SBD/Issue 197/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NASCAR Working To Connect With Fans As Demographics Change

ESPN Sports Poll Says 60% Of NASCAR Fans
Live Outside The South While 41% Are Female
NASCAR is "coping with maintaining the interest of a fan base that increasingly reflects the country's 21st-century sophistication," according to a sports-section cover story by Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. The shift has occurred as fans "have become a focal point for re-energizing a phenomenon whose once-surging popularity has lost steam." TV ratings and attendance are in a "three-year dip after steady growth for more than a decade," and NASCAR "has refocused on catering to a constituency that seems vastly different from the redneck stereotype some associate with stock car racing." Richard Petty Motorsports co-Owner Richard Petty: "We have to play the game a little different than what we did 15 or 20 years ago, because society is dictating they want to see something different. It makes it really tough from NASCAR's standpoint (of), 'What is the fan really looking for?'" An ESPN Sports Poll indicated that 60% of fans "live outside the South and 41% are female." Since '00, fans "making $100,000 or more have jumped from 7% to 16% of its fan base." Sports Business Group President David Carter said as fans have "moved out of their Southern roots and penetrated big metro markets, the demographic of their casual fan base has become more diversified." Ryan notes NASCAR last year "created a 12,300-member, Internet-based 'fan council' representing all 50 states for the purpose of conducting opinion surveys." The creation of the council is "part of an industrywide push to make a circuit always billing itself as 'fan friendly' even more accommodating to those buying tickets." But former SMI President & CEO Humpy Wheeler said that NASCAR "should remain mindful that its fan base is 'pretty much blue collar.'" Wheeler: "There are upper-middle-income fans, but mostly they came from modest backgrounds. They are very conservative, flag waving, and yes, they drink beer. You have to be so careful with what you do. ... They got away from the roots, and the roots don't change very fast" (USA TODAY, 7/1).

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