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Volume 24 No. 155

Events and Attractions

Amgen Tour of California yesterday announced that 12 cities have been named official host city partners for its ‘13 race, helping to make up the route which will take riders on a South to North course for the first time in the eight-year race history. The official race start, Stage 1, will be May 12 and will begin and finish in Escondido. The eighth and final stage of the Tour will start in S.F. and finish on May 19 in Santa Rosa, which played host to the official race start last year. Amgen returns as the race title sponsor for the eighth consecutive year. Listed below are the city partners for the Tour (Amgen Tour of California).

May 12
May 16
Santa Barbara to Avila Beach
May 13
Murrieta to Greater Palm Springs
May 17
San Jose (individual time trial)
May 14
Palmdale to Santa Clarita
May 18
Livermore to Mt. Diablo
May 15
Santa Clarita to Santa Barbara
May 19
S.F. to Santa Rosa

HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST: In San Diego, David Garrick notes the race “brought crowds, excitement, tourists and national exposure to Escondido in February 2009, but it hasn’t returned since the slumping economy forced organizers to shrink the length of the race by eliminating San Diego County in 2010.” Escondido’s role in the race “will be much larger than it was four years ago because the city has been designated as the 2013 ‘starting line’ host.” The job includes “coordinating a week of parties and media events leading up to the 750-mile race.” Escondido officials have “hailed the race as a huge opportunity to boost the city’s image and reputation with tourists and developers planning housing projects or business parks.” An estimated “300,000 people, many of them tourists, watched at least part of the Escondido stage in person in 2009” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 11/28). In California, Bob Norberg notes Santa Rosa has “hosted starts and finishes in six of the seven tours that have been held,” and the city last May “staged the prestigious overall start.” Santa Rosa Tour organizing committee Chair Raissa de la Rosa said that the city had “asked for a similar stage all within Sonoma County, but were given a San Francisco-Santa Rosa route instead.” But Norberg notes the “overall finish of the race is still considered a preferred stage” (Santa Rosa PRESS DEMOCRAT, 11/28).

SPINNING ITS WHEELS: CYCLING NEWS’ Laura Weislo reports the announcement was “delayed by several weeks compared with previous years, and this combined with reluctance by some host city applicants to put out the reported $100,000 required by organiser AEG to host a stage, and news that AEG itself was up for sale, led to doubts about the race's future.” But Amgen Tour Exec Dir & AEG Sports Senior VP Kristin Bachochin, whose company owns the race, “played down any worries about AEG and the stability of the event.” Bachochin said that the Tour had “more applicants than it could select to host the race.” Weislo writes, “Expect to see only 16 teams and 128 riders in the 2013 race, but the composition of the field in terms of WorldTour, Pro Continental and Continental teams is still to be determined” (, 11/28).

Twitter Head of Sports & Entertainment Omid Ashtari wrapped up the opening day of the ‘12 Motorsports Marketing Forum by discussing the company’s unique partnership with NASCAR, whereby Twitter compiles and delivers tweets related to the sanctioning body. He also talked about what the mircoblogging site is working on with other sports and what it takes to have an effective Twitter feed.

NO SLOWING DOWN: Ashtari discussed Twitter's growth potential and said, “People are still learning how to use Twitter. …What’s great is the conversation has picked up. There are more high profile people on Twitter and more fans on Twitter, but there’s still a lot of room for growth. ... All of our users use Twitter in a different way. Many people use it to get their news in the morning. Many people use it around sports events to get a sense for things. What is the roar in the crowd?”

THE FAST LANE: In regards to Twitter’s NASCAR partnership, Ashtari said, "We started talking to them a couple of years ago. We wanted to reach out to a very unique fanbase where the fans are all watching the sport at the same time. You don’t have that with the NFL. I may be watching the 49ers game. Someone else is watching the Eagles game. ... NASCAR since the beginning of the season has more than doubled their fanbase … and engagement has gone up. We saw a huge lift after the start of the partnership, and that lift has not gone away.”

