SBD/July 28, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Travis Pastrana's Nationwide Debut Could Bring Younger Fans And Sponsors To NASCAR

Pastrana will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut during Saturday's Kroger 200
Travis Pastrana will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at this Saturday's Kroger 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway, and his success could generate new fans and money for NASCAR, which has “a fan base that has been graying,” according to Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. A sponsorship “downturn in the Sprint Cup Series has coincided with a dip in the 18-34 demographic so highly coveted by marketers, and it has driven NASCAR to launch social media campaigns targeted at young adults.” GMR Marketing Exec VP/Sports Marketing Mike Boykin indicated that Pastrana’s debut “should appeal to flat-billed-cap-wearing kids enamored with a daredevil whose stunts resulted in a documentary chronicling countless injuries and surgeries.” Ryan notes Pastrana has more than 175,000 Twitter followers and “nearly 3 million fans on Facebook.” By comparison, Jimmie Johnson has 534,000 Facebook fans and Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s “most popular driver, has 1 million.” But ESPN VP/Motorsports Rich Feinberg “cautions personality might not be as important as performance in building a bridge between the divergent fan bases.” Ryan notes ESPN “is heavily cross-promoting the ‘Pastranathon’” this weekend -- with Pastrana participating in the X Games today and Friday before flying to Indianapolis for the NASCAR race and then flying back to L.A. for X Games competition Sunday. Highlights of Pastrana during the NASCAR race “will be shown Saturday on the X Games cablecast and on video boards at the event” in L.A. (USA TODAY, 7/28).

WORTHY INITATIVE: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL’s Tripp Mickle notes Michael Waltrip Racing teamed with Pastrana to “give the action sports star equity in its Nationwide Series team, which was renamed Pastrana Waltrip Racing last fall.” MWR Exec VP/Business Development Ty Norris said, “It’s not just a NASCAR initiative, or a Michael Waltrip Racing initiative. This is a youth initiative. The youth market is something so important to us going forward, and what we see in Travis is not only a guy with incredible passion and desire to be a champion … but one who also has a massive following” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/25 issue). In Delaware, Mike Finney writes it would be “quite a coup for NASCAR should Pastrana make the transition to racing stock cars.” Team Owner Michael Waltrip said, "Travis has built an enormous and unique following all over the world. This is an opportunity to showcase our sport to a new generation of young fans. We're also looking for that next big star” (Wilmington NEWS JOURNAL, 7/28).
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