Friday, September 14, 2012

NASCAR Marketing Mayhem

You may remember Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his girlfriend from their appearance at last season's Sprint Cup Series banquet. There they are via our friends at Getty Images.

On Wednesday, Sirius Speedway's Dave Moody used his blog and radio program to make fans aware of a National Enquirer story that Junior was supposedly put on the spot to get married in the off-season or instantly become a single man. A short time later, Sirius NASCAR morning host Pete Pistone posted at CBSSports.com that Junior denied "the report" and was concentrating on the Chase.

All of this nonsense came as part of a total NASCAR marketing effort involving everything from Denny Hamlin talking about wild Lake Norman NASCAR parties on the Dan Patrick show to a Google search for "Jeff Gordon's moustache" returning 219 active news stories on that crucial topic.

The Chase drivers scattered across the country in the annual effort to try and divert some attention from the National Football League. As you may remember, the Chase was created by NASCAR Chairman Brian France as a playoff system to try and create more interest in NASCAR during the NFL season.

Earnhardt's appearance at ESPN this week allowed him to appear on various TV shows, only one of which was devoted to NASCAR. That program aired once at 3:30PM Eastern Time. It spoke volumes that Earnhardt's best appearance of the day was on a very popular show dedicated to the NFL. It was about the Redskins and RG3, not Hendrick and Chevrolets, during Junior's time at "the mothership."

The NASCAR marketing types called this week's media blitz "The Chase Across America." It certainly was an interesting exercise. Perhaps some of you who saw the various drivers featured on local news stations across the country could relate how they were featured and in what activities they participated.

This season NASCAR has totally shifted to a marketing-driven agenda and made great efforts to control any and all news about the sport. That may be one of the reasons for the heightened tensions between some of the Sprint Cup Series drivers and the media. Jeff Burton was recently outspoken on SPEED's "Race Hub" show about the media not helping the sport and only focusing on negative issues.

This pro-NASCAR theme is prevalent on many TV shows, including the ones seen on SPEED and produced by NASCAR Productions from the tracks. In the new world order, NASCAR's marketing arm directly controls more and more media content about the sport. As Burton mentioned, the traditional media is said to be the enemy. This allows objective reporting and informed opinion to be called-out as the reason for problems with the sport itself.

In the system currently being used called "Integrated Marketing Communications," the centerpiece is the elimination of traditional media (reporters) and the installation of a delivery system that allows NASCAR itself to control the media content about the sport. There is simply nothing made available for reporters to cover that is not coordinated well in advance.

Many of you have asked about the lack of rumors and gossip on the Jayski site, about the endless repetition of themes by reporters from different media companies and even the fact that the post-race press conferences have become the topic of much more media coverage. It's all about control and this season NASCAR has exerted it in virtually every area of the media coverage of the sport.

The flipside of all this control is that NASCAR fans are outspoken, independent and don't particularly like being told what to think, say or do. It's one thing to stand in line for an autograph, but it's quite another to hear endless happy talk about the sport coming through very clearly from various radio and TV outlets.

In a media environment where NASCAR is facing-off with pro football, the idea that controlling the message instead of just letting things happen and then be reported is a tough sell. In this Chase interviews are arranged, talking points are provided and the entire atmosphere smacks of a public relations festival.

The TV promo's and ticket ads may continue to show wrecks and promote tough men behind the wheel, but the reality is that this Chase is a fully-controlled marketing-driven exercise where the drivers do what they are told and the media is just along for the ride.

Jeff Gordon's moustache may not be what veteran reporters want to write about, but when the choice that day is facial hair or nothing the result is exactly what Integrated Marketing Communications was supposed to accomplish. As Janet Jackson once said, it's all about control and NASCAR has plenty of it.

We invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

35 comments:

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

JD


I got some advice from the drivers, Show some backbone! Tell us fans what the issues are. If i was a driver today I would tell NASCAR to go pound sand and i have freedom of speech and if i want to talk about issues in this sport, im gonna do so. And if they want to fine me and/or take points away from me, go ahead , but that wont stop me from speaking my mind.

NASCAR is not the drivers bosses JD, the car owners are.

Joj said...

So lets get this straight, NASCAR has fans leaving by the boat load.
We are tired of the complete disregard for the fans not in a certain demographic group.
We fans are fed up with the way things are being done, the complete lack of racing coverage by "TV partners", the outrageous price gouging by tracks, hotels & such at venues of races, the lack of independence of set up of the so called "race cars", fed up with the spec racing IROC style to get "casual" fans, & the total lack of respect by NASCAR officials themselves ( see needy fans by Pemberton remarks) & now we have the continued over sanitizing of drivers ? Smiles & Happy talk only - the dumb fans will believe it & pay for it. Really?

