I was recently reading about the challenges NASCAR has faced in the last ten years and it reminded me of that great philosopher, Meghan Trainor, who wrote “it’s all about the base.” When I first moved to North Carolina in the early nineties, NASCAR was the fastest-growing sport in the world. It went from a regional play to a national television contract and star drivers from other auto-racing leagues switched to the NASCAR circuit. Races were sold out and NASCAR seemed poised to capture the number two spot among US sports (the NFL was still the top dog around). NASCAR moved races from places such as North Wilkesboro and Rockingham to big cities including Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth.
Since those glory days NASCAR has run into major difficulties. Rather than continue on its growth trajectory, television ratings have plummeted to the point where many doubt the contract will be renewed by major television networks. Moreover, many races no longer sell out and on most broadcasts the empty seats are impossible to avoid.
Why NASCAR faded
Although there are many theories on why NASCAR failed to live up to the promise it showed in the 90s, it points to a problem many companies have experienced when they lose focus on their most loyal users. In NASCAR’s situation, it was the audience in the Southeast that largely built the sport, the same people who made “Duck Dynasty” the most popular television show at one point. It moved races from local venues, as described above like Rockingham, to big cities where they felt they would get exposure to a larger audience. These moves broke the bond between the people in these communities and the sport. While NASCAR aimed for the big audience, its base started to disintegrate. Now the sport no longer has its core customers (or at least does not have as strong a relationship with them) and has not added enough casual viewers in the bigger market to stem this loss, let alone grow. Also, with the base less engaged, the virality of these fans has decreased and is bringing in fewer new fans. Continue reading “It’s all about the base”