Where is motorsports marketing going?

Lately I’ve been having some fun studying marketing and decided to try and link what I have been learning to motor sports sponsorship and marketing. I guess it is also an effort to try and make this blog into a well rounded racing blog. Sponsorship and marketing  is a big part of racing; right? I mean, we all need money to put these cars on the track. So, I will try and report and relate what I learn as I go along.

Sponsorship or charity?

The first thing I have to say about sponsorship in most motor sports divisions today is merely a form of charity. I mean, how many of the names we see on the side of race cars actually see a monetary return on their investment. OK, I can hear the arguments that more people go to that auto parts store because they sponsor a race car. That may be true, I’ve heard many news clips stating that race fans are more brand loyal to sponsors of their sport than any other sport. But, does anyone actually attempt to measure that at any other levels than the top echelons of racing.

This mentality, to me, I would consider old school. You have a friend, or a guy who works on your car; he has a friend who owns a bar, and after a long night of patronage, enough to send his children to college, you convince him to give you a couple bucks to put the bars name on the side of your race car. But, if racers were to give local businesses more of a value could they demand more money. I hear many arguments by racers about taking grass roots racing to the next level and that promoters need to do more to attract TV to local dirt tracks. The way I see it, television spots are determined by the amount of viewers that are estimated to watch. Television stations need to sell advertising to keep their business afloat. If they don’t think they will have enough viewership at a certain demographic to sell the money making adds, they don’t air the show.

Interruption Marketing

I believe the sport as a whole has to put forth a grass roots effort to build a fan base. The trend in marketing in general within the last several years is targeted social marketing. If you get on the Internet, the buzz is about social media marketing. Old marketing techniques were coined as interruption marketing, and it worked for several decades. When you watched your favorite television show, you were “interrupted” every ten minutes or so with a clever add with a nifty little jingle to try and sell you some product or service. When you turn the pages of a magazine trying to look for the relevant content you want, you are “interrupted” by colorful ads some times smelling like the product they are trying to sell you. This social media marketing takes a little different approach to trying to get people to buy. Let’s face it, we need advertising; we love advertising. How else would we find out about things to do, products to buy to make our life better, services to make our life a little more comfortable. What we don’t want is being advertised to when we don’t want or for products we don’t have any interest in.

So, where does that leave us in auto racing? We need to build a bigger fan base. We all need to know the demographics of that fan base. We need to help our sponsors tailor their advertising around the demographics of that fan base. OK, how do we build a bigger fan base? I think it’s as simple as we all need to go out and pound the pavement. People with race cars need to drag their cars out to places to attract attention and actually engage people about coming out to the races. Race tracks need to get out in their community and promote their product. They need to put together an actual plan to go out and market their product; their weekly racing event. If a race track does not sell out every week, go out and give away tickets to fill the stands. If they are afraid of pissing off the people who paid for admission, use some creative way to give them away. Give them away to radio stations to give away on the air. But don’t just give them to any radio stations. Target the tracks demographics.

Demographics

Which now leads me to the next and most important part of the equation; Demographics. Does a track really know their demographics? They may guess, because I’ve been to a lot of tracks over the course of my entire life and have never filled out any survey or have been asked any questions about myself or my buying habits. Give people a coupon for $5 worth of food if they take a couple of minutes and take a survey. Just about every track has a website nowadays. Why not compose a survey on the website and try to capture some of that valuable marketing data.

The track can then use that actual data and “sell” advertising to companies that actively target that demographic and be able to back that up with actual survey numbers. The numbers will strengthen their sales pitch to businesses they target as advertisers. Turn these demographics over to racers so they can use them to help target sponsors for their cars. If the track spent too much money on obtaining that data, give it to the racers as part of a membership package. Every track sells memberships to people to give them a discount on the back gate; Woo Hoo, big deal! They should give the racers, with their memberships, assistance in helping them find funding for their race program. They could create a promotional package with demographics and information about the place they race to help them sell their product, sponsorship, and the track product, the races, as well. It could be a win, win situation for everyone.

I think that’s enough for now. I will continue next time more on the social aspect of the marketing. I would really appreciate any comments or ideas anyone would have on this, because I think we are all kind of in this together, and we need to increase our numbers.

Till next time, I know it’s hard, but try and stay warm.

Kevin