Saturday, March 1, 2008

NASCAR Banquets In Las Vegas A TV Topic Once Again


It is a lot of fun when the Sprint Cup Series stops-by Texas, Charlotte or Las Vegas. Along with some good racing there is also usually national media coverage of the President of SMI, the one and only Bruton Smith.

While many of his "ideas" seem to be tied directly to the growth of his own corporation, this week Smith has once again raised an issue that many fans have strong feelings about. That is the post-season NASCAR banquets.

There are three national touring series that have nice big contracts with four TV networks and two radio broadcasters. Their product is also distributed directly to homes by satellite dish technology, and races are made available live on the Internet. ESPN International distributes the racing all over the world as well. NASCAR TV is everywhere.

The climax of each of these series is a dramatic final race, and when it is over there are lots of stories to tell and issues to follow-up on in the media. However, once the crowds and teams clear out of the racetrack, there is suddenly an empty feeling for fans.

NASCAR TV comes to a screeching halt after the last race. Following the same-day or same-week recap shows, there is a big black hole until mid-January that no network wants to fill. The only activity for fans is to watch the post-season celebrations of each series that are still done in the traditional banquet style.

Right now, the Truck, Nationwide and Cup Series banquets are held in three separate locations and produced by different TV networks. The results of all three last season were not exactly what viewers had hoped to see. Everyone put in a good effort, but the TV programs and the media exposure were not up-to-par.

NASCAR is building a Hall of Fame complex in Charlotte, NC. The rumor is that the Truck and Nationwide Series banquets would move to that location. NASCAR continues to insist that the Sprint Cup banquet will remain in the strangest of all places, New York City. Anyone who has gone to You Tube and watched the videos of the "media activity" and the parade surrounding the banquet can only come away with one thought. Something has to change.

Freezing drivers surrounded by uninterested New Yorkers walking to their Manhattan jobs in the cold did not make for the best PR for NASCAR. In fact, Jimmie Johnson did a TV feature piece earlier this season about the fact he and Jeff Gordon enjoy New York City because no one knows who they are. Those words came out of the mouth of the current Cup champion.

While being interviewed in the Las Vegas Speedway Media Center, Smith once again renewed his call for all three banquets to be moved to Las Vegas. The synergy of putting all the crews and drivers in one location along with their sponsors is a dynamic that is hard to beat.

Vegas could easily take care of NASCAR and also support any other activities that might be tied to such an event in the future. It that is a trade show, a fan celebration or even a big final TV special, it would seem that Vegas is the place.

Stepping away from Manhattan is driven by two issues. One is the cost and the other is the lack of the very media attention that NASCAR first desired by going there.

The same newspapers and magazines that originally drove the end-of-season exposure for the sport have now transitioned to Internet-based media properties. The cost of Manhattan has also driven away the local station reporters who used to follow the sport to the Big Apple.

What is left is a neat little package totally controlled by NASCAR that puts copyrighted pictures and pre-edited video out as an end result. The only problem is, who uses it? Is all this effort worth a ten second clip on local TV stations?

Brian France called for a very basic shake-up of the sport after the TV troubles and bad ratings of 2007. ESPN and SPEED responded by throwing all kinds of TV and Internet resources at the sport and have pushed NASCAR into the season with solid momentum, despite the fiasco in California. Good TV drives this sport, and right now NASCAR has it.

If there was every a time to allow Las Vegas to take a shot at hosting all three banquets over a weekend, this it it. Bring the fun back and let the sponsors be celebrated in a modern and tech-savvy way that includes the fans. Open the doors to live video feeds, consider a live PPV program and create for SPEED an opportunity to become the destination for the post-season just as they have become the TV destination for the pre-season.

At the very least, setting up an informal committee to study what can be done and what Las Vegas has to offer will surely not upset any New Yorkers. NASCAR maintains that they had over one hundred thousand people at their "parade" in Manhattan.

One look at the videos from You Tube and other providers will change that opinion very quickly. New York has no love for this sport, and never will. Whatever NASCAR decides there is one thing for sure, all three banquets need help. What better time to respond than right now, as Mr. France himself has opened the door to changes that can positively affect the sport.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page. Thanks again for stopping by.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

JD, Have to admit it. You are good. It does not matter to me where the banquet it held. But NASCAR is correct. There were one hundred thousand on hand that day. But five days a week there are one hundred thousand if not more on hand in the area they were in Manhattan, LOL.