And this is supposed to help the sport?

Save Racehub & NASCARNow (when I can find it) and the Races- I don't bother much with "race tv"anymore.Its childish, & not very good.
I know longer plan my weekend around NASCAR anymore.

NASCAR best wake up & get itself straightened out. I see the same future for it that IROC has - none.

since 1968 fan & now nearly former racefan, all I can say is

Good Luck NASCAR
Jojaye

Colorado said...

I have already read George Orwell's "1984" in junior high school back in 1978. The Thought Police have been in full swing since Bill Jr. died. The Chase across America made me laugh out loud. What a circus. I have been an avid NASCAR fan for my entire existence, and NASCAR will NEVER beat the NFL in anything! If all of the NFL players were arrested in one big mass drug ring, 80 million people will still tune in to watch them play after their release. Brian needs to get his head out of the clouds, or his nose out of the snow, and understand that NASCAR and stock car racing are a regional sport, with a niche audience. There are no casual fans. Never will be. The old adage is You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink is the most appropriate phrase to apply here. Trying to force these drivers into mainstream media might work for Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon, both of whom have married models, and live in New York, but the core group of drivers, past,present, and future, will never be accepted by the mainstream. Ever. Knowing that, NASCAR needs to just worry about their own back yard, and stick to the basics. Jeff Burton should know this as well. I wouldn't worry about what New York or Bristol, Connecticut thought about me. Just drive the damn car, Jeff, and the fans will follow...

Buschseries61 said...

"...But when the choice that day is facial hair or nothing..."

That rang so true to me. And the timing of all this really does make sense now. There was a lengthy piece yesterday in USA Today painting Jimmie Johnson as a family man finding his voice. It's like the NASCAR marketing people are trying to develop characters for a television plot. NASCAR is strategically presenting the characters on different tv shows and types of media in order to connect a demographic with a driver. It's smart, but it's artificial nature doesn't sit well with me.

Anonymous said...

@Joj, how are tracks price gouging fans? I got a ticket to the Southern 500 for less than $40 this year, face value. If anything I think the tracks are doing a tremendous job of adding value to their events with marquee names on pre-race shows, all the while continuing to bring down the cost of their tickets.

Anonymous said...

Joj, well said. NASCAR has been a pseudo-spec series for years. But with the COT they have gone all in.

Until NASCAR gets back to being a legitimate racing series (no fake 'debris' cautions, no 'chase', and go back to cumulative points like they used to), they're going to continue to bleed viewers.

I agree JD that Jayski has become a joke. I only go there to get the latest TV ratings figures. Jayski used to be a place I would go to twice a day to get the latest scoop. Since ESPN bought the place, it's no better than ESPN.com.

I have some advice for NASCAR executives: Go look, and I mean really take an honest look at why Formula 1 continues to add fans, worldwide, year after year. News flash: It ain't "slick marketing."

There's your answer.

Nature Boy said...

I totally disagree with Jeff Burton's statement regarding the media... The media's job is to report the facts, good or bad. Burton's idea is that the media should be one-sided and only report on what is good. That's not how it's supposed to work.

Isaiah said...

WWE take over our sport?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the views of Colorado at 8:32. I have always considered NASCAR a niche market. I compare it to a chain of restaurants that serves ethnic food. As long as they respect their loyal customers and deliver a good product, they will continue to make money. If they change their food and try to go head to head with McDonald's, they are doomed to fail. They will alienate their loyal customers, and they will never be able to compete with McD's.

I used to have respect for Jeff Burton as a spokesman for the sport. He seemed to be able to raise drivers's issues diplomatically without inviting retaliation by NASCAR. Lately he seems to have drunk too much NASCAR brand Kool Aid. It's not a flattering portrait. Perhaps it's time for him to hang up his helmet and run for political office.

Drivers do not control the sport, but they are the public face of it. Tim Richmond was never a popular person with NASCAR or most of the sport's participants. He was admired by fans for his exciting driving, but his personal nature made him an outsider. In a sport where the drivers had a southern blue collar image, Richmond was a northerner (Ohio) and was from a wealthy family. Richmond's behavior and background gave him a wealthy playboy image.

