Wednesday, February 14, 2007

BusinessWeek: A NASCAR Comeback?

A Comeback for NASCAR?
New advertisers, broadcasters, and Toyota will help, but to reverse declining growth what NASCAR really needs is new viewers
by Douglas MacMillan and Matt Vella, BusinessWeek

A green flag means go this Sunday, Feb. 17, for drivers competing in the Daytona 500. But amid the roaring and smoking of the high-speed, high-performance race cars, NASCAR executives will be looking for something else: a significant rebound in ratings and viewership.
Last year saw a lag in attendance and a ratings downturn that left the sport in need of a comeback season. New high-profile advertisers, new broadcasting outlets, and Toyota's (TM) decision to participate for the first time could make that happen. But to truly attract large audiences once again, NASCAR officials say the sport must strike a balance between catering to existing fans and making new ones...

Despite this decline, NASCAR officials maintain that the sport remains attractive to fans and sponsors. Steve Phelps, NASCAR's chief marketing officer, says the sport's fan base has grown nearly 20% in the last decade, to 75 million in 2006. NASCAR-licensed merchandise, meanwhile, is worth $2 billion in sales annually. But because it's held privately, NASCAR—an acronym for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing—doesn't have to disclose its revenues or operating costs.
Downturn notwithstanding, NASCAR has managed to win new high-profile advertisers this year, including Bank of America (BAC) and Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ) Tylenol. It's also pushing ahead with ambitious new broadcasting ventures, thanks to two new partners: Sirius Satellite Radio (SIRI) and the ESPN network, which is back following a six year absence...

...NASCAR made another major media shift, from satellite radio provider XM Satellite Radio (XMSR) to its rival, Sirius. Sirius listeners will be able to tune in to every NASCAR race on the main NASCAR stations, as well as a related talk programs. On race days, Sirius subscribers will even be able to layer the in-car communications of their favorite driver with the main broadcast from the booth. "We're after the core audience, the fanatical fans who will see this programming as must-have," says Scott Greenstein, Sirius' president of entertainment & sports...read more: here

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2/14/2007 01:50:00 AM

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