Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Queen Of Social Media

You might not know her name or even her face. FOX, ESPN and TNT don't know she exists. She has never won a major NASCAR race. She does not live in North Carolina. She does not sacrifice her dignity in TV commercials. She does not have a rich family.

Yet, Jennifer Jo Cobb has some of the most loyal fans in NASCAR. Cobb races full time in the Camping World Truck Series and runs a limited schedule on the Nationwide side. Although she has not yet won, to many fans that is not important.

In a racing world of egos and millionaires, Cobb is a refreshing change. Since her entry into the truck series, Cobb has chronicled her NASCAR experiences firsthand. Using her marketing and journalism background, Cobb has sidestepped the mainstream NASCAR media and created a direct link with her fans.

There is perhaps no better example in NASCAR of someone who has used social media, amateur NASCAR blogs and the Internet to develop effective sponsor exposure and a strong fan base. All of this is necessary due to one well-known fact.

"No one covers trucks, they just don't," said a popular NASCAR journalist to me in November. The drivers who get the most attention on TV in the truck races are the cross-overs from the Sprint Cup Series. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are big draws when they race a truck. For a single truck team owner/driver like Cobb, there is simply little help with exposure from the NASCAR media.

Cobb's answer was to make it personal. She has a thriving community on Facebook of pages for both her race team and for herself as a driver. On Twitter, Cobb speaks easily with fans and has created lasting bonds with many. The Internet is full of NASCAR blogs with stories and features on Cobb.

Here are just a few. Click on the title to read the story.

Jennifer Jo Cobb Is Quietly Making A Name For Herself from Female Racing News.com in October.

Jennifer Jo Cobb's Big Night Out from Corrina B's World in November.

Women In NASCAR Series: Jennifer Jo Cobb from Skirts and Scuffs in October.

Beyond The Cockpit: Jennifer Jo Cobb from Frontstretch in April.

The bottom line is that there has never been a better time for a female driver to make inroads in the sport. Even with 50% of the fan base being female, it's apparent that Danica Patrick did not click with the stock car set.

Cobb has a racing heritage from the Kansas City area where her father still battles on the dirt at Lakeside Speedway. Unlike Danica, fans have been able to watch Cobb make her way into the sport and interact with her from the start.

We all know the big sponsors in NASCAR, but there is just something about an owner/driver who started out with sponsorship from the Kansas City T-Bones Baseball Club, Wagner's Collision Repair and Take-N-Bake Pizza. Cobb is old school and makes no bones about where she came from and where she wants to go.

This year, some help did come from SPEED. The network televises the Camping World Truck Series and featured Cobb dressed as Ginger in the annual Halloween pre-race show. It got Cobb some TV exposure, but more than that it showed her as someone who gets it. A driver not too self-important to poke fun at themselves.

Tuesday, Cobb continues to leverage her position in the sport by appearing on CNN. In the 10PM ET Anderson Cooper 360 show, Cobb will be talking about the very different lifestyle that she has chosen both on and off the track. It's ironic that during the dark time for NASCAR on TV, the only person getting national TV exposure is a mid-pack single team truck series owner/driver.

In February, Cobb is set to make another splash when she shows up in NASCAR 2011: The Game. The new official NASCAR video game offering will have Cobb in the #13 red Ford Fusion with her own racing apparel company on the hood as the sponsor. This will put Cobb on the track with the big boys on gaming systems around the world.

There are plenty of young female drivers currently lurking just outside the three major NASCAR series. There is little doubt that they are watching Cobb navigate her way through the sport in control of her own team with financial and management responsibility. In this changing economy, Cobb may just be laying down a blueprint for female drivers to follow in the future.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


Anonymous said...

Personally,I don't care what the drivers sex is.From your statements she seems to be doing everthing right.Yes I watch the truck races and am aware of her.Some of the best circle track racing on T.V.

Anonymous said...

This story wonderfully depicts half of what was once the heart and soul of na$car. Drivers and teams who could relate and interact with the fans, and fans who could relate and interact with the drivers and teams. That interaction created passion. It’s gone, and na$car does not have a clue on how to get it back. Just look at how the secret fines last year put a total stop on real personal interactions with the fans in the cup series. So sad. MC

PammH said...

she' fun to follow on twitter! I'm hoping for good things for her. Love the make-up connection...

Anonymous said...

Good blog - excellent topic!

