NASCAR is bringing digital ad sales back in-house from Turner Sports after this year and will create a new ad sales group headed by former SI Media Group executive Jon Tuck, the next step in the sanctioning body’s quest to create a more integrated digital model.
Turner has handled NASCAR’s digital ad sales since 2000, when it also began a 13-year run controlling the organization’s digital rights.
The move was long expected, and business ties between the two have been receding since NASCAR paid an eight-figure sum to bring digital rights back in-house starting in 2013, a year early. The change also comes after Turner didn’t bid for NASCAR’s most recent media-rights package in 2013 after 29 years broadcasting the sport, meaning all business ties between the two sides will end in 2017.
|NASCAR will work with buyers to customize digital ads.
With Turner serving as a middleman between NASCAR and digital media buyers, some industry executives had said privately that the sport would be better served working directly with media buyers and brands on digital ad sales.
Dewar said having NASCAR’s digital content team work directly with the ad sales group will be beneficial and allow the sanctioning body to customize needs for advertisers.
“More importantly is … hearing from the client directly, ‘This is what they’re trying to achieve with this communication, program or release,’” Dewar said. “Having that closer piece between the ad sales team and the developers of the site, it’s just easier.”
NASCAR would not confirm how many positions will be added to the new sales group, which will sell only digital media and will be announced this week. Tuck, who started July 7 as chief revenue officer of NASCAR Digital Media, reports to Colin Smith, NASCAR’s vice president of digital media. Dewar noted that Tuck was also a top sales executive for SI from 2012 to 2016, during which time SI brought its digital rights back in-house from Turner.
In 2013, the PGA Tour also took its digital rights back in-house from Turner, which nonetheless maintains a healthy portfolio managing Bleacher Report, PGA.com, NCAA.com and ELeague, and co-managing all of the NBA’s digital properties.
“Turner has enjoyed a successful, long-standing partnership with NASCAR dating back to 1983 — airing NASCAR on TBS and TNT — and in more recent years collaborating to build and grow the NASCAR digital business,” Matt Hong, Turner’s executive vice president and general manager, said in a statement. “… We wish NASCAR continued success in all future endeavors.”
The sanctioning body averaged 1.3 million unique visitors per day across its home page and apps through the first half of the 2016 season, down 7 percent from 1.4 million at the comparable point last year, according to data reviewed by SportsBusiness Journal. NASCAR also saw an average of 8 million page views per day, the data showed, down 25 percent from 10.6 million at the comparable point last year.
NASCAR, however, notes bright spots include that it is on track to surpass 1 billion page views for the third straight year, that content consumption (page views plus video views per visit) is up 5 percent year over year, and that numbers are up substantially on social media. Current advertisers on NASCAR.com include Sprint, Xfinity, Mobil 1, MillerCoors, Coca-Cola, FedEx and Crown Royal.
“The fact that we have such good partners, I think that’ll make the transition easier,” Tuck said.
The move will be closely watched by the sport’s teams, who earned clearer definitions of their rights in regard to digital revenue as a result of the sport’s new ownership charter system and are eyeing new digital integrations with NASCAR that could lead to the type of model seen in many stick-and-ball leagues. Under the charter system, teams earn 60 percent of the revenue derived from digital media rights, while tracks receive 30 percent and NASCAR takes the remaining 10 percent.