Cynopsis Sports presents

:

NASCAR 2011
11.30.11 Good morning. It's Wednesday, November 30, 2011, and this is the wrap-up for the 2011 NASCAR season. After losing nearly a quarter of its audience over a multi-year span, media pundits and analysts were quick to assign blame. Some attributed the losses to the economy, some to rule changes and others to a dominant five-in-a-row reign of Jimmy Johnson. Nevertheless, after some introspection and consultation with fans, advertisers and media partners this year, NASCAR is once again rising up the ranks. In this special, we examine the state of the sport and how it is impacting ratings and sponsorship, what lies ahead in upcoming TV negotiations and how the digital age has allowed the sport to reengage and develop a whole new generation of fans.

NASCAR ON THE RISE With a new TV deal on the horizon, a nail-biting finish to the NASCAR season capped a year sorely needed by sport's governing body, bucking a downward ratings trend for the sport and marking a much-hoped for changing of the tide. Of course, for the pessimists in the business, a bad economy helped force some sponsors to take a step back or return only for a cut rate to racing teams. In addition, from 2007 to 2010, average race viewership fell nearly two million viewers from a height of 7.85 million. However the past season saw a reversal of ratings fortunes. There were 29 races this season that can be compared to an event from last year, with 17 of those races scoring better ratings than their 2010 counterparts and 20 delivering higher viewership. After FOX and TNT finished their seasons with overall viewership gains over 2010, ESPN and ABC saw increases of 14.8% over 2010, according to the network, with a 3.1 rating. The company wrapped up the season with a peak audience of 10.5 million who watched Tony Stewart take the crown at the Ford 400. Viewership averaged 6.8 million viewers for the race, to break the channel's all-time record, and was up 21% over last year's finale. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France expressed his pleasure at the ratings resurgence to reporters just before the finale stating that "The things we can control are showcasing the racing, telling our story and giving drivers some big moments to race for," in reference to the upticks. NASCAR announced over the summer that the league was launching a proactive five-year strategic plan designed to bolster the size of its fan base, after hiring five different research companies to conduct focus groups looking at the state of the sport. Initiatives coming out of the plan include a new integrated-marketing communications department as well as a youth-targeted website, Spanish-language promotions and content, promoting younger drivers and improving wireless connectivity during races.

The sport's unique connection with advertisers is another goal being addressed by the league, even as some teams are still looking for sponsorship next year. France acknowledged the concerns, noting "If the president of the United States isn't getting them to do that, I'm not sure what we're going to be able to do to figure that out." He later stated that "We're renewing with a lot of companies. Some companies, and it happens all the time, every year for us, will pull back their sponsorship or commitments or leave altogether. That's just the reality of having hundreds of companies involved in this sport." The good news, from a sponsorship point of view, is that sponsors have returned in a big way to broadcast of the race. Racing website jayski.com reports that after the amount of spots that ran on FOX, TNT and ESPN/ABC dropped from 4,693 in 2009 to 4,426 in 2010, numbers picked up again in 2011 with nearly 4,700 spots this season. "NASCAR has the most passionate and loyal fans in all of sports," said Norris Scott, vice president of partnership marketing and business solutions for NASCAR of the sport's appeal to advertisers. "They are our greatest competitive advantage, especially for partners such as Ford and Coca-Cola."

A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM SPEED

Reach viewers with higher ad recall.
Ads that air during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on SPEED have higher Brand Recall (35% vs. 24%), Message Recall (27% vs. 18%), and Likeability (15% vs. 13%) scores than the ad supported cable average. Contact Todd Siegel (212-822-8681) for sponsorship information.
Source: Nielsen IAG (CY'11-td thru 9/30/11)

Networks are already eyeballing the future. "There's a lot of positive momentum it seems in the sport," ESPN VP, Programming & Acquisitions Julie Sobieski said in a conference call. "I think a lot of that is stemming back to changes that have happened over the last year and a half here, and certainly we'll continue through this year with the now implementation of Wild Card as we head into our portion of the season, as well." That's good news as NASCAR looks toward the end of its current eight-year, $4.5 billion contract with ESPN, Fox and Turner Sports which expires in 2014. Executives admit that informal talks for a renewal are already underway and a broadcast deal would likely be wrapped up by this time next year.

