Mackey Marketing Group Weblog

May 25, 2010

So What’s Wrong With Motorsports?

Filed under: Indy Cars,motor racing,motorsports,promotion,racing,sponsorship — mmgatl1 @ 4:10 pm

by Brian C. Mackey, Mackey Marketing Group

So what’s gone wrong with motor racing? Lots of things. But I think one thing that has led to a downturn in motorsport marketing is a lack of creativity. And this from someone in the marketing side of this industry!

I’ve been in this business for over 24 years. But in all that time, imagine 24 years now, a stroll down any major motorsport series’ paddock area and I would see basically the same thing then as I do now. Sure, the cars are new, the transporter trucks are new, but the entire concept of the benefits that can be derived from motorsport marketing hasn’t budged much.

A lot of my colleagues still attempt to sell motorsport benefits based upon “exposure” values. The pinnacle of “exposure” benefit is television. Its over reliance as the answer to the sports’ marketing problem is to me quite clear, but I seem to stand directly against the mainstream current on this issue. To me, racing’s marketing challenges are far more basic. Television can act as the catalyst that can rocket it back on track, but not the sole provider of its salvation. To rely too much on television as the fix, I believe, is foolhardy. There is a more fundamental undercurrent at work here. At the core, I think we’re just more like stale bread; a definitive lack of creative thinking. Motor racing’s marketing language is old. There’s still copy out there that reads like it did twenty years ago. Words that feature strategies like “branding”, synergy with the sponsor product, trackside signage, television exposure and top of mind awareness but all those tag lines and marketing dogma are pretty well worn out. I know. I’ve used them all for a long time now too. No, it’s time for a more radical change. While these benefits will always be part of the “package”, they can no longer be the package. The rest of the sport marketing world has evolved more aggressively over the past quarter century. We used to be the leader of the pack. Now, it seems, we’re playing catch up.

Sponsors can’t keep going to the same well year after year and expect to get the same return on their investment if we don’t give them new ideas. The tide has obviously shifted and unless we start to get creative and revamp the sport as a marketing powerhouse, we’ll continue to lose ground both in the scope of sponsors that support us as well as losing ground to alternative sport outlets that have kept a better eye on the times and designed promotional elements that reflect a more modern outlook.

That is why Mackey Marketing Group embarked upon a new strategy of “making racing work.” We have developed a number of marketing partnerships with companies here in the USA as well as Europe. These partners have created technology driven marketing tools that can be directed toward motorsports and create entirely new ways to reinvigorate the menu of actionable benefits meant to make motor racing a more 21st century promotional platform. For us, it’s a start, but we need to do much more.

No one in racing is immune. Indy Car has been in a down turn for many years. NASCAR is now feeling its own pain, and NASCAR is considered the leader in motorsport marketing strategies. They are. But the need to modernize our thinking extends to every arena in the sport.

The good news is there is reason for optimism. There are growing pockets of quality creativity. We seem to be on this cusp of change. There is “action” in the air and that is a good thing. This sport knows no bounds in its ability to create events that are packed with drama and excitement, the precise elements needed to attract crowds and build new generations of fans.

The creative flair needs to come from all of us. From those of us who call themselves marketers, as well as race teams, series, tracks, television producers, the lot. The quicker we seize upon the revitalized elements that will redefine the marketing benefits of this sport, the faster we’ll see corporate sponsors return to the action; hopefully, in droves.

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