Thursday, June 29, 2006

NasCar Goes Upscale

June 29, 2006

Amongst the satellite radio community, the mention of NasCar brings out a rather passionate debate. NasCar has been on XM Satellite Radio for some time, but will be switching to Sirius satellite Radio in 2007. The debate often centers around whether or not fans will follow NasCar to Sirius, or whether NasCar brings additional subscribers.

Here is what we do know.

NasCar is GROWING. A BusinessWeek article recently explained the attraction to NasCar, and why the appeal now translates to a bigger audience each year.

Article Excerpt:

As many of those fans know, NASCAR long ago outgrew its Southern, working-class roots. The 40-week schedule, which runs February through November, includes weekends in Chicago and Las Vegas, and could one day include New York, Seattle, and Denver.

Upscale brands such as Sony , Gulfstream, and watchmaker Tissot have signed on as sponsors, and developers are furiously adding trackside luxury condos, private clubs, and corporate suites. For example, Phoenix International Raceway just opened a chic lounge above the track's first turn where fans can nibble sushi and sip wine or mixed drinks. A weekend pass to the lounge during November's Checker Auto Parts 500 will run $2,400, but the raceway is only selling 100 such tickets.

Go to BusinessWeek Online to view the slideshow

Even celebrity chefs are getting into the act: Food Network's Mario Batali just penned a cookbook for race-day tailgaters; Wolfgang Puck will open a café at the track in Fontana, Calif., in September. "The image of [NASCAR as] the Bubba sport is not true," says Larry DeGaris, a sports-marketing expert whose clients include United Parcel Service, PepsiCo, and Bank of America.

A day at the track has become a coveted perk for executives whose companies spend millions to sponsor NASCAR -- and their clients. Debbie Acocella, a customer business manager for Kellogg's in New York, got her first taste of the sport in June when she hosted two supermarket buyers and their families at the Neighborhood Excellence 400 in Dover, Del. Their Sunday included a catered breakfast, lunch, and snack in the relative quiet of the company's suite, a tour of the pits, and a pre-race visit from Kyle Busch, who drives the Kellogg's car. The group watched the start of the race up close before turning to the suite. "You can see why we have a car," Acocella says. "I finally understand it."

Interestingly, the stats that surround NasCars growing audience are very appealing. The number of people who spend six or more hours a week following the sport has grown almost 20% in the last five years, to 75 million, according to market researcher Ipsos Insight.

Done right, NasCar on satellite radio has a huge potential. Shows that relate to the preparation for the next race, and discussion of drivers and teams can be quite compelling for both listeners, and sponsors. There is a reason that companies spend big bucks to sponsor a car. They want their name out there. There is a reson you hear conversation that mentions sponsors all of the time. Drivers have taken on their sponsors name as part of their identity. Take the Home Depot for example. The driver is Tony Stewert, but he just as often refered to as "Home Depot #20 Car".

There is no doubt that NasCar is gaining popularity. How that impacts satellite radio is yet to be seen, but being involved with Nascar certainly can't hurt.

Interested SSG reader can read the entire BusinessWeek piece HERE

6/29/2006 03:32:00 PM

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