Lou
Kingston, NY

ri88girl said...

Something else positive- moving the banquet to Vages would give left coast fans something BIG to go to for racing and feel more a part of the fan base.

If I could go to the banquet and see the cars or something like that it woul make a vacation in Vages a real destination point for someone who has no interest in gambeling.

Newracefan said...

Good argument JD don't know if it will work. If Nascar wants fans involved in the banquet things need to change. If it's for the sponsers then don't have cameras there at all and give us someting else. I can't think of the something else but I am sure someone can.

kenn said...

JD,

You're right about Manhattan being a dud venue for NASCAR's banquet.

Las Vegas would be a great choice, especially if it were combined with a fan festival where the fans could come and see the cars, buy souvenirs, and meet the drivers.

Perhaps Atlanta might be a good choice too. It's a media center closer to NASCAR's core group of fans, and newspapers and TV stations would have a smaller hardship going to Atlanta instead of Manhattan or Las Vegas.

kenny

The Mike said...

I live in New York and Championship Week is the only time of the year when I can see the driver's and the cars in person. There are a lot more NASCAR fans in NY now then there ever was before. I see a lot of people walking around in driver jackets and I also see many decals on car windows.

Please don't take this from us. People complain when NASCAR changes a tradition so why change another? The banquet has been here in NY for so long.

I just wanted to give some perspective from a fan in New York. Thank you.

Richard in N.C. said...

This is obviously a provincial opinion, but I do not believe NASCAR should do anything more to promote Las Vegas. North Carolina has done a great deal to help and support NASCAR, has lost 4 Cup races to other parts of the country, and Las Vegas is trying to take one of the biggest events from N.C. - the furniture markets. Moving the banquets to Vegas would only help Vegas in its attempt to have the furniture markets there.

Moreover, most of the major media outlets are still in the NYC area - ESPN, ABC, FOX, etc. Also, the headquarters of many major NASCAR or team sponsors are still in the NYC area so having the Cup banquet in NYC makes it easier for NASCAR and team officials to socialize with sponsor upper management.

I believe Jimmie Johnson also said that most people in NYC are more interested in going about their business than gawking at celebrities - in part because seeing celebrities on the street is more common in NYC. I doubt that Robert DeNiro lives in NYC because New Yorkers are not interested in movies.

Finally it continues to amaze me that B. Smith is more than willing to accept $80,000,000 of tax support from North Carolina and at the same time continue to try to help an area trying to hurt the area that made him wealthy.

Truck Series Fan! said...

Personally I think that any award show is boring so I don't watch them and think they should just keep them like they have been in previous years. Do people actually watch these things?

Anonymous said...

NASCAR already responded to Bruton Smith's annual request yesterday. They said they aren't moving the Cup banquet this year.

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston (in two or three publications) said the banquet will remain in NYC for the forseeable future.

Last year when Bruton made his yearly request in the media, Brian France or someone else up high said since there was interest from other cities they'd listen. They ultimately made the decision to keep it in NYC.

This year, NASCAR shot down Bruton's idea immediately - the same day. So a no-go for Vegas this year.

It's not moving. They may try Charlotte for the Cup banquet one year after the Hall opens to see how how it goes - that's more likely than LV. So now the focus should be on making the program from New York City watchable because it's really not, or removing the program from TV altogether.

Anonymous said...

When this subject came up on this blog last season, I submitted a post that supported a "NASCAR Week" that would include all of the banquets. In addition, other related activities could be included that would create a "destination" environment for fans and sponsors. Las Vegas seemed like a logical location for many reasons. However, the larger issue is the event itself. The disjointed current system is rather pathetic.

In retrospect, the Charlotte area would also be a suitable location, especially when one considers the limited budgets of some of the teams in the non-Cup series. The projected infrastructure improvements that will accompany the HOF complex may well be enough to accommodate a week in the spotlight.

While Charlotte lacks the elephants and the dancing girls that abound in Las Vegas, it does not lack in NASCAR enthusiasm. If NASCAR is truly to show a newfound respect for its roots, it would not hurt for the nation's NASCAR fans to "put a little South in their mouths".

fbu1

Anonymous said...

