Blog Post 1

Blog Post 1

The Search for a “Casual” Fan

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times Action is seen during the Daytona 500 NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017.

What They’ve Done so Far.

The goal of any major sports organization is to reach a wider audience and get as many people interested in their product as possible. Reaching the “casual” audience, or the people who don’t watch or are uninterested in the sport has been the goal of NASCAR executives over the past half-decade. This is evident to all hardcore fans, just look at some of the major changes the sport has gone through recently. The introduction of the “playoffs,” the reduction of horsepower in a (failed) attempt to create closer racing, stage racing, and most recently the upcoming “Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum” which features a ¼ mile track inside the famed Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. All of these changes have been geared towards attracting new fans to the sport and expanding the audience of NASCAR, all the while leaving hardcore and lifelong fans feeling alienated and like an afterthought. It is vital that NASCAR finds a balance between catering towards new “casual” fans and the fans that watch every weekend. The health and growth of the sport rely upon this.

The upcoming Busch Clash is achieving its goal of getting new fans to the track.

What They’re Doing Wrong.

Picture of the finished track at the L.A. Coliseum

The race at the Coliseum is becoming more and more of a pure entertainment event than a race at all. Because it is an exhibition, there is nothing inherently wrong with this, the problem lies in how new fans will perceive NASCAR following the event. With artists like Pitbull and Ice Cube confirmed to be performing both before and during the race, it will be a hard act for NASCAR to follow if they want to retain their new audience following the Clash. I think some new fans might be disappointed if they tune into a race in the mid-summer and find the race to be much much different than this weekend. A race on a normal weekend consists of a short concert from a usually unknown country singer, followed by the national anthem and ending with a race which averages from three to four hours in length. The shorter race this weekend combined with performances from two globally famous artists will make the race feel like a whole different sport compared to a normal regular-season race. I fear that this race will paint a picture of NASCAR being unserious and having too much of a laid-back attitude toward their product. This catering towards new audiences and casual fans will ultimately result in a short-term gain and a long-term loss.

What They Should Do.

I think the best thing that NASCAR can do for themselves is to present themselves as a serious sport that takes pride in its on-track product as well as the drivers that represent it. The sport already struggles with an image problem from an outsider’s perspective. People from outside the sport don’t take it as seriously as leagues like the NBA or NFL, and it isn’t given nearly as much respect. If NASCAR promotes its racing on a week to week basis, promotes its drivers, and pushes the right storylines, they will be able to find success in bringing new viewers to the sport. Their biggest challenge will be to stick to this plan and fully commit in order to rise back to become a top sport in the United States.