Thursday, March 25, 2010

How has the economy effected NASCAR and can you really compare it to the Master’s Tournament?

Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Welcome to a unique prospective that even I really never expected to address and yet here we are. This all started last week when I asked a question to my readers about the TMS “Approved” campaign that uses wrecks to promote the upcoming race and sell tickets. And while the responses where both positive and negative, one response warranted this article on it.
Comment: Anonymous said “How do you account for the large numbers of empty seats at races, the steep decline in NASCAR revenues and the near bankruptcy of the souvenir side of the racing business, not to mention the disappearance of many publications and the firing of numerous media types? By the way, Tiger Woods is selling tickets like hotcakes. Just try to get a Masters pass.....”
Wow, I was surprised by this comment especially after a previous comment about Tiger Woods being compared to NASCAR, which there is no comparison, its night to day.

Let’s start with the Master’s, the Masters Tournament is one of the four major championships in professional golf which is held at Augusta National Golf Club (in early April), a private golf club in Georgia, USA.

While the tickets are not expensive, the tickets to the actual tournament are sold only to members of a patrons list. Augusta National Golf Club does not announce attendance figures, but from what I have read, people close to the club figure that about 35,000 ticket-holders attend the Masters each of the four days of competition and about 45,000 are allowed inside on each of the three practice days. If that is somewhat correct, damn.

If you compare that NASCAR, wow, you’re on a different planet. But numbers is what it’s about and when you compare that to New Hampshire that sells out with 95,000 seats and Bristol at 165,000 seats, that’s almost 3 times just for New Hampshire along and anybody can buy a ticket at NHMS, but not for The Masters.

With that all said including the Master’s and Tiger Woods, let get the meat and potatoes of this comment. I want to first start by saying that for the last few years, we as a country and beyond has been hit by a tough economy and as more and more America’s especially have lost their jobs, times are tough and that means cuts backs to say the least. Companies are cutting back is a big way.

Which bring us to NASCAR. These cut backs are effecting everybody including NASCAR teams, drivers, owners, race tracks, sponsorships, and all the way right down to NASCAR themselves.

Sponsors are cutting back too. Long are the days that most sponsors are willing to spend $15-20+ million dollars a year per car. Now we see multi-sponsors picking up a season on one car. Roush-Fenway racing is a classic example, they have several sponsors that buy races, not seasons. But the key here is sponsors are still advertising in NASCAR, of course that’s mainly in the Cup Series.

But even more so, the cut backs are affecting the average NASCAR fan too. Which includes (but not limited too) buying tickets and souvenirs. The average NASCAR fan simply doesn’t have the money anymore to attend a lot of races nor buy souvenirs anymore. I can say in this house, money’s tight period and buying especially diecasts over $60 isn’t going to happen. As far as tickets go, we will be lucky to do one race this season at $39 per ticket (2 tickets need) and that most likely wouldn’t happen neither.

Which brings us to the so-called empty seats? When I look back at 2009 and the first five races of 2010, I’m surprised to see that racetracks are selling more tickets. One reason is the $40 tickets. This helps out NASCAR fans big time. If racetracks are not offering tickets starting at $40, they’re losing big. But as I keep saying in previous articles, NASCAR fans want to see a god product meaning good racing and some just don’t have it.

Several racetracks including Bristol, New Hampshire, Charlotte (that I know of), Las Vegas, Phoenix, Talladega, Richmond, Darlington and Homestead have all sold a lot of tickets and for most are either are near sell out or sold out on race day. New Hampshire and Bristol especially are near sell outs each time.

Bristol in Spring 2010 had around 90,000-100,000 people and on a rain threading day. The night Cup Series races normally sell out though.

However California and Atlanta markets for example as well as Martinsville just can’t hold two dates anymore, we have known this for a long time, and of course weather does play a role. But I will say that saying that racetracks are not selling a lot of tickets to NASCAR races is simply incorrect, seats do sell. Just watch the races.

Souvenirs? NASCAR fans are buying, but at nowhere near what they use too. The prices are one big reason, but people are cutting back there the most. Jackets are $100 plus, shirts are $25-$30, that’s just an example. Although diecasts are simply too expensive and they make too many them on top of that. Hell, the diecasts lose their value in less than one year because there are so many of them on the market. As for less popular drivers, they just don’t sell as many, so they are left with a lot of inventory.

The tough economy has also affected many publications both print (magazines, newspapers) and online. I will say one thing, consumers are getting their news online through blogs, forums, and sites and not to mention on television.

BUT they are NOT buying newspapers. Newspapers in my opinion are a thing of the past that few buy regularly now. We get just the Sunday paper and it’s not worth much. Newspaper sales are down heavily all over the country and if consumers are not buying, then advertisers are not buying and then newspapers are not making money and no money equal laying off staff. You get the picture, supply vs. demand. I learned this school.

So it doesn’t surprise me that the first people to go is in sports and motorsports reporters including NASCAR media. That’s just a product of the economy and newspaper sales being down.

The same goes for online, but in a different way. Advertisers simply are not spending as much money as they use too. They are cutting their budgets in half. As a person who accepts advertising here on RaceDriven.com, my sales are down because advertisers are tightening their belts.

But at the end of the day, NASCAR isn’t over by any means, it’s just changing with the times. Economy affects everybody period and everybody includes NASCAR. However NASCAR still has a huge fan base, is very popular and continues to runs strong in my opinion.

But I will say that NASCAR isn’t the hot trend as it was years ago and people need to relies that, it has leveled off and that begins to really show the true NASCAR fans in full force and that’s a good thing. So many people follow the hot trend now a days, well guess what, they moved on from NASCAR, now you have the diehard NASCAR fans to come out and watch on TV.

However I before I end this one, the television ratings. I believe that the television ratings are down because more NASCAR fans either are finding new ways to watch and follow the races and/or they just don’t like the television broadcasts on FOX, TNT and ESPN. ESPN is the worst of all three from what fans say.

Bottom line, one, NASCAR isn’t dead or over, it’s simply changing. Two, the economy plays a huge role in just about everything and that includes NASCAR in many ways. And finally, to compare Tiger Woods and the Master’s is like comparing night to day. But one question, to the commenter, are you a NASCAR fans or where you? Your answer will explain some of it.