Mackey Marketing Group Weblog

July 7, 2011

Rule #1.

by Brian C. Mackey
Mackey Marketing Group, Inc.
Atlanta, GA

First, let’s back up and get one thing straight. That is that racing’s fundamental strength as a promotional platform is its influence upon an audience of race fans. Simply put, racing fans have shown superior (some might say “incredible”) loyalty to racing sponsors and that translates into greater sales for the sponsors. At its core, it’s as simple as that. To me, it’s the “NASCAR” story of success.
Now if the argument goes that Versus is killing Indy Car due to low rating numbers, while at the same time telling me that 80 million homes can receive the signal, it would seem there is a disconnect. It is this disconnect that is the problem. There seems to be plenty of homes that receive the Versus coverage of Indy Car. The problem is that no one is watching it. If sufficient interest in Indy Car existed, the rating numbers would improve, even on Versus. This will be the first true indicator that Indy Car is recovering. When Versus ratings consistently and substantially improve, it will signal indisputably that Indy Car is forging a comeback. Alternatively, if Indy Car simply broadcasts the signal to a greater number of homes via a commercial network, how is it that a proportionately increasing number of people will tune in just because it is there? Yes, ratings would be marginally better based upon a greater number of TV homes and Indy Car would get larger TV viewership by grabbing more of the “casual” viewer. But, even then, the result would continue to be lackluster rating numbers based upon the even larger pool of potential viewers. To rely on the over simplified solution of increasing the broadcast signal distribution via commercial networks is setting aside the fundamental problem that brought us here. Indy Car needs more fans. My argument is if you can’t get viewers from Versus coverage, what makes you think you can get them by simply changing networks?
Finally, as a means to generate more fans, television is a weak substitute to attending an event. As I’ve said many times, events beget fans. Television reinforces them. Once a fan, the fan will watch the events they don’t attend on television and likewise, television coverage will spur fans to attend more events. They will see the ads. And they will buy the sponsor products. That is how it works, fundamentally, or at least, used to work. Until we as an industry can rediscover this process, sponsor interest will continue to decline, especially in this economy. At the end of the day, sponsors are in the game for one reason. They want fans to buy their products. Casual viewers who watch sporadically on TV won’t necessarily do that. However, race fans have proven to be a legendary and time tested source who will. It is why race fans are such a turn on to sponsors. Racing and sponsors in the know have eagerly ridden this pony for nearly fifty years now.
Rule #1: Get Indy Car more race fans (see first paragraph).
Rule #2: Accomplish rule #1, and sponsors will follow.
Indy Car must continue to focus on rule number 1. No other distractions or long term goal can interfere with the simple objective of generating more fans. To me, Indy Car management seems to be clearly focused in this direction and despite setbacks, provides a basis for continued optimism and downright hope for the future of the series.
Because Versus or no Versus, without more passionate fans, there will be no Indy Car, or perhaps more accurately, no Indy Car sponsors.

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