SOCIAL BUTTERFLIES: Ashtari, discussing drivers who tweet well, said, “(IndyCar driver) Tony Kanaan is awesome. He’s constantly communicating with fans and he’s doing it internationally. He’s doing it in Portuguese and he’s doing it in English. … Brad (Keselowski) and Tony are two that stand out to me because they communicate with their fans. Jimmie (Johnson) does a great job of rewarding his fans. He does a retweet thing where he awards (swag for the) 48th retweet.” He added, “The Stewart-Haas account was one of my favorite accounts of the year because it had an edgy point of view.”

COMING SOON: Ashtari, when asked what is next in the sports-social media relationship, said, “We want to help our partners grow the way they communicate. Some people may have seen this last weekend, but NASCAR and Turner streamed what was going on inside Brad’s car through Twitter. In terms of what’s next, it’s figuring out what’s next in a tweet. A tweet is so much more than 140 characters. We want to figure out how we get the fans closer to being in the car.”

Quick hits from a one-on-one interview with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski at the '12 Motorsports Marketing Forum:

-- On having Miller Lite as his sponsor and the reaction to his drinking the product in the winner's circle the night he won the championship: “It is great to have a sponsor like Miller, because it’s a brand that allows you to be yourself and allows you to enjoy the moment.”

-- On ever being worried about how Miller might react to something he said: “Maybe a couple of times, but I think it could be a lot worse. I can’t think of any time Miller has called me and told me they wish I didn’t say that.”

-- On some of his conversations with team owner Roger Penske: “Short-term decisions are about always trying to win a championship. Long term decisions are always trying to stay ahead of the sport. … And long term decisions always circle around people. “

-- On his future in motorsports: “I want to be a leader in the sport. I think you can be a leader in the sport without being a car owner. … You look at some of the things that go on with TV. And look at some of the drivers, or crew members who come back to work for NASCAR. … I want to be a leader of the sport and make the sport better than it is today.”

-- On using Twitter: “I take more from it than I give to it. … I use it as a way to stay connected to the world in real time.”

 -- On the key issues facing NASCAR: “There are going to be two things that are going to change the sport. You have the ‘Gen Six’ car, because that is going to create some identity to the car, something that hasn’t been where we’ve wanted it to be, and that is going to be huge for the fans. But the one thing that really sticks to me is the ability to get data service at the racetrack. That is going to be huge. I went to the Lions game on Thanksgiving -- I’m a big Lions fan -- and my phone went dead in 20 minutes. For my generation, that (Wi-Fi connection is) the majority of the experience and not having that KILLS the experience. Those two things are going to be key to NASCAR’s future.”

-- On what brands he would be interested in working with: “I want to be associated with brands that are OK with me being me. I don’t want someone calling me complaining about what I said. So I might miss out on a few business deals, but I’m a lot happier as a person.”

Forecasting where the second half of NASCAR’s TV package will end up dominated conversation during a media panel at the ’12 Motorsports Marketing Forum. During an audience survey, nearly 70% of the voters felt that ESPN will obtain the rights to the second half of NASCAR’s season. NBC Sports President of Programming Jon Miller stressed the advantages of being an incumbent: “It’s very hard to take a property away from someone who wants to keep it.” Media consultant Ed Desser said the size and influence of ESPN cannot be ignored. Desser: “Anything that they decide that they have to have, they are going to have.”

Miller said that you cannot overlook the attitude of current rights holders: “A lot has to do with the rights holder. If you’re a rights holder, you look at it and ask, ‘What’s the best place to grow my sport.’” Desser agreed: “The days of looking at it as it’s only about the money is really wrong headed. It’s really about the relationship. The way the parties get along is really, really important.” Miller acknowledged that NBC would have interest in the second NASCAR package: “I will say the best ratings that NASCAR ever enjoyed is when NBC and Fox shared the package. We would be eager to listen and have a conversation. It’s a great property.”


-- Fox Sports Exec VP/Research & Programming Bill Wanger, asked about the much reported launch of Fox Sports 1: “As soon as we have something to say, we will say it and call you and give John [Ourand] a tape.”

-- Asked why Fox paid a rights increase when ratings have trended down, Wanger said: “You have to look at the environment when you’re negotiating the rights. You can’t just look at it from a ratings perspective.” Desser agreed: “You have to look at what’s going on in the sports environment. Live is what’s going on.”

-- Miller on NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champ Brad Keselowski’s interview at the conference in the morning: “I was so astounded by how adroit he was, and how he knows his audience. Those kinds of personalities and that kind of talent will serve NASCAR very well going forward.”