Many of today's drivers have more in common with Tim Richmond than they do with Richmond's contemporaries. They are millionaires with the toys and behavior to match. Many of them have a standard "thanks to the fans" public relations comment that is thrown in with sponsor endorsements. But in unguarded moments, drivers like Jimmie Johnson let slip what they really think. They clearly think we should shut up and spend our money to keep that gravy train running at full speed.

According to Jayski's recent reports regarding Ryan Newman, he and other drivers have had to accept pay cuts. Perhaps we should take up a collection for these poor millionaires.

I was a loyal baseball fan until Curt Flood and free agency resulted in skyrocketing player salaries. I didn't begrudge the players the money, but their behavior afterward was appalling. Instead of being appreciative, most became whiners always in search of more money and a bigger ego. I have zero tolerance for whiny millionaires.

Driver participation in this media blitz of fluff and nonsense sends entirely the wrong message to me. It tells me that millionaires have signed on to the NASCAR goal of selling the sport to the "casual viewer" at the expense of devoted fans. And as Jeff Burton would say, the problems are due to media that won't support NASCAR. If fans and a few media would stop criticizing, things would be perfect.

I consider myself a serious fan that is being alienated by NASCAR business/PR strategy, poor quality TV broadcasts, and a general whiny attitude by millionaires. I also despise the chase. I'm not sure how much longer I am going to stick with this. The sport as a whole is moving in the wrong direction in my view.

Ken said...

How I miss David Poole.

Tim S. said...

Busch61,

Agreed completely. This reminds me of the way that the "boy bands" were marketed years ago. One is the rebel, one is the heart throb, there's a "quiet one," etc.

And Jeff Burton's comments aren't really surprising. Dale Jarrett made a similar statement many years ago, as did the late Benny Parsons, implying that if the media tells fans everything is great, they'll believe so. At the top levels of NASCAR, even our purest racers have the heart of a businessman.

Keith said...

I'm not sure what Jeff Burton meant by the media promoting the negative, but I do know that the media could have dug a lot deeper than they did regarding the rules violations coming from the RCR shops. The media could have been also dialed back on the Dillon brothers love fest.

Jeff should be thankful for how the media is handling some delicate situations this year.

Sophia said...

I remember when i got into NASCAR in 2004, I read Jayski religiously! Loved it. Then he got bought by ESPN or whatever. Said he wasn't a sell out but clearly is being controlled what he can say.

I miss his old site and rarely, if EVER venture to the current one.

I heard Denny on Dan Patrick show talking about wild parties...when asked who he would NOT invite said "Juan Pablo Montoya" . . . because "I can't understand a word he says."

And when Dan asked how about Jeff Gordon, Denny said "Too old." I hope he's kidding but who knows. I also thought he said he's expecting a baby...Sheesh...I remember when most race car drivers got married first, or I am just old fashioned.

The more NASCAR tries to control the sport and the Emperor is wearing no clothes mentality, the more it makes me sad.

And mad.

Thus I rarely watch. I don't even watch the truck races much because I don't remember they are on!

matriarch said...

If I see one more tweet about Jeff's stache, I' start hurling. The only thing worse will be actually seeing it. Do you really think any of us give a d***?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Clarification: In mentioning Jayski, I was not suggesting that his access to media was curtailed or that he is being told what to do by ESPN.

On the contrary, the reason there are fewer and fewer "rumors" posted on the Jayski site is because NASCAR and the major teams are all working to control the marketing of every aspect of the sport.

There simply is no information available to report. These drivers, crew chiefs and team members are not speaking out or even slipping information to the media.

The total control of NASCAR by the sanctioning body's marketing arm has resulted in this sanitized and obviously planned campaign of information that ultimately makes the drivers and teams look like cartoon characters.

It should be interesting to see just how long this squeaky-clean marketing of a sport that used to embrace exactly the opposite image can or will continue.

JD

Joj said...

@Anon 10:44 a.m.

If I have to buy tickets to races I do not want to watch or the dreaded season pass,
- thats price gouging. Period.

Thats the way it was at many tracks before we quit attending races. Maybe they have wised up in 5 yrs. time.

As for your "adding value" - if I want to see a concert I go if I want a race I go. : )
Better a lower ticket price at either than a combo I may not want. And if you have never been gouged at the track, you must never have eaten there either.
Or bought water.

Anonymous said...

