SBD/March 14, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Many NASCAR Metrics Up With Dale Jr. Success, But Ratings Still In A Slump

Lionel Racing believes Earnhardt's Daytona 500 die-cast will become its best seller
Many indicators for NASCAR this season to date reflect "an accompanying bounce in buzz" following Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s strong start, "except the most important indicator" -- TV ratings, according to Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. Taking into account that the Daytona 500 suffered a rain delay of more than six hours, ratings "have been down for the first three races," prompting talk about whether Earnhardt's success "can spur nationwide interest." NASCAR CMO Steve Phelps said, "He has a massive following, and his fan base is energized. But trying to measure an impact is difficult, and we look at a number of things. Ratings are one indicator, but we're not overly concerned about that." Phelps said that the metrics "most important to NASCAR sponsors are TV ratings and attendance." He added that while there have been no sellouts in any of the first three Sprint Cup races, NASCAR has been "encouraged by this season's crowds, particularly an estimated 25,000 for qualifying at Vegas." Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage: "Whenever Junior does well, we all do well. At the same time, no one person determines the sport's success or failure." Ryan reports Earnhardt's early success "seems to be driving growth in digital and social channels." NASCAR.com web traffic "mushroomed in February for unique visitors (up 55%), page views (68%) and videos (122%) from last year." Fanatics.com also reported that Earnhardt merchandise "is up nearly 1,000% over the first races of 2013, and Lionel Racing is predicting Earnhardt's die-cast will become the best seller of the company's four years in NASCAR, doubling the sales of the previous mark" (USA TODAY, 3/14).

TOY STORY: In Tennessee, Kevin Castle writes Lionel Racing's future "really started looking up" after this year's Daytona 500. Lionel "began taking orders for a raced, die-cast version of the National Guard number 88 just hours after" Earnhardt won. Lionel Senior VP & GM Howard Hitchcock said, "We began selling 100 cars an hour." He said that the current rate of Earnhardt’s sales of that particular car "have already beaten sales of the two previous Daytona 500 winners, Jimmie Johnson and Trevor Bayne, by a 2-1 margin in just three weeks." The win "could possibly signal a new uptick in die-cast sales, which Hitchcock admitted took a hit with the economic downturn." He also admits that as Earnhardt goes, "so goes the industry." Hitchcock: "As his momentum grows, it sort of carries the entire sport. It carries ticket sales. It carries merchandise sales. It brings more people to the track, sells more hotel rooms and meals at restaurants and it sells us more cars" (BRISTOL HERALD COURIER, 3/14).
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