Motorsports marketing is about the fans
As fan attendance slips, tracks struggle to try and stay afloat. Since fan attendance has been dropping since the nineties, tracks have scrambled to correct the cash flow problem by increasing the back gate and by adding more classes to bring in more paying entertainers to their venue. What we really need to do is bring the fan base back to grass roots racing. Bring back grass roots racing as an entertainment venue instead of having racing more as a club/ hobby venue focused at entertaining the participants. We have to ask ourselves some questions before we start trying to attract people back to the races. First; where did the fans that packed grandstands in the eighties and early nineties go? And, second, what do race fans want to come back to. They seem kind of like loaded questions, kind of like the meaning of life. If we knew the actual answer to those questions, we could solve most of the problems involving grass roots racing today.
Let’s look at the first mistake in motorsports marketing. Where did the local race supporting fans go? Some blame NASCAR for televising some of their races during prime time on Saturday nights. If this is the case then we need to ask ourselves what NASCAR offers in a televised race that live action doesn’t. In my opinion there are several things, but the main one that really sticks out is the fact that fans watching the race on TV can get more engaged and be more involved as the story of the race unfolds. The media coverage is excellent. Back story and personal anecdotes about the drivers, technical explanation as problems arise, listening in on driver crew communication, and the television crews actually create a story as the strategy of the race unfolds. Fans can sit in their comfy chairs, eat whatever food they want, drink whatever they want, and just watch as the “STORY” of the race unfolds before them. They are pulled in by the continual pummeling of engagement by the television media.
So the second question is,how can we use motorsports marketing to get them back? We have to shock and awe them. Push them right to the edge with outrageous creativity. I recently read a book by Seth Godin which talks about creating a free prize to boost sales. Like the story of Cracker Jack. Sales were flat until someone decided to put a small trinket of a prize inside the box, which sent sales through the roof. He goes on to say that the prize cannot be just average thinking in order to work; it has to push creative thinking right to the very edge.
What about changing up the food. Maybe every week offer a different special dinner. Tracks could charge a higher premium price, but things like a chicken dinner plate, a spaghetti dinner, Lasagna, meat loaf with mashed potatoes, or maybe some combination of Mexican cuisine. And while we are at it, why not set up an area with either tables and chairs, or picnic tables so they can sit and eat without having to sit with a plate in their lap. Pamper people a little like they would pamper themselves at home. For the regular track food, provide them with tasty well cooked food. If you have to hire a chef from a local restaurant to give your staff some cooking or preparation tips, it may be well worth the time. Keep the condiment area well stocked and with a good variety. If people can leave the track, drive five minutes down the road, and gets a better sandwich, with more condiments, cheaper, why bother eating anything at the track.
I’ve seen this next one done before at tracks, but not nearly as in depth as I believe is necessary. Tracks should have someone in the pits all night long doing interviews, or giving updates to the fans in the stands on teams making repairs after crashes. The person working the pits needs to look for the story that is unfolding. Tell the drivers at a drivers meeting that this will be happening and remind them to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner because there are children in the stands.
Let fans listen in
Scanners are very popular in NASCAR. The fans really want to be more involved in the action and listening in on the communication helps pull them into the action, surrounds them with the story that is developing before their eyes. Raceceiver one way communication systems are getting very popular. Tracks could play the Raceceiver feed over the PA system. Sometimes realigning the cars after a caution can take quite a bit of time. Letting them listen to that feed may let them understand why it takes so long. One thing I always thought was cool at the NASCAR races was the fan viewing area. People line up along the pit fence all the time at my local track to watch the driver and crews work on the cars. I don’t know how practical it is, but wouldn’t it be neat if there was some sort of fenced in walk way, or elevated walk way, for fans, through the pits. It would be a tough sell with the way insurance regulations are nowadays, but it would be a great way for the fans to be closer to the story, or show. There are a ton of different ideas that could work, but these were just a few. The main point is pulling the customer in and making them more involved.
Til next time, support your local track, but force your local track to entertain you.