If you have been following my blogs, you know by now that I am an older race fan who is somewhat opinionated about the product we see on the race track, in particular, the lack of good racing in the Sprint Cup Series. I continue to beleive the blame for the sports decline in fan interest, is perched on the shoulders of the sponsors, with some blame burdened by Nascar.
An article in this month’s edition of ESPN The Magazine(The Money Edition) caught my attention. In response to the question that “Dale Jr. and Danica Patrick haven’t won a major race in four years”, Go Daddy founder and Executive Chairman, Bob Parsons, Danica’s sponsor since 2006, was quoted as saying, “Of course I want to win races, but we’re winning either way”. The 37 minutes and 26 seconds of exposure Patrick got at the Daytona 500 in February would have cost $11.8 Million Dollars. Since Go Daddy signed Danica Patrick, they have had an increase of market share from 25% to 54%.
This kind of relationship doesn’t sound to me like something that will produce good racing. When the people who pony up the dollars to sponsor a car don’t care if they win, as long as their logo is going around the track, and being televised, can’t be good for fans. With that type of an attitude, they get more TV time if their car wrecks, especially late in a race when everyone is watching.
The portion of blame I put on Nascar, has mainly to do with the rules package. The car owners are put in a position that require them to deal with these types of sponsors in order to remain competitive on a week to week basis. The small race teams who don’t have big dollar sponsors on their hoods struggle with even small rules changes. Let’s not forget that when Nascar mandates a change to improve fan interest, these teams have to comply without having that money tree in the back yard to harvest.
An article by USA Today from July of 2010, points out that attendance and the quality of racing has been a problem for some time. After the success Nascar enjoyed up until the start of the new millenia , has been in a downward spiral since 2003. With almost 4.5 million fans attending races in 2003, that number dropped over a million fans by 2010 to just over 3.5 million.
One factor stated by Fox Sports chairman David Hill, was that young males (age 18-34 Yrs. Old) were leaving the sport, where declines in that ratings were in the neighborhood of 29%. The economy didn’t start a real decline until after 2007, so it probably isn’t the total reason for decline. This particular demographic is telling me that they are leaving because the excitement is gone and the playoff system changes so often that it’s tough to keep up with how one needs to compete in order to make the playoffs.
As a side bar to this article, Humpy Wheeler was interviewed and indicated that multiple sponsor packages on top cars was making it difficult for a fan to find his favorite driver as races begin, sometime not being sure of where his car is on the track until late in races. He’s in favor of each car following a year long paint scheme, with sponsor graphics being added to this fixed theme. He is concerned that fans are losing interest because they can’t find their drivers.
I feel like the boom Nascar experienced in the late 1990′s was a fad. It became cool to be a Nascar Fan. Like all fads, this one too is losing interest. The wanna be motor-heads have went back to baseball, hockey and which ever sport the were big on, and decided racing really wasn’t their thing. Nascar didn’t help in the effort to keep them here.
The big reason we watch football, is the “on the field action”. If it weren’t exciting, we wouldn’t watch football. The NFL, has to change the rules occasionally to help with asset management and the safety of the players, but they haven’t hurt the action so much as to make it un-watchable. Maybe what we race fans need is for the sport to hit bottom and purge it of the sponsors who don’t care if their drivers win or not, because they don’t care. Then we can get back to the business of sponsors who DO CARE.
Articles Referenced were from ESPN The Magazine and USA Today’s website.
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