NASCAR needs to find ways to once again gain fan interest

NASCAR needs to find ways to once again gain fan interest
Image Credit: Joe Loong

Once upon a time (about 10 years ago) the American racing system called NASCAR was at the top of its popularity. There were movies made about it, and fans tuned in to watch every race on television. However, those days are now long over. The television audience for NASCAR races is down by 45% in the past 5 years. At the racetracks where the NASCAR races are run, the owners have removed roughly 25% of their seating and yet there are still empty seats at each event. Clearly something has gone wrong here and it’s going to be up to the NASCAR product managers to change their product development definition and discover what is wrong and find a fix for it.

Where Did The Fans Go?

A NASCAR race consists of a group of cars racing around a circular track for a set amount of distance. The excitement for the fans comes from who is in the lead and from any accidents that occur during the race. However, in the past few years fewer and fewer fans have been showing up to view the races. What’s going on here? It turns out that NASCAR has been hit by two big changes to their customer base.

The first of these changes is the simple fact that NASCAR fans are getting older. The people who come to NASCAR races are mostly working-class and white. As these fans become older, the prospect of taking 2, 3, or 4 days to travel to a see a race starts to become too much of an effort. At the same time, the recent recession hit this demographic harder than the fans for many other sports. This drop off in fans is not going to look good on anyone’s product manager resume. There is no simple cure for this challenge that NASCAR is currently facing.

There are more issues that NASCAR has to deal with here. The fans of NASCAR are more and more consuming content on their mobile devices instead of coming out to see live races. Fans have less free time these days and so it becomes harder for them to justify purchasing a ticket. The sport itself is suffering because there are currently no major stars – lots of good drivers, just no standout stars.

What Can Be Done To Save NASCAR?

Saving NASCAR is not going to be an easy task for the NASCAR product managers. What they are going to have to do is to find ways to once again fill the stands at the racetracks and get people to watch the races on TV. One step that they have taken is to try to move NASCAR out of its traditional home in the American South and get new fans in other parts of the county. To accomplish this, the product managers have opened NASCAR offices in both Los Angles and New York.

Another step that has been taken has to do with where races are being run. NASCAR has opened new tracks outside of the South in order to attract more fans to the sport. Two new tracks have been built: one in Kansas City, Kan. and one in Joliet, Ill. The product managers have made changes to NASCAR’s schedule to shift more of their races away from their traditional homes to the new race tracks. As you might well imagine, this has not always gone over well with existing NASCAR fans.

NASCAR has a very lucrative relationship with television. What this means is that the product managers have to create their race schedule in a way that will allow the sport to attract the largest number of television viewers. 65% of the revenue from television broadcasts goes to the track that is hosting the race, 25% goes to the racing teams, and 10% goes to NASCAR. The television broadcasters are interested in moving some of the races which currently happen on the weekends to now occur during the middle of the week. This could eliminate competition with NFL games which also happen over the weekend. A mid-week race could boost television viewership, but it could also hurt fan attendance at the actual race.

What All Of This Means For You

NASCAR has a long history of being a very popular sport in the U.S.A. In the past, all of the seats were filled at a race and movies were being made about the sport. However, that was then and this is now. Television ratings have been falling and fewer and fewer people are showing up in person to watch the races. None of this is dealt with in our product manager job description.What are NASCAR’s product managers going to do?

NASCAR is suffering because it has been losing fans. There are a number of different reasons for this. The first is the simple fact that NASCAR’s fan base which is middle-class white people is getting older and can’t attend races as easily as they once did. Additionally, the recent recession has hit this demographic very hard. People’s use of cell phone and lack of free time are not helping things either. NASCAR’s product managers are going to need to take steps to fix these problems. They’ve opened offices in Los Angles and New York and built new tracks in Kansas and Illinois. Races have been shifted to the new tracks despite opposition from long-time fans. In order to meet the needs of television, NASCAR is even considering holding some races in the middle of the week.

NASCAR has to change simply because their fans are changing. The NASCAR product managers are going to have to take steps to retain the fans that they already have and find ways to attract new fans to the sport. The good news is that all of these things can be done. The challenge will be accomplishing them before the race is over for NASCAR.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: If fans can’t make it to mid-week races, do you think that NASCAR should hold any races not on the weekends?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it, Amazon is a very large company. Once you get to be that big, you’ve got a significant problem on your hands. Your investors expect you to keep growing, but you are already so large that it can be difficult to do. The product managers over at Amazon think that they’ve come up with a clever way to change their product development definition that will allow the company to grow in a new direction: groceries.

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Product managers need to find out how to get young people to ride motorcycles

Product managers need to find out how to get young people to ride motorcycles
Image Credit: Jokamies .fi

How do you get to work every day? If you are like most of us, you jump into a car and drive there. However, there are some people, product managers among them, who instead jump on their motorcycles and drive them to work. Over at the Polaris company, their product managers would like more of us to get around on motorcycles. However, what they are discovering is that more and more young people are not viewing motorcycles as their preferred means of transportation. Clearly these product managers now have a challenge on their hands and will have to change their product development definition. How can they convince the next generation that riding a motorcycle is what they want to do?

