“I will prepare and some day my chance will come.”
Nascar is facing a crossroads with new television contracts in 2015, some tracks grappling with attendance challenges and a changed sports sponsorship landscape after the recession.
Phoenix International Raceway has been able to buck the attendance challenges seen at other tracks. PIR President Bryan Sperber said today the grandstands will be sold out for the Nov. 10 AdvoCare 500.
Full grandstands is an image the sport wants, said Nascar President Mike Helton. It appeals television networks and sponsors and is one of the reasons Phoenix is home to two races. Our weekly edition this week examines PIR, Phoenix’s place in the sport and some of the major sponsors based here.
New turns for GoDaddy
GoDaddy is also at a crossroads with its advertising and sports marketing.
Under eccentric founder Bob Parsons, GoDaddy put a lot of sponsorship money and advertising into auto racing. That includes sponsoring Paradise Valley driver Danica Patrick and deals with both Nascar and IndyCar Racing.
Patrick has been synonymous with the Scottsdale-based web domain firm’s brand.
But Parsons is not at the day-to-day helm at GoDaddy after it was purchased by private equity firms for $2.25 billion in 2011.
Patrick still is a big part of GoDaddy’s brand and will again be featured in the Scottsdale company’s Super Bowl ads. But GoDaddy has pulled back from an IndyCar Racing sponsorship, retreated from racy advertising favored by Parsons and is putting more emphasis on foreign markets.
That is resulting in sports advertising deals in rugby and soccer aimed at small businesses in Europe and other international markets. GoDaddy recently inked a sponsorship deal for the Rugby League World Cup. The web domain firm could also up its advertising for big international soccer tournaments including the World Cup.
GoDaddy officials did not respond to questions regarding its future sports, auto racing and Nascar sponsorship.
Sports marketing experts still see Patrick as a key part of GoDaddy marketing but say the company could shift its sports advertising gears.
“GoDaddy apparently has their eyes on growing their international business footprint, so looking at sports properties like the World Cup and rugby makes sense,” said Jim Brewer, former marketing executive for the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Coyotes.
“If they truly are aiming for international growth and a more subdued advertising approach, we may have seen the last of the extremely racy Super Bowl ads – and a racing strategy that leans more Formula One than Nascar.”
There has been past speculation Formula One — which has worldwide stops — could benefit from having Patrick and her celebrity status on its circuit.
Ray Artigue, a former Phoenix Suns executive who is now chief of executive of the Artigue Agency communications company, said having former Yahoo Inc. executive Blake Irving at the GoDaddy helm rather than Parsons could drive the company’s ad focus away from auto racing.
“It’s hard to say what their strategy is, though it appears they have a global agenda with their sponsorship of international sports properties,” said Artigue, a longtime associate of local sports mogul Jerry Colangelo. “Often entrepreneurial companies are swayed by the preference of their founder and now that Bob Parsons is gone, they may be losing interest in racing.”
Noted sports writer and National Public Radio commentator Frank Deford had a commentary last year on how younger Americans are less interested in cars — and more interested in technology gadgets — and that cultural phenomena is a challenge for Nascar and auto racing building its next generation of fans.
“As of 2012, the American love affair with the car is over,” said Deford. “Cars are so Greatest Generation.”
Nascar is trying to grab new fans. Danica Patrick said in an interview with the Phoenix Business Journal she wants to help the sport broaden its appeal beyond traditional race fans. “For me it seems as though I have a lot of female fans, especially little girls,” said Patrick. “I always try to stop and take a picture or sign an autograph. I think it is very important.” Patrick said.
Sperber also sees promise in Nascar’s efforts to attract more Hispanic fans both in the U.S. and Mexico. PIR is the only U.S. stop on Nascar’s Toyota Series in Mexico. Sperber said he volunteered for PIR to host a race in the Mexico circuit and hopes it will help grow the sport’s Latino fan base. Nascar’s Helton said the sport is considering more U.S. stops for the Mexico series and grabbing more Latino fans is a priority. “It’s a big opportunity for Nascar,” he said.
But Helton also wants to make sure the sports does not oversaturate some markets with too many races and that is a consideration as his sports eyes scheduling changes to go along with new TV deals in 2015.
Mike Sunnucks writes about politics, law, airlines, sports business and the economy.
Next Article: What drives Nascar into Phoenix
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