SBJ/November 5-11, 2012/Research and Ratings

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  • Drivers should take a spin online, study shows

    NASCAR fans consume more and more information on the sport from social and digital media, but a new study by marketing and communications firm Taylor shows teams and brands can improve how they engage the fans through those outlets.

    Avid NASCAR fans over the last year reported they were twice as likely to have engaged and interacted with athletes of other sports through social and digital media than they were with NASCAR drivers. The sport’s teams and sponsors historically have had drivers make appearances at retail outlets in race markets but are only beginning to make drivers available online, as Roush Fenway Racing did when it hosted a Google+ Hangout with Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne before the Daytona 500.

    “We’re still doing a lot of Kroger retail visits,” said Ryan Mucatel, Taylor’s managing partner. “How many brands are truly engaging with an active fan base online the way they could be?”

    Avid NASCAR fans continue to increase their consumption of social and digital media. More than half said they visit social media sites regularly for NASCAR content and 78 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds said they turn to outlets such as Facebook and Twitter for NASCAR information. Most of them use those outlets to share NASCAR information with others, too.

    The study, which is based on a survey of 1,500 self-described avid NASCAR fans, was fielded for Taylor by the global research company Toluna. It is the fifth year the firm has done the study. Taylor counts NASCAR as a client and oversaw several studies for the sanctioning body two years ago in such areas as communications and the race-day experience.

    Taylor’s study didn’t identify the overall size of the NASCAR fan base or the percentage of casual or avid fans. It concentrated on avid fans and their consumption patterns.

    Avid NASCAR fans remain loyal to sponsors, saying they are more likely to buy the products of a brand that sponsors their favorite driver.

    The survey gave avid fans a list of 25 companies not in NASCAR and asked them which sponsors they would like to see get involved in the sport. The four most common answers were Nike, Google, Amazon and Apple. NASCAR and its teams have pushed to sign technology sponsors in recent years but had limited success.

    In a question on how avid fans choose their favorite driver, Taylor executives were surprised to see that 41 percent of NASCAR fans in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic said they pick their driver based on who his sponsor is, while only 27 percent of all avids said they chose a driver that way.

    Approximately 78 percent of avid fans said they would recommend the sport to others. That number was up from 71 percent a year earlier.

    Half of avid fans said they are “more” or “much more” interested in the sport than they were a year ago, and 61 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds said they are more interested in NASCAR than they were in 2011. Among fans surveyed who are relatively new to the sport, the number that said they are “much more interested” in NASCAR jumped to 65 percent.

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