Saying Goodbye To The Victory Line

The Polaris company makes a number of different products. They make snowmobiles, all terrain vehicles, and now motorcycles. They got into the motorcycle business by buying the Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing brand from a private equity firm back in 2011 and then launched the Indian line of motorcycles two years later. The Polaris product managers created motorcycles that relied on the Indian motorcycle’s heritage of being driven by racers and barnstormers. The bikes created by Polaris were large, powerful bikes that had fender skirts, and an Indian-head shaped running light, and whitewalls.

Just having one line of motorcycles was not enough for the Polaris product managers. The first line that they developed was the Victory line which was then followed by the Indian line. The Victory motorcycles were mid-sized bikes with mid-sized prices. Having two lines of products is something that you can put on your product manager resume. The introduction of the Indian brand caused the Victory brand to start to shrink. However, sales of motorcycles fell by 2.7% in 2016 and this caused hard times for the company. The product managers took a tough look at where their money was coming from and decided to drop the money-losing Victory line of motorcycles. Going forward they intend on focusing exclusively on the Indian line.

Where the Polaris product managers are really going to be facing a challenge going forward is in the area of attracting younger riders. The Victory brand had attracted a sizable younger audience. This is going to become more and more important to Polaris as the baby boomer market continues to age and stops buying motorcycles. The challenge that the product managers are going to be facing is how to convert their younger Victory buyers into Indian buyers. If they don’t do a good job of this, they run the real risk of losing these customers to Harley-Davidson.

The Challenge Is To Get Younger Riders

The dropping of the Victory line opens the door to both Polaris and Harley-Davidson product managers to try to scoop up younger riders who are shopping for a motorcycle. Currently, the largest Indian models sell for roughly US$30,000. However, the bestselling bike in the line is the smaller Scout model which sells for $8,999. This is the kind of bike that most appeals to younger riders who live in urban areas.

The type of customer that the Polaris product managers are looking for is an early 30’s type of customer who both wants to start riding a motorcycle and who has some disposable income to spend on a new bike. Polaris makes a number of different products and motorcycles make up about 15% of the company’s total revenue. What the Polaris product managers now have to do is to find a way to pull the Victory sales into the Indian brand in order to make sure that they can keep the production volume up while at the same time making up for the smaller amount of money the company makes when they sell the popular cheaper Scout models.

Polaris has a significant rival in Harley-Davidson. Currently Polaris owns roughly 6% of the motorcycle market in the U.S. Harley-Davidson owns 50% of that same market. Harley is experiencing the same market downturn as Polaris and they have started to introduce some new mid-sized models that sell for less than $8,000. Harley is facing the same problems that the Polaris product managers are – its core group of customers are aging. Polaris’s plan for capturing younger riders is to introduce more Indian models this year. The goal is to aim these models at Victory customers and younger riders.

What All Of This Means For You

The world of motorcycles used to be pretty simple. The company that could make the biggest, fastest motorcycle would win. Harley-Davidson and Polaris were duking it out trying to build bigger and more expensive bikes to meet the needs of their customers. However, then things started to change. Those customers started to get older and stopped buying motorcycles. This created a new set of challenges for the Polaris product managers that wasn’t covered in their product manager job description.

The Polaris company had entered the motorcycle business by creating the Victory line. This was followed by the Indian line. The Victory motorcycles were mid-ranged, mid-priced models that were never profitable. The company has recently decided to kill off the Victory line and focus exclusively on the Indian line of motorcycles. The Victory line had attracted younger riders. Now the Polaris product managers are going to have to find a way to get those buyers to purchase Indian motorcycles. Harley-Davidson owns 50% of the motorcycle market, but they are experiencing the same drop in sales as their customers start to become older. Polaris plans on trying to recapture the younger rider market by introducing new Indian bikes that will appeal to the former Victory customers.

Product managers who are competing in a market with a changing customer base have a real challenge on their hands. The Polaris product managers have to discover a way to make their products appeal to a new generation of motorcycle rider. At the same time, they need to make sure that they don’t lose customers to Harley-Davidson. Their plan to introduce new models may allow them to be successful. We’re going to have to watch and see how this all works out!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think getting a young spokesperson for the Indian brand of motorcycles would help to attact younger riders?

Click here to get automatic updates when
The Accidental Product Manager Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Once upon a time (about 10 years ago) the American racing system called NASCAR was at the top of its popularity. There were movies made about it, and fans tuned in to watch every race on television. However, those days are now long over. The television audience for NASCAR races is down by 45% in the past 5 years. At the racetracks where the NASCAR races are run, the owners have removed roughly 25% of their seating and yet there are still empty seats at each event. Clearly something has gone wrong here and it’s going to be up to the NASCAR product managers to change their product development definition and discover what is wrong and find a fix for it.

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