Jayski had a nice thing going there for a while. The guy built himself a nice business from the ground up, but he's at the point where you can only go so far copying and pasting news releases and links. Paint scheme news...ooooh, compelling! (Not.) If I ever lose my real job I'm going to buy a couple cameras and start stalking Mooresville like I'm Harvey Levin at TMZ. NASCAR has created a news vacuum that has choked the passion out of the sport. Someone brave enough to go all paparazzi on the sport might have lightning in a bottle. And I don't wanna hear how people "just wanna see racing". People can't turn away from a trainwreck. Harvick shoving chicken wings in his face, Krissy Newman out by the pool, dirt on Juniors' potential in laws. Seriously. Gold mine.

Jake said...

All i can say is this just makes me bleed frustration even more.Controlling the news.Sounds a lot like what goes on with our government.

JakeL42(I will no longer sign my comments with Coffeeshop42 anymore)

JT said...

Jayski's site content is getting scooped by Twitter. When something newsworthy happens in the sport, it appears on Twitter in seconds. Jay takes the time to vet the source. And by the time he is able to post the item to his site it's "old news".

As for controlling the stories, let's not forget major college football coaches (Meyer, Spurrier, Kiffin, that jerk at OK State, etc.) who have resorted to banning beat writers for being too critical (or factual). The NFL and NBA are pretty good at these media-bullying tactics, too. Therefore, I think NASCAR is just trying to emulate the more popular sports.

That said, BZF and Tony George are brothers from different mothers given how they have systematically degraded two of America's top motor sports leagues.

Sally said...

Isn't it interesting that a sport that attracted fans and viewers in the first place because of it's 'rough and ready, shade tree mechanics' is now trying to sell itself as a squeaky clean white collar 'sport'? It's become more important for a driver to be a 'good corporate spokesman' than to be a good driver. Nascar's rules changes have made computers and engineers and expensive equipment more important than being an instinctual mechanical 'genius'. Apparently it's more important to Brian France to project the correct image than to keep racing honest. This pre packaged, sanitized version of Nascar is doomed to consume itself.

Joseph said...

"The media is the enemy" is classic rightwing politics being applied to NASCAR, which is nauseating. I realize I'm a liberal watching a largely conservative sport, but that was ok as long as we could all focus on the racing. If this "We're great, and if the media says any different, we're victims" crap keeps up..I'm outta here.

KoHoSo said...

If any of you didn't read Anonymous 12:22 above because it was a long post, get back up there and read it...post of the year type material.

I just wonder...if this is how far NASCAR is going to go to control the message, what type of attacks are going to come at disgruntled fans in 2013 after what got thrown at us this year?

Alex said...

The sad part is that I studied IMC in school and what NASCAR is doing has absolutely nothing to do with messaging or anything. Just another in a long line of failures. So glad football has returned.

Anonymous said...

In the past few years our money has gone to the dirt track sene. When was the last time the World of Outlaws or the Lucas oil dirt late model series fined one of there top drivers for being outspoken!? These guys are RACErS and they actually race and don't complain about being raced to hard too early in the night if guys like Terry Phillips or Scott Bloomquist, jimmy Owens ect don't "race" and not make the A-main they take a HuGe it in the pocket book unlike the multi millionaires who no matter what they are locked into Sundays and if they blow up on the first lap they still fly home in their jet to their huge homes . Screw NASCAR... Go to the show-me 100 in Wheatland, mo or Knoxville or Eldora ect. Dirt racing is STILL RACING.... Thank God!!!!

RPM said...

FYI Daly Planet Editor: Showtime has resurrected Inside NASCAR for at least 2 weeks according to my DirecTv guide.Is it up for the whole Chase?

James said...

Controling the uncontrolable, I always thought that was the attraction to racing in the first place. I find the comments above sounding like the fans are not so dumb as the marketing folks assume. The marketing became more important than the racing and the control was applied gently usually to "keep the sport growing", the direction of the sport has changed from the wild and unpredictable, to the controled and boring. At times it is like watching a giant reality show, only the contestants have been so vetted the that the only thing that matters is following the script. Jayski was an informed and usually reliable source back when it was a game to find information, with all the blogs, sites and control Nascar has stiffled almost all of the media, very few have the nerve of a Mike Mulhern, he actually thinks out loud, not always perfect, but he certainly adds something to the party. JD, you have gotten your share of the cold shoulder of NASCAR, but the core group is sure getting smaller.

tominmn said...

That piece on Dale Jr. reading a letter to hisself at 16 was pure na$car marketing gold. God I love the "playoffs".

diane said...

A few years ago I watched almost all the 3 series of racing and some of the "news" shows. Now, I tape things and half the time either watch the last 10 laps, or don't even watch. I just check in on the timing and scoring.

