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Volume 20 No. 42
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At Daytona 500: Earnhardt father and son video lights up social media

The Daytona 500 was a sellout for the second consecutive year.

NASCAR’s social media group scored a win of its own during Daytona 500 weekend, debuting an innovative way to share content on Snapchat and smashing its all-time record for views of a single piece of social content on any platform.

Headed up by Scott Warfield, NASCAR’s managing director of social media, the group brought about four pairs of Snapchat Spectacles to Daytona. Spectacles give viewers a first-person vantage point with video shot by cameras inserted in the specially made sunglasses. NASCAR put the spectacles on former NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson as he waved the green flag to start the Daytona 500. The resulting content gave viewers on the younger-skewing platform an important angle of the race.

However, the real highlight of the weekend for NASCAR’s social team came with a 2-minute, 13-second video it made that debuted the day before the 500. Set to Zac Brown Band’s “My Old Man,” the video montage showed the relationship between driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his father, late NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Sr. The piece had generated more than 20 million views on Facebook as of the middle of last week, obliterating NASCAR’s prior record for a piece of content, which was around 5 million views.

The video on the relationship between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his father generated more than 20 million views.

TRACKING THE NUMBERS: When NASCAR’s overnight ratings came in at 9 a.m. Monday, the initial figures looked promising for the sanctioning body. The overnight was a 6.5, up about 7 percent from a near record low 6.1 last year. NASCAR’s ratings often see upticks from overnight numbers to fast nationals, because of NASCAR’s strength in the rural areas that are incorporated into the more updated ratings reports. However, when fast nationals were released that afternoon showing a 6.6, they showed no jump from last year’s final rating, leaving NASCAR flat in ratings. Still, NASCAR did see a 5 percent jump in viewership this year, to 11.9 million average viewers.

Mike Mulvihill, Fox Sports’ executive vice president of research, league operations and strategy, said he was undeterred by the flat rating. “I thought it was a really positive first step. I think if you had asked us two weeks ago if we would have signed up for a 5 percent viewership increase and a 10 percent gain in the [male 18-34] demo, I think we certainly would have taken that.”

Mulvihill noted that NASCAR’s new race format, which breaks the race into segments, “was motivated by a desire to get people to tune in earlier … and I think on that level it really worked.” He was encouraged by data that showed the first hour to 90 minutes of the race were up nearly 10 percent in viewership. However, with a number of crashes involving star drivers relatively early in the race, “we just had some key cars that were not able to complete the race,” which likely caused some of the audience to tune out.

FULL HOUSE: While there was mild concern from some in the industry heading into the race weekend given the lack of a sellout announcement, on Saturday afternoon Daytona announced that the 101,500 reserved seats that make up the frontstretch were sold out for the 500. The packed crowd on Sunday, along with favorable weather for nearly the entire weekend, contributed to a positive vibe during race weekend. The sellout marked the second straight for the race since Daytona rebuilt and reconfigured its grandstands.

Coatings company Axalta cut the ribbon on its new “injector” sponsorship at Daytona.
Photo by: ISC

AXALTA’S DEBUT: After landing Daytona’s fifth and final “injector” sponsorship in May of last year, Philadelphia-based coatings company Axalta took part in a grand opening for its branded track entrance on Friday morning of 500 weekend. Executives and customers of the company were on hand for the unveiling and saw highlights of the company’s coatings. That included the blurring red and blue colors painted onto the exterior of the building, as well as a Six Flags roller coaster cart being shown off at the entrance as part of Axalta’s work with the theme park brand.

Terms of the sponsorship weren’t revealed, but International Speedway Corp., which owns Daytona, pitched the injectors for around $2 million to $2.5 million annually over 10- to 15-year terms. The track’s other entrance sponsors are Chevrolet, Toyota, Florida Hospital and Sunoco.

STORY CAUSES A BUZZ: At midweek in Daytona, the one topic perhaps as ubiquitous as any other was a Wall Street Journal story about NASCAR and the France family.

Brent Dewar, NASCAR’s chief operating officer, sounded off about the piece on stage at NASCAR’s partner summit in Daytona, according to multiple attendees, expressing displeasure with what he and some others in the industry perceived as a lack of balance to the piece. Multiple high-level team owners spoke out against it including Joe Gibbs, Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske.

However, the negative reaction was not unanimous; privately, some in the industry thought the story was generally fair. Regardless, many in the industry said the story could have a negative impact as they approach potential sponsors or seek renewals.

Other observations:
One team renewal to watch out for this year in NASCAR is Smithfield with Richard Petty Motorsports. Sources throughout the garage have said that many teams will likely chase a deal with Smithfield, given the brand’s level of spend and commitment to activation. But RPM, which has struggled on track in recent years and downsized from two cars to one this past offseason, is intent on trying to keep the pork conglomerate.

Ingenuity Sun Media was pleased with its debut weekend as title sponsor of International Speedway Corp.’s Vision video board properties. ISM replaced Sprint as sponsor of the video boards, which are set up in the infield and frontstretch to provide amenities like way-finding, schedules, live action and highlights. The company was busy meeting with executives across the industry at Daytona and has already struck a number of partnerships for the digital ad network it is creating in conjunction with ISC as part of the deal, said Jeff Hutchins, chief development officer of the company. He said ISM’s data was showing that NASCAR fans were over-indexing last weekend in the amount of time they watch the screens relative to ISM’s other work at places like outdoor malls and universities.