Thanx, JD and special thanx to Jenn-Jo!


AncientRacer said...

I am all in for JenJo, but do not leave out Johanna Long. She won the Snowball Derby this year and did some truck races. Our scurvy crew have raced the Old Beater against her since she was not much more than a baby. She (and JenJo) are born stockers and are doing it the old fashioned way. That is what pays off in the end in this sport.

Vicky D said...

Jennifer Jo is great on twitter and like someone also said, Johanna Long is a great little racer too. There are a lot of drivers in the truck series (& NW for that matter) that don't even get their names mentioned once during a race. But the broadcasts are filled with mentions of the cup drivers. So sad.

GinaV24 said...

Cool, Jennifer is the kind of woman in racing that I could get behind and support. Sounds like her values and work ethic are great, that along with the fact that she's smart and using the current social network to reach out to the fans sounds good to me.

I'm going to go now and setup to follow her on twitter and facebook!

just never been into Danica's shtick -- too much hype, not enough substance.

I'll plan to tune in to CNN tonight - it would be good if the media would cover the trucks, too, not just Mikey, please.

Great article, JD!

The Mad Man said...

Notice how well the Diversity Program is covering and promoting Jennifer Jo and Johanna in their racing and sponsorship efforts. Zippo, nada, zilch. Aren't these supposed to be the types of drivers that the Diveristy Program is supposed to be showcasing?

I agree with Gina on Danica Patrick. Too much hype, not enough substance. As NASCAR is betting the farm on her to save their sorry backsides, you know that's a turn-off to some fans. And it won't succeed. Look at how NASCAR's efforts at promoting Jr as the face of NASCAR have backfired.

Anonymous said...

She is a talented driver. I hope she gets in good equipment and can show us all she is for real.
My problem is with Nascar's diversity program. Every year they roll out a bunch of kids from all walks of life and say..this is Nascar...this is diversity. Diversity is sitting right in front of them and can't promote from within. No one knows Jennifer or Jenn Lo. Nascar fails terribly in this area. Shame on FOX, ABC, ESPN, TNT, MRN & MRN for not talking about these talented drivers...If they had Kyle Busch edge then the media would make them out to be a B----! Shameful our society has a double standard.

MRM4 said...

I am glad that Cobb has been getting a decent fan following. She has been the butt of more jokes than anything else because of her performance on the track. But if more fans knew about her background and lack of backing, they'd lay off the jokes.

Danica Patrick has not shown in any way to be any kind of role model for younger women wanting to get into racing or move their way up in racing. Her Go Daddy commercials sit back women's accomplishments 30 years. My wife tolerates racing because of me. She has seen the Patrick commercials, seen her interviews, and has caught a little bit of her racing. She has told me numerous times that she is bad for young ladies getting into racing because her commercials are not flattering, she's a whiner, and she's not that good. If my wife can notice that, what do other people notice?

Let's all hope Cobb can get some serious help to see if she is worthy or not. But she won't be doing any Go Daddy-type commercials either. That alone should win her more fans.

Anonymous said...

I certainly hope Jennifer returns after a good 2010 season. She kept the truck in the top 25 in points & locked herself into the first 5 races of 2011. I admire her determination as an owner-driver and want to see her succeed.

JJC markets herself in an appropriate manner, unlike Ms. Danica Patrick. Judging by her large fanbase, it's working.

GinaV24 said...

MRM4 -- great post, those are the reasons I cannot support Danica as a racer, but I could support someone like Cobb or Long or even Chrissie Wallace (and that pains me to say simply because I am not a fan of either Rusty or Kenny).

Donna DeBoer said...

I absolutely admire & support ALL efforts by team owner/drivers which to me are the heart & soul of NASCAR. I'm not a fan of hers per se but I wish Cobb all the best as one of them. It would be interesting to see how well she would do in quality equipment like a KBM truck, if she can get the funding to elevate her own trucks.

CrackerLilo said...

I'm one of Jennifer Jo Cobb's many Twitter followers. It's amazing to me how hard she hustles, how willing she is to chronicle her triumphs and trials, and how positive she stays. I admit that her being a woman close to my age helps--winning the Daytona 500 was my little-girl dream. But anyone who respects hard work and roots for the underdog should like her. When she does win, she'll have many people cheering and savoring the victory along with her. We'll know just how hard-fought it was.