SBD/December 5, 2013/Events and Attractions

Motorsports Marketing Forum: Autosports Not Immune To Concerns Over Fan Experience

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O'Donnell said star power among drivers plays a role in drawing fans
Attracting more fans to the race track was a central topic on a panel during the second morning of the ’13 NASCAR Motorsports Marketing Forum. Speaking on the “Creating The Ultimate Fan Experience” panel, NASCAR Senior VP/Racing Operations Steve O’Donnell said that the governing body’s first priority is making sure the on-track product is competitive, but that star power among drivers also plays a role in drawing fans. O’Donnell said, “We’ve recognized over the years that -- drivers coming up through the system -- fans need to recognize them. Building those names and brands before the fans see them on Sunday is important for us. We have really taken the initiative to not just look at Cup. If (Nationwide Series driver) Kyle Larson gets in that Cup car, people are going to know who he is.” Newly appointed Hulman & Co. Chief Revenue Officer Jay Frye credited the on-track product with success at the gate. Frye: “It comes back to the product. If the product is on good ground, a lot of these things will fix themselves.”

LOOKING AT THE ECONOMICS: Circuit of the Americas Chief Marketing & Revenue Officer Geoff Moore said spending habits largely dictate whether fans will attend an event. “It comes down to what events people are willing to spend money on,” Moore said. “The fan has to take into account the total cost of their trip to your venue. We have to do a better job of being the concierge to the fan to help them find the best combination. That’s been a bit of an evolution for us.” Meanwhile, NHRA Senior VP/Marketing Gary Darcy said NHRA fans "still have a very high interest in the sport," but their personal economic circumstances “are preventing them from coming.”

ABILITY TO CONNECT: In addition to the on-track product and star power among drivers, O’Donnell said that NASCAR puts a prime focus on fans being able to access digital properties while at the track. “It’s the connectivity,” O’Donnell said. “It’s not necessarily going to bring hundreds of thousands of new fans to the track, but it is going to shore up the expectations that any fan has. We’re seeing tracks invest heavily to put these plans in place. You see that with Daytona and Texas with the big board.”

ONLY AT THE TRACK: Moore said that for November's F1 Grand Prix, COTA “invested a lot of money” in creating “unique areas around the track” for fans to explore. Moore: “The big advantage that tracks have is that you can have the physical experience you can’t have at home. We gave the fans access to areas they hadn’t had before … people responded in an overwhelmingly positive manner.”

For more from the Motorsports Marketing Forum, please see our On The Ground blog.
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