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Could a win by Junior have a Tiger Woods type impact on TV ratings?

By admin | April 10, 2012

By Richard Allen

It’s not exactly breaking news to report that television ratings for NASCAR Sprint Cup races are not as high as they were when the sport reached its zenith of popularity in the early to mid 2000s. There have been many reasons, excuses and other thoughts thrown out there to explain why the drop in viewers has occurred. One of those theories is that the sport’s most popular driver has not won a race since 2008 and that has discouraged some fans from watching.

In 2012, ratings are again slightly lower in the year-over-year comparisons against last season. According to the chart dedicated to television ratings on the popular site, the numbers are down by 5% compared to the first six races of last year.

So would a win by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. help ratings recover? Of course, there is no way to know the answer to that question until it actually happens. However, it would seem reasonable to guess that there would be at least some degree of pop to come from a win by the driver with more fans than any other.

For the sake of comparison, a recent golf tournament might offer an example. In March, Tiger Woods won a PGA Tour event in Florida to end a 30 month winless drought that had encompassed his previous 26 tournaments.

In terms of television ratings, the results of the Woods’ victory was an increase of 129% over the previous year for the same event.

In some ways, golf is somewhat like racing in that it is a sport in which each individual(or team) is pitted against an entire field of competitors unlike basketball or football in which only two teams go against each other. So, the importance of one individual performing well in terms of providing a ratings boost cannot be dismissed.

However, in the Woods case there are a couple of striking differences. Because a golf tournament lasts for four days, people had advanced notice that Tiger was in contention and knew to tune in. Also, there are likely as many people who watch golf in hopes of seeing Woods fail as there are those who watch to see him win. Although Junior has his detractors, that would likely not be as big of a factor regarding Earnhardt.

So back to the question. Would a win by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. have a Tiger Woods like effect on television ratings. In all likelihood, the answer is no. The event which he won probably wouldn’t see a significant boost because there wouldn’t be three days of build up with him leading round by round like a golf tournament. However, the next week would probably see a small bump in the number of viewers, but an increase of 129% would be unattainable.

There were two reasons for writing this piece. First, Junior has been running much better this season and the possibility of a win by him is more likely than it has been in quite some time. But also, it is important to point out that no one individual is the reason for NASCAR’s TV downfall. It will take more than a win by one driver to get viewers to come back.

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5 Responses to “Could a win by Junior have a Tiger Woods type impact on TV ratings?”

  1. Russ Says:
    April 10th, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Think you are correct, and I wonder how long any “bounce” from a Jr. win would be? Or, perversely do people watch just to see the streak continue?

    If BZF is a marketing guy, surely Nascar has studied the reason for the decline, they should know the answers. Guess they just dont want to say.

  2. Offkilter Says:
    April 11th, 2012 at 7:36 am

    One race win for the 88 team would make a difference. A dominating tear of leading the most laps and winning half of 6 or so would definately generate enthusiasm and numbers.

  3. Sue Rarick Says:
    April 11th, 2012 at 9:30 am

    I sound like a broken record, but the reason for Nascar’s decline is that it’s become boring.

    They wanted vanilla drivers and they got vanilla ratings.

    It seems like every week you hear the same comment, “It’s going to come down to pit strategy and fuel mileage”. OK, The Indy 500 garnered more interest than the Mobile Economy Run in the 1950’s. Get the hint? People don’t get excited about fuel mileage.

  4. Charles Says:
    April 11th, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    I agree with Sue Rarick on the that the sport has become to boring!

    This Chase 24/7 is a real disconnect for alot of us!

    Jr winning is not going to save Nascar…might get a bump in ratings ..but long term its a whole lot of things that have caused the decline.

    But I still think Nascar biggest mistake is trying to demote the importance of the ‘car fan’ who they have run out of the sport….there are a legions of car fans…who like Chevy, Ford, Dodge, etc…this base of fans use to make up probably 60% of the sport until the late ninties!

    Then Indy series has woke up and seen whats happen…Nascar should have seen it with the demise of the IROC series…

    Nascar is no different than other sports as to type of fans base, in baseball, football, basketball they all have different teams and thats the reason for it…infact just say if Peyton Manning leaving Indy for Dever,,bet most of the fans in Indy will still pull for Indy…or vise versa…its the same game plan Nascar started with and its even in its name!

    By having and promoting competition between brands of cars gave Nascar something for the ‘driver fan’ and ‘car fan’….and the car fan is not a dying breed….it just they have turned to other car related sports and not Nascar!

  5. Tony Geinzer Says:
    April 11th, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Duh, Junior should no longer carry NASCAR’s Franchise Tag, as he is a Dog, but not a Kyle Busch or Brian France.