, the tracks, the teams and other entities associated with NASCAR.
Other professional sports leagues have had success marketing particular personalities and/or events to gain market share, increase interest in their respective sports and sell merchandise. The NBA and the PGA Tour have benefited from pushing personalities in front of the public. The NFL has made its championship game into a near holiday and Major League Baseball has somehow survived strikes and drug scandals to maintain a high standing on the American sports scene.
NASCAR, on the other hand, seems to be failing miserably at trying those same approaches.
The reason for the relative success of those other leagues as opposed to NASCAR is pretty obvious when closely observed. There is more substance than flash in the offerings of those other leagues.
Is that to say other sports aren’t built around hype? Of course not. Does that mean those other sports sellout every arena? Of course not.
But look at the difference. NASCAR has put a great number of its eggs in the baskets of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Danica Patrick and the Chase for the Championship while others market Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods and the Super Bowl.
If you were assigned the task of hyping a championship event would you rather promote the Chase or the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl? If you were told to create buzz for a particular participant would you rather promote Tiger Woods or Danica Patrick?
The point is, if a particular personality or event is going to be made the focal point of the sport, that person or event better be worthy of the hype.
For as much as they are talked about, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant and the Super Bowl deliver the goods. Woods and Bryant have won multiple championships and proven themselves to be deserving of the recognition they receive, personal issues aside. The Super Bowl delivers extraordinary ratings every year, no matter what teams are involved.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has not won in over two years yet a number of ad campaigns and promotional materials place him at the center of NASCAR. Danica Patrick’s highest finish in a Nationwide Series race last year was 19th yet consider the amount of in focus camera time she received last year. The Chase for the Championship has brought the sport lower television ratings instead of boosting interest.
Now, we hear that famed daredevil Travis Pastrana is coming to NASCAR. While his exploits at jumping cars and other obstacles are impressive, he brings nothing of real stock car racing substance to the table.
What would be wrong with teams and the sanctioning body actually seeking out dirt track and short track asphalt drivers from the South and/or Midwest to bring up to the sport’s highest ranks? It would be nice to see a driver with real oval track racing credentials get a shot for a reason other than having money behind him or her.
A few examples of such exist, but not many.
Of course, money is the key. Someone with grease under his fingernails may not be as appealing to sponsors as someone who has spent more time in a manicurist’s chair than under a race car.
Alas, I guess this is just another one of those things for ‘old timers’ to complain about. But old timer or not, at some point there has to be someone with a background in stock racing come along that can actually produce substance rather than flash. I believe many in the NASCAR business would be surprised to find that such a thing could also produce ratings and ticket sales.
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