Product Managers Attempt To Get NASCAR Back On Track

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.