"NASCAR has long been a staple around here," said FOX Sports Media Group President & Co-COO Eric Shanks. "We have had a great relationship with NASCAR as we have grown NASCAR has grown and vice versa. We really do love it and again it is strategic to us because of our SPEED channel business. It is a sport that from at least a ratings standpoint has started to rebound. Is it where it was 3, 5, or 10 years ago? It hasn't made it back that far yet. Of course, we love to keep the relationship going because it's in our blood. So, we will just have to see as time goes on how that process works out." For the next year, the question will remain: how much are networks willing to spend for the sport? Some pundits have predicted a price cut in the next round of negotiations. Others anticipate a nice contract boost. Of course, that is dependent on keeping an upward trend. "NASCAR needs to keep the momentum moving forward," said SPEED President Hunter Nickell. "All the stakeholders in the sport have created positive momentum, from the sanctioning body to the owners to the racers. I think it's important for the sport and all of us to build off of what's created that momentum, and deliver the fundamentals of a great show on the track. It's important that all of us in the sport build on what got the sport to what it is today and that is to maximize access for fans live and through television, grow the position of strength that's been reestablished and make sure we don't try to be something that we're not."

A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM SPEED

Join SPEED for 2012.
The NASCAR on SPEED 2012 season gets rolling in January with Daytona Winter Testing and the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Our coverage ramps up in February with more than 100 hours from Speedweeks in Daytona, including the NCWTS race, Gatorade Duel, NASCAR RaceDay and more. Contact Todd Siegel (212-822-8681) for sponsorship information.

NEW FANS DISCOVER NASCAR VIA DIGITAL Bolstered by deals during the racing season with the likes of ESPN and Google, NASCAR continues to emphasize fan access as a key to its strategy in the digital world. Much like the sport's long-standing mantra of bringing fans behind the scenes and into the garage, pits

and hallways, NASCAR.com, managed by Turner Sports, is utilizing its digital platforms to extend that relationship. "NASCAR was made for digital universe," said Justin Williams, Senior Director of Business Operations for NASCAR.com. "The one thing about our sport is that for more than 50 years NASCAR has offered fans access to the sport in an unprecedented way. Nobody else gets this kind of fan access in professional sports. You can't go into the locker room on a stick and ball sport, you can't get on the field, you can't get in the dugout. Now that we've gotten to a point where streaming production and people's use of streaming has increased, we are extending that culture." NASCAR.com reports that site finished its coverage of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with growth of 19% in page views, breaking the 54 million mark, as well as 19% more daily uniques than in 2010 during the 10-race Chase. The site's RaceBuddy platform, 4.6million total streams during the chase, with an average of 514,000 streams during the nine Chase races it was available for the first time that RaceBuddy was extended into the NASCAR postseason. Other increases this season included: Video streams - up 225% (6,629,744 in 2011 vs. 2,040,076 in 2010) News - up 15% (25,158,861 in 2011 vs. 21,833,936 in 2010) NASCAR Nation - up 35% (2,257,952 in 2011 vs. 1,669,640 in 2010) Local Racing - up 17% (843,099 in 2011 vs. 718,109 in 2010) Superstore - up 6% (10,341,239 in 2011 vs. 9,712,666 in 2010) Fantasy Games - up 80% (3,050,628 in 2011 vs. 1,693,950 in 2010) Multimedia - up 277% (1,761,113 in 2011 vs. 466,852 in 2010) TrackPass - up 27% (1,681,356 in 2011 vs. 1,329,038 in 2010)

"We couldn't have asked for a better Chase and we couldn't have asked for a better final moment to the season, it was a great finish overall," said Williams. "From a digital world, from a digital perspective, I think we followed a similar path overall. We started off with a bang at the beginning of the season, by bringing a great user experience out with live race data put right on our home page. We progressed through the season by relaunching a couple of other products, including a new homepage, a new RaceView and extending coverage of RaceBuddy online for a better digital experience overall." Most recently, NASCAR.com announced the launch of NASCAR.com LIVE, a new app designed for Google TV, where fans can access interactive features including video ondemand, driver profiles, standings and schedules for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series. Earlier in the year, NASCAR, ESPN and Turner Sports announced a new partnership that allowed RaceBuddy to be made available for the first time ever during the Chase while NASCAR content will appear for the first time ever in ESPN's WatchESPN.com platform and WatchESPN app. "The thing that we were pleasantly surprised with was that we were able to get this partnership with ESPN up for the Chase," said Williams. "We did the deal right at the tail end of the TNT series and because the deal excluded ABC broadcast races, we decided we would pick up with Chicago instead of trying to squeeze in the others. We had a really great day for those rainouts, unfortunately for the on-air partner and my heart definitely goes out

