Jenna does a good job of rounding up the whacky goings on over the last fortnight in NASCAR. If you haven’t been following along, you’ll want to rush over and read it, even if you don’t care if NASCAR disappears tomorrow. Because there’s some case study-like material in there that all major sports brands (yeah, including IndyCar) could learn from.
"There's a lot of talk about integrity," Henderson said. "When the guy who's in charge can say, 'I can do whatever I want and I'm going to do it and I just did,' I wonder about integrity. I want to make sure we can win in this sport, OK?"
Fantastic point, Mr. Henderson, which serves to drive home the brand damage NASCAR it taking in this incident. More on that here. That and other comments throughout Jenna’s story only cause me to freshly lament IndyCar’s weak position.
Academically, IndyCar looks like a good alternative to NASCAR right now. It has a rule book. It doesn’t just randomly change things just because — at least not on the level of just adding a 13th driver to an alleged 12-driver playoff system. It doesn’t have a playoff system so the Chase gaming shenanigans don’t happen there. Taking a competitor out on purpose has always been illegal. The guy in charge of IndyCar doesn’t say “I can do whatever I want and I'm going to do it and I just did.” So, if NASCAR fans were even vaguely aware that IndyCar existed … and IndyCar actually raced in September so they could sample the product, and it wasn’t broadcast on Mars (NBC Sports Network) … maybe it could pick up a few fans who grow fatigued by Cirque du NASCAR.
Instead the “news” from IndyCar in September is the loss of the Baltimore race and some testing. Oh and TV audiences growing to a whoppin’ 350,000. But stay tuned for our next race in two weeks.
I repeat myself for the 293rd time: If IndyCar had more fans, it would be in a stronger position, and it maybe could capitalize on a competitor’s missteps. Fans fans fans fans fans. 1) IndyCar needs a lot more of them. 2) It takes a focused effort over many years to build the fan base 3) it won’t happen if attracting more fans isn’t priority one … yeah, ahead of teams, owners, drivers and sponsors.
More fans leads to better TV numbers (attractive for sponsors and for getting a better TV deal), better butts-in-seats numbers (attractive for tracks, race presenting sponsors and team sponsors), higher general awareness (more fans means more people are aware, and fans wear their fan stuff and talk about their fan-ness and that creates wider general awareness).
Yeah, I have offered some ideas beyond "spend $21 million on marketing" to attract more fans. They are here.
So what usually happens when I post one of these screeds is someone will parse the fan audience and talk about the demo and argue that more fans don’t mean better things, necessarily, and someone else will say “it’s more of a B-to-B play” and another person will claim fans are priority three or four, tops, and someone will jump in with the “it’s all due to shitty marketing/promotion” argument, followed by the “All you do is complain! Don’t worry. Be happy. Love it or leave it,” and it's the same argument, version 129. Meanwhile IndyCar powers that be move at a glacial pace (at least that's the perception out here in fan land) and another year goes by wherein IndyCar has 10% of the fan base of NASCAR.
But, maybe, just maybe, IndyCar is what it is. Maybe 350,000 to 500,000 TV viewers, 250,000 (give or take) at the Indy 500 and 25,000 at every other race is as good as it’s going to get. Honestly, I’m starting to think that’s the ceiling and I should (or need to be) OK with that. And, increasingly, I am.
Or, maybe, just maybe, I should simmer down and let the people at 16th and Georgetown figure it out take it or leave it in the meantime, and just let whatever happens, happen. Yes, that seems to be the best course, especially now that I've gotten the above off my chest. Thanks for listening.
Because even though we may delude ourselves that we're influencing events with our blogs and Tweets and passionate discussions, really we're all just passengers on the bus driven by The Family and Mark Miles. You stay, get off or transfer to another bus as you like. Freedom of choice is awesome.
Here ends the (hopefully last) lamentation.