NASCAR nation, in 2014, is breaking new ground, and reaching out to address critics of the sport and find new audiences. There is no part of the heritage and traditions of the sport which has been changed or disrespected. There are no apologies. Instead, there is a confident knowledge in the tone of the marketing offerings from NASCAR.
For years now, critics of the sport have leveled charges of environmental irresponsibility at the feet of the racing world. Talk of unnecessary carbon emissions from wasteful vehicles has been tossed around by more than a few critics of the sport. In addition, the very sport has been labeled as having a limited appeal, with stereotypes of fans abounding. Intending to insult, taunts of “hilbillies” and “rednecks” are often tossed about, but that has never presented a problem to NASCAR. Those intended taunts are worn as badges of honor among race attendees. The sport has always owned its fans, and never walked away from the people who built it from the beginning.
Anyone who actually attends a race can put the lie to those assumptions quickly enough anyway, as the infields and stands are populated at every track with as diverse a community of fans as has ever been seen for any major sporting event. The knocks on drivers which accuse them of not being real athletes are dispelled on close inspection of the training regimens and in-car conditions which are endured. The attacks claiming that racing is not a “real” sport hold no water with anyone who has tried to do what drivers do on a weekly basis. In the light of objective evaluation, there is really no argument at all. In 2014, NASCAR nation appears determined to take advantage of current technology to reach out and address new audiences and old critics head on. Although still not adopting a defensive posture, or apologizing for their long-forged identity, in the marketing advertisements this year, they come out swinging.
In one advertisement, the question of environmental responsibility is met head-on. NASCAR is not late arriving to the table with respect to these concerns. There have been programs in place for years now to improve the “green” profile of the sport. With significant achievements to report, in one of the spots airing this season, titled Got that?, those gains are being put on display. The use of bio fuels, and cars designed to run efficiently on them, producing a 20 percent reduction in emissions is just the beginning of the list. Mentioned also were the electric pace cars, a status as the sport with the most widespread use of recycling, and the “Racing to Green” pledge program aimed at re-forestation efforts nationwide. This is not a hasty response, but rather the culmination of a deliberate and targeted approach to a recognized concern.
Green advertisement: Got that?
Aside from the environmental issues, they have not shied away from addressing the question of the drivers’ status as athletes. In a visually intense advertisement, titled Machine, the training regimens of three NASCAR drivers are set beside images of the cars being put through their paces as well. The question is asked, “Which is the machine?” The image of big-bellied, beer-swilling sluggards is quickly dispelled in this piece when put up against the buff physiques of Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, and Kasey Kahne.
Athletes advertisement: Machine
The “in your face” approach takes a left turn in one spot, titled Heroes, and tugs on the heart-strings. In this one, there is a collection of children of different ages describing the qualities they look up to in their favorite drivers. It cuts between the young fans and the drivers who personify the traits being spoken of by the kids. It was filmed and edited to match the current drivers with the drives of the future, using boys and girls from a diverse assortment of ethnic origins, and it makes a visual and visceral impact on the watcher. As with all of the advertisements in 2014, there is the feeling that NASCAR is not an anachronism, but rather a vibrant and relevant sport which is reaching new audiences across the nation and the world. In fact, that is exactly what is happening.
Next generation advertisement: Heroes
Commentary by Jim Malone