# 43 Victory Junction Chevrolet driver Bubba Wallace prepares for the NASCAR Cup Series Super Start Batteries 400 presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas on July 23, 2020 .
Jamie Squire | Getty Images
A welcoming environment.
This is what NASCAR President Steve Phelps said when speaking to CNBC about how the sport wants to be perceived after its defining moment in 2020
“That has been Bubba’s mantra all the back of the season since June,” Phelps said. “It’s inviting and inclusive.”
Phelps did his media rounds before NASCAR returns on Sunday with one of its key events, the Daytona 500. In his third year as president, Phelps is tasked with repairing the organization that once drew 11 million viewers to its signature race.
NASCAR made headlines in 2020 when it banned the Confederate flag Last June. It was behind driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, who had a backlash after calling for the ban. And then Wallace was in the center of a Noose charge.
Previously, driver Kyle Larson used a racist arc when engaging with a live video game community. This brought NASCAR into the spotlight, which no sports company wants. It had to face its problems to move forward.
“It was the most challenging year in our sporting history, but I would say it was the most enjoyable and successful in our sporting history,” said Phelps.
Now comes the challenging part: creating a welcoming environment by considering race and diversity issues and thereby repairing NASCAR’s business.
Former NBA Chicago Bulls Guardian Michael Jordon held the crowd high during pre-race ceremonies prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 22, 2010 in Concord, North Carolina.
John Harrelson | Getty Images
After Wallace’s departure from Richard Petty Motorsports, basketball icon Michael Jordan formed the 23X1 racing team together with well-respected driver Denny Hamlin. They recruited Wallace as a top driver.
I am a good move for NASCAR, which is betting that Jordan will spark new interest.
“We’re thrilled to have Michael here,” said Phelps. “I think this will generate considerable interest in itself. Like most owners, Michael only wants to be successful on the track,” he added.
Wallace hasn’t recorded any Victory in his career. He has to be successful for NASCAR to get it Tiger Woods-like PGA Tour momentHe had a tough night in Daytona 500 qualifying 2021, finished second in Duel 2 and got one sixth starting position in the race on Sunday.
One person who spoke to CNBC about Wallace’s influence mentioned Danica Patrick as an example how things can go if Wallace doesn’t win. The person asked not to be identified due to sensitivity to the subject.
Patrick set records in the sport as a driver in 2012 and cast a positive light on diversity, the person said. But despite the high profile, she struggled and eventually decided to leave Full time in 2017.
NASCAR has the ability to increase viewership and engagement by using Wallace as an entry point. Pop star Pitbull is also a NASCAR team partner. He joined the Trackhouse Racing Team in January.
“I’m very optimistic about NASCAR this season,” said Dan Cohen, senior vice president of Octagon’s global media rights advisory group. “You’re back on your schedule. You have Bubba Wallace – a good storyline. You have got celebrity owners involved, which adds a little flair.”
A former NASCAR team owner, who spoke to CNBC on condition of anonymity, said NASCAR should attract even more celebrity owners. Hip hop star Snoop Dogg name was mentioned.
Phelps said, “There are some names that have been thrown away. I don’t know if any of them will be used.”
Bubba Wallace, driver of the # 43 Victory Junction Chevrolet, takes a selfie with NASCAR drivers that put him at the top of the grid as a token of solidarity with the driver ahead of the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 on June 22nd at Talladega Superspeedway. 2020 in Talladega, Alabama.
Chris Graythen | Getty Images
In addition to celebrities and Wallace’s potential success, NASCAR needs a marketing strategy that targets a minority, suggested a longtime marketing director Tony Ponturo.
How will Phelps and the company sell NASCAR to more diverse communities? What will it do to attract newer fans onto the track?
Ponturo, the former vice president of Anheuser-Busch In global media sports and entertainment marketing, NASCAR suggested avoiding “overcomplicated things” like the playoff system.
“I think they confuse more people than they educate,” said Ponturo. “As a sports fan, I couldn’t tell you how your entire system really works.”
He said a simplistic approach should work, adding, “You have to go to red and blue states and urban communities so that consumers have a reason to spend time playing the sport. And you have to work hard on that.”
“You have to market the sport to them and a driver, a team that could make it more relevant to them,” said Pyne. “And you have to talk about why this product is interesting.”
Pyne suggested better storytelling as a method. He said NASCAR’s promotion for Wallace could be action, and NASCAR could tell the audience what goes into building a car by showing more engagement behind the scenes.
“You have to tell the story about people,” said Pyne. “And when you can do all of this, things get interesting. The human part of it is a big part too.”
Ryan Newman, driver of the # 6 Koch Industries Ford, drives during the 62nd Annual NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 on February 17, 2020 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images
Building a new fan base takes patience and time and starts with Daytona.
Like other sports leagues, NASCAR touts its metrics, suggesting that its unique audience has grown by 17%. But money is made through sponsorship support and television viewers. And Daytona has suffered a loss in the past ten years.
During the race, the number of spectators rose by 18 million in 2002. It fell around 11 million viewers in 2017 and 9 million viewers in 2019. A. weather-related shift The 2020 race had to stretch over two days and attracted an average of 7.3 million viewers.
Marketing managers and NASCAR experts point out several things, including the failed “Tomorrow’s car“Project and a Charter systemthat turned off long-time fans. The great recession was to blame and affected participation, while NASCAR retired stars like Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It created a lack of interest and the number of viewers fell.
Worse still, the decision to move NASCAR to the Fox Sports and NBC Sports cable channels contributed to the loss of television exposure. It can help NBC move now his races to USA Network, which reaches 86 million households, compared to 80 million from NBCSN. The current $ 4.4 billion The rights agreement runs until 2024, after which NASCAR could run elsewhere.
According to advertising company MediaRadar, marketers have also declined. The company submitted data to CNBC showing 865 advertisers (for a total of $ 182 million) served NASCAR programs in 2020, up from 946 ads ($ 291 million) in 2019. MediaRadar collects advertising data from marketers through a variety of media channels including TV and online.
To counteract this, NASCAR wants to attract attention return a dirt road on the Bristol Motor Speedway. Sport hasn’t seen this in over 50 years. And expect more marketing popular drivers like 2020 champion Chase Elliott. Even the return of Larson, who was suspended for his mistake, engenders intrigue.
“The sport has a lot of momentum,” said Phelps. “And I think that will continue in 2021.”
The outside executives trust Phelps to deliver on time.
“Phelps is a smart marketer, a smart businessman,” Cohen said. “He understands – they have to change and adapt and adapt. He understands that they have to be different.”
Pyne added, “He’s a good person; a sincere person. I think he’s committed to doing the right thing.”
It’s the new NASCAR: a large, welcoming environment.
“We’re going to be disruptive,” said Phelps. “And we’ll be brave. And we’ll do it in our own authentic way. We’re not the NFL. We’re not the NBA. We’re NASCAR.”