I enjoy Supercross and Motocross and at least there TPTB don't seem to demand a lockstep message for all. I'm not getting manufactured messages and prepackaged drivers shoved down my throat.

Jake said...

RPM:I'm pretty sure their doing all of the remaining races.They done the Daytona 500,then took the long break.They announced then that they would return for the 10 chase races,so unless something's changed,they will back for the rest of the season.

Anonymous said...

I agree JD, about NASCAR curtailing rumors... In 2002, on Jayski, I knew about Toyota 4 years before it was official... Now, you read Jayski, and you find out the same thing at the same time as the Drivers, etc... Well, they know more, but are suppressed in commenting. I miss my sibling working on NASCAR teams... I would find out alot more than NASCAR would EVER want to let out...

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

When will NASCAR ever learn?

When will NASCAR actually give what the actual hardcore fan what they want, which is real racing not a follow the leader parade?

When will NASCAR realize that fans dont want the chase they want the old system back because it was, although flawed, an honest system?

Are the people in NASCAR even aware of what the fans actually want to see JD?

NASCAR can not possibly think the fans are nothing to them? If so, they are screwed

When will NASCAR ever go back to basics?

GinaV24 said...

all of you have certainly covered the same issues that come to mind for me when I read JD's columns. Honestly the thought police are alive and well and promoting NASCAR.

They've also almost killed off any real interest I have in the sport. Since I'm a Jeff Gordon fan, I'll more than likely continue to watch until he retires, but it certainly isn't "fun" like it was before the chase, the really silly hype that they are doing now (I didn't watch any of the programming since it's so obviously fake).

rumors that Jr's girlfriend has said - make me an honest woman or lose me forever? Sheesh who cares?
Denny throwing wild parties and won't invite JPM or Gordon? Why would he think they'd come if he invited them? And again, who cares?

Jeff's reinventing his stache? Well, that I actually thought was funny - mainly because his wife tweeted that it was going to happen immediately after Richmond. Then again, I'm a JG fan, so I'm biased.

As Colorado said, I read 1984 in high school as well and it certainly applies here. I'm not really sure how it is that NASCAR has become so disconnected from its fan base that they really think this is the right way to go.

Bucky Butler said...

To quote and support what Anonymous 12:22PM said, "I consider myself a serious fan that is being alienated by NASCAR business/PR strategy, poor quality TV broadcasts, and a general whiny attitude by millionaires. I also despise the chase. I'm not sure how much longer I am going to stick with this. The sport as a whole is moving in the wrong direction in my view".

I railed at the beginning of the season during the pre-season press tour that the NASCAR “media” were nothing but stenographers for the teams and especially the sanction. Oh once in a while the press will collectively criticize a driver or team for whatever the controversy du jour is but much like the current White House Press Corps, the NASCAR media finds no fault with the sanction. All is well in NASCARville. “Don’t look at all the empty seats. Look at all the great advertising banner’s covering them up”.

They’ve turned themselves into a collection of bloggers, all regurgitating the same story line. There are serious issues with this sport that many long time fans have come out against. But we only have our own voices on social media. David Poole is gone and even Ed Hinton has been NASCARstrated. I know that Speed, Fox, ESPN/ABC are all “broadcast partners” with the sanction, therefore no honest critique or criticism of the sport at large or the sanction will come from those outlets and contrary to what Jeff Burton says, the touring beat writers are the biggest pom-pom waiving, band wagon riding, collection of sycophants the drivers, teams and especially the sanction could ever have. They are either on board and believe in the crap this sport has become or they are spineless, gutless jelly fish afraid of having their credentials pulled.

Fans used to discuss and read about racing, team vs. team, Ford vs. Chevy, etc. Now it’s all about babies, wives, girlfriends, family, grooming habits and bogus championships.

Buschseries61 said...

Since you don't have a News & Notes post today, I'll comment right here. Pretty interesting day today.

The Nationwide race this afternoon will have an exciting race to the parking lot with over 10 cars parking.

The Truck race is a stand alone event at Iowa with many fresh faces and will be fun to watch (and only 3 should be parking in that race)

Bob Jenkins will call his final race on television tonight on NBC Sports Net covering the IndyCar finale.

The modifieds will be at Riverhead tonight making up for the rainout over the summer. Because of this I will probably miss watching most of the above on tv. But I will be here on Sunday.

AllisonJ said...

Oh NASCAR, how far you have fallen. And the drivers and teams are right there with them. It's all about making more money than God. Period.

The best racing is no longer at the top. Far from it.