You can’t describe 200mph. Ask anybody who has ever been to a live motorsports event, be it NASCAR, Forumla1, Superbike or anything inbetween – and I’ll bet they remember their first time. You can’t guess. You can’t anticipate. You can’t possibly imagine 200mph.
And yet, for those who must market in the world of motorsports, this is your task. You deploy images, videos, the most poetic of descriptions, all in the hope of capturing some small sliver of the experience. And that this tiny piece can serve as a reminder to those who have known the thrill before of just how incredible and indescribable it was. And that you might have some hope of breaking through to a fresh mind – because if they only knew.
This has always been the fundamental challenge at the core of marketing for the motorsports industry. How do you translate the experience? How do you get people to understand? How do you appeal to a new audience? How do you evoke the passion?
The challenge has become especially stark in recent years, as the Baby Boom generation begins to age out of key demographics and Millennials take their place. The current crowd of 18-34 year-olds simply does not value the same things as the generations that have come before them, nor do they exhibit the same behaviors. They are a generation of Uber and AirBNB and Spotify and Netflix. There’s no need for them to work toward and value ownership when technology can provide them with on-demand solutions.
The Sharing Economy
The difference in Millennial spending habits has a three-fold effect on motorsports. For one, Millennials have a totally different relationship with cars than their parents or grandparents did. Fewer young people own a car or ever care to own a car. Those that do are far less likely to perform any tuning or maintenance on their own. True gear-heads are becoming much more rare.
Second, TV ratings for big brand name motorsports like NASCAR and Formula 1, are on a downward trend. But, this isn’t necessarily an indictment on these sports, as live TV viewership is down across the board for all kinds of programming (with NFL football being the rare exception, and even they are not totally immune). In general though, young people prefer to do their TV viewing via DVR or through On-Demand or streaming services.
Third, if Millennials aren’t spending their disposable income on purchasing assets like homes and cars, what are they spending it on? Experiences. And that’s a great thing for motorsports.
The Way Forward
The motorsports industry is not in a period of doom and gloom as some would have you believe. The audience might be changing, but that doesn’t mean it is disappearing – you just have to know where to look.
For one, while NASCAR’s TV viewership ratings are down a bit, they are still in the early years of a 10 year, $8.2 billion TV deal with NBC and Fox that carries them through 2024. TV-wise, NASCAR will be just fine.
But NASCAR isn’t alone in this. IndyCar’s viewership numbers are definitely lower than they were at their peak in the ‘90s, but are actually up year-over-year. Not only that, but series that have been considered more niche like AMA Supercross and FIA World Rallycross Championship are exploding. Both have been incredibly effective at reaching their audiences and are going through periods of record growth – WRC’s viewership grew 550% in a single year!
A big part of this success is knowing how to reach their audience – Millennial and otherwise. Common themes are mixing traditional broadcast coverage with livestreaming and social media. This kind of approach has been shown to work with amazing results. Again, over a 12-month period, WRC saw Facebook sharing increase 348%, increased Twitter followers by 202%, and grew on Instagram by an otherworldly 900%.
Even NASCAR has stepped up its social media game, having garnered 2 billion impressions across social media channels and 92 million engagements – just this year.
AMA Supercross has done an incredible job of appealing to their core audience by turning their live events into truly remarkable experiences, providing a vast array of entertainment. Fireworks, light shows and high energy music and videos are interspersed with racing action throughout the event to ensure there isn’t a second of downtime in the excitement.
So, while the challenges of marketing for motorsports have certainly changed in recent years, and indeed in some ways have gotten more difficult, a bit of creative thinking and knowledge about where to find your audience can put you in a position to succeed. While the rise of the Millennial generation may represent doom and gloom to some, we see nothing but tremendous, untapped growth potential.
At 10twelve one of our specialties is marketing for the motorsports industry. It is a passion of ours. Need help developing the perfect strategy for your business? Contact us to learn more.