-- Desser said that ratings ebb and flow, and that being up or down 10% in viewership over a five-year period is no cause for concern: “There is nothing endemic from NASCAR or motorsports that people should be running for the exits.”

-- Miller, on NBC's relationship with IndyCar: “I think IndyCar will make a nice rebound this year. We think it will benefit from our F1 relationship.”

-- Miller, on NBC’s new deal with F1: “An interesting angle is the amount of Latino and Hispanic viewership.”

-- Miller, on viewer fatigue when it comes to NASCAR: “I think asking anyone to sit and watch anything for three-and-a-half hours is a lot. I think one of the things we found appealing for F1 is their races are an hour and 50 minutes. If you can try and keep your property under a three-hour window, you will do a better job of holding your audience.”

-- Wanger, on growing NASCAR’s ratings: “We have to get people to watch a little longer. That’s the way you grow your ratings.”

During the opening session of the ‘12 Motorsports Marketing Forum, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champ Brad Keselowski said that improving the digital experience for fans at the race track is one of the biggest issues facing motorsports. Judging by the response to a question posed to the audience before the next panel discussion, many of the industry’s top execs agree. When asked about the most pressing issue facing motorsports, nearly 50% of the audience voted, “Improving the fan experience at the track.”

NASCAR President Mike Helton added, “Creating an environment at the racetrack where the fan wants to be there, they are happy to be there and they leave talking about the experience of the race and the track is what you need. The tracks get that. The drivers understand their role at the track, and we understand our role as the series in pulling all this together. You have to have the synergy of the live audience enjoying your sport so they go home and talk about it and help drive the television audience.”

Another major theme was managing change and establishing stars. Helton said no matter how hard you try to manage change, "there are a lot of things we don’t have control over and we have to react to it." He cited driver retirement as an example. Helton: "Once they stop their career, there is a void there where fans have to find a new star to start following. That’s something that we have no control over.”

Asked if NASCAR could do a better job of building up new talent and having a pipeline for development, Helton cited NASCAR’s Star Driver program, which is trying to help support young talent. Helton said, “What we’ve taken a role in is educating drivers on the things that make them popular. What we are taking an aggressive role in is putting these types of facts in front of them, saying, ‘This is what matters off the race track.'" He added, “That doesn’t always instantly fill the void for fans of a Richard Petty, or a Dale Earnhardt Sr., as to when their career ends, and who their fans begin following after that. But this type of program helps close that gap for fans looking for new drivers to follow. With this type of star driver program, we are trying to minimize the impact of that change.”

NHRA President Tom Compton warned, though, that star drivers cannot be “created” or contrived. Compton: “I don’t know how you can manufacture someone’s personality. There needs to be a natural charisma, and on top of that, you have to win. So just creating that doesn’t happen. We have never figured out how to be able to do that. We’ve tried it. Someone needs genuine personality and they have to win races.”


-- Helton, on not disenfranchising traditional fans while going after new fans: “The balance is difficult, and sometimes you get out of balance. The effort is to sustain the core following while you’re going after new eyeballs. Sometimes you have to go back to the core group and tell them that the things they grew up on and fell in love with are still there.”

-- Helton, on the relationship with sponsors: “One of the things that helps with your sponsorships is your relationship with them. You have to have the awareness and the respect that the sponsor should get. There is a tremendous amount of respect that should go into that relationship. Then there is the function of all groups, including sponsors, being informed, and getting all groups informed with what you’re trying to accomplish. Then there is the function of pure value. We have to offer value to a sponsor. They may love to participate and love the people, but they need to have a value attached to it at the end of the day.”

-- Compton, on the state of the NHRA’s business: “On a sponsorship front, we’re doing a lot better than I thought we’d be doing. I think a lot of companies may be looking at us if they can’t participate in the higher level of the sport.”

-- Compton, on the possibility of Speed becoming Fox Sports 1 and decreasing its hours of motorsports programming: “For the smaller series, it might be a detriment. Some of the smaller series relied on Speed, and that could be an issue for some of the smaller tiered motorsports.”

-- Helton, on possible changes at Speed: “There are so many other players looking for sports content, and motorsports content is good content, so I think it will open the door for other opportunities.”