"ESPN and SPEED responded by throwing all kinds of TV and Internet resources at the sport and have pushed NASCAR into the season with solid momentum, despite the fiasco in California."

This is a weird question - but why do you always mention ESPN and SPEED, yet never talk about FOX (isn't that the company that owns SPEED)?

Just had to ask

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 2:03AM,

The TV networks that provide the support programming like Pre-Season Thunder and NASCAR Now are ESPN and SPEED.

Fox and TNT only provide their normal race coverage and do not provide any type of non-event NASCAR programs.

Both ESPN and especially SPEED have really "upped" their efforts where NASCAR is concerned. The January programming from SPEED was outstanding, and the new re-vamped NASCAR Now is gaining steam.

Thanks for allowing me to clarify my comments.

JD

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 11:04PM,

Isn't that the same guy who said we would not be racing the COT full-time in 2008?

NASCAR reverses course when they can see what is in it for them. Right now, there is nothing but expense, time and hassle in NYC.

Being on Letterman and Regis should not be the height of an entire season of racing for ten months.

JD

red said...

seems to me there are a coupla issues here: the location of the awards banquets as well as the content/quality the banquet broadcasts. my initial response to the location discussion is to take the historic route and opt for charlotte area -- once the hall of fame complex is complete. after all, rock and roll goes to cleveland every year, regardless of where music executives are located. if a sport has created a hall of fame somewhere, THAT'S where the awards banquet should be. media coverage should follow the choice, not make the choice.

that being said: lots of good arguments being made for other locations. one that resonates is to turn the awards banquet week into a fan experience and have drivers/owners available for a whole lotta "stuff" that would give fans a chance to meet 'n greet. and if that becomes part of the equation, then the location has to have enough space to hold exhibits (i.e. cars, vendors, autograph areas, etc.) as well as enough hotel space! nyc is probably THE most expensive venue that anyone could ever have chosen and i seriously doubt the media coverage was strong enough to justify the expense.

my preference is to go for the location that reflects the history of the sport and move the awards banquets -- all three of them -- to charlotte once the hall of fame is complete. if fans want to see it, they'll travel, just as fans travel to cooperstown and canton and cleveland.

content of the show certainly needs to be a separate topic!

Richard in N.C. said...

Obviously I have some bias.
I do seriously believe there is much to be gained by having the Cup banquet in NYC for the convenience of major executives of sponsors.
Also, as I recall Bill France, Jr. made the decision to go to NYC and I can imagine some reluctance by the France family to change something he put in place.
At the same time I can envision Charlotte's being an appropriate location if the 3 series banquets were to be held in conjunction with annual Hall of Fame inductions.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I'm for keeping the banquet in NYC until the Hall of Fame opens, then moving it to Charlotte.

However, if NASCAR knows they are keeping this banquet/awards in NYC, they need to start planning it and the other activities now.

IF they want to cater to fans on TV and not sponsors (I'm not sure they do):

Make sure it airs on ESPN2, live. Don't wait until the week of the awards to announce the guests or host (Jerry Punch, David Spade). It was very clear that last year's show was thrown together at the last minute, as was Spade's tired act. Book someone who knows something about the sport. Ditch the music unless it relates to the event (like an Olympic theme does) or champion.

Get writers for the show to make it more like a roast or the ESPYS. Have at least three categories voted on by fans and announced on the show.

Bring back the SPEED red carpet and let Wendy do the interviews (no Joan/Melissa Rivers).

The coverage on the morning shows (GMA, Today,)of the top 10 and champion has dwindled to almost nothing, when a couple of years ago it was quite good. If they're not responding, try some other media - or plan ahead, NASCAR. If the morning shows are going to ignore you for Helio and Dancing with the Stars, go to another outlet or book a day when there's not a big celebrity thing going on.

In other words, check long range what's going on around you in the media and don't assume you'll be the biggest show in town. NASCAR should have known that Dancing With the Stars winner would be the story on every TV show that day, not Jimmie Johnson, and that wouldn't have mattered if he was in NYC, Charlotte, or Vegas. (Since Helio won, he was the big story on all the sports outlets, too but NASCAR couldn't have predicted that.)

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