to them because ESPN had more than their fair share of rainouts this year. But we had great traffic and people really engaged in that. Looking ahead to next season, Williams said that the company will continue to push to give fans even more access to events. "We keep looking into expanding live coverage because fans are insatiable in that sense," he said. "They have finally adopted their digital experience with something that is truly live and can be a two screen experience. There are still a lot of great things out there that we just need to find the ways to get the cameras to. That's going to be a primary focus for 2012."

A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM SPEED

SPEED delivers
the most-watched NASCAR Trucks season. SPEED is the official NASCAR Camping World Truck Series network and the 2011 season was the most watched in network history. NCWTS on SPEED averaged 838,000 P2+ and 636,000 HHs. Contact Todd Siegel (212-822-8681) for sponsorship information.
Source: Nielsen. 2011 Season (2/28/11-11/20/11) vs 2003-2010 seasons. HH & P2+ AA(000). Subject to qualifications available upon request.

CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion's Week is underway in Las Vegas, as the league celebrates a historical season. The events are designed to honor the champion of the sport's series as well as the fans before culminating with the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony on Friday at Wynn Las Vegas. SPEED will be on hand to offer same-day coverage starting at 9p. "Our goal from the outset was to bring fans closer to the action, and have them engage with our drivers in a personal way," said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. "Las Vegas has done just that. As the home to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion's Week, Las Vegas has upped the excitement level, and has embraced the sport during one of its signature weeks." This year's schedule includes: Tuesday-Saturday, Nov. 29-Dec. 3

NASCAR Pit Stop Tour: The Pit Stop Tour program will run from Tuesday through Saturday, Nov. 29-Dec. 3, consisting of Official Partner show cars placed in iconic locations throughout the Las Vegas strip. Locations are set to include the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, the World of Coke, New York, New York hotel, Fashion Show Mall, Fremont Street, Bally's and Harrah's. Wednesday, Nov. 30 Las Vegas Motor Speedway's Champion's Week Kickoff Event: On Fremont Street, the event begins at 2:15p and will feature a Newlywed Game-type competition between the top-12 drivers where competitors will be randomly paired by drawings in groups of two, and will answer questions about each other. Each team will also be paired with a fan with winning drivers and fans will receive suite passes for next year's NASCAR weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Thursday, Dec. 1 NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon: At 11a in the Bellagio Ballroom the annual industry/media gathering will include awards presentations to the Champion Crew Chief, Champion Sponsor, Sunoco Rookie of the Year and Most Popular Driver. NASCAR Victory Lap: Set for 3p, the NASCAR Victory Lap will feature the top 12 drivers parading with engines growling down the famed Las Vegas strip in their teams' respective race cars. An authentic pit stop will be featured along the way with two burn-out sections for drivers. NASCAR Victory Lap will start in front of Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino on Las Vegas Boulevard and end at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Coca-Cola Fan Zone: Fans can get a front-row seat for the conclusion of NASCAR Victory Lap at the Coca-Cola Fan Zone, a free event located at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas. Beginning at noon, the Coca-Cola Fan Zone offers interactive displays from The Sprint Experience, Game Show Network, Ford, Coca-Cola, and is a prelude to NASCAR After the Lap. NASCAR After the Lap: Starting at 4:30p, NASCAR After The Lap tickets will go toward the NASCAR Foundation, a non-profit organization which raises funds that support children's charities and important causes throughout the nation. The event promises to once again deliver a "tell-all" format featuring the 2011 top-12 drivers. Friday, Dec. 2 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony: Ceremonies start at 6p at the Wynn Las Vegas to crown the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion driver and owner and honoring the other drivers who finished in the top 10 in the final series standings. SPEED provides same-day coverage, starting at 9 p.m. ET.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful