It's a given that week after week the television ratings for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races continue to sag. Given the arguments about the economy with less people investing in cable and satellite television, opinions that the radio announcing team is better than certain television networks and the presentation of television coverage (with all the commercials) taking a hit; let's set those aside and look at a couple other factors that I feel are making a major impact.
I do not like comparing NASCAR to other professional sports, but for the television aspect it must be viewed this way. NASCAR, much like all professional sports, has several teams/drivers/players a fan can pick from and some have a greater fan base over others. For instance, in Major League Baseball how many times do you hear the phrase: this outcome "will reduce the TV ratings" whenever mainstream teams such as the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox or Braves fail to make the World Series? The answer to that question brings us to NASCAR. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been by far the Most Popular Driver over more than half of the last decade. With millions of fans, his continuous fading away from a chance at wins and championships over recent years has to be impacting the sport in a negative way, as many slowly turn their backs and lose interest.
I think while the culture of individualizing sports players/drivers into big stars through fan bases, contracts and endorsement deals has definitely made professional sports what they are today, it is no doubt killing them at the same time. Some members of these fan bases focus on their one particular team and could care less about the rest of them, and when their team is out of the running they change the channel to find other entertainment. Whatever happened to people watching sports for the sheer enjoyment of it? Less and less people seem to be interested in the underdog story anymore. Society has pushed this selfishness onto many of us, leaving us saying "if my team's not winning, then it doesn't matter!" Obviously, when I say many or most I'm referring to mainly the casual fans. The hardcore sports fans tend to stick with their sport through thick and thin.
The one exception appears to be the NFL, which continues to thrive in the ratings category. Just think that no matter who is playing, millions of people look forward to the Super Bowl each year. To add to it, gatherings occur throughout the season for Monday night, Sunday night football, etc. no matter what teams are in the limelight (of course I am aware in areas around the major cities there normally is a spike in interest). NASCAR has some elements similar to it, but in addition to the tracks' promotions I think NASCAR and the television networks need to strive a little more to make each of their races their own major event. More needs to be done than the posts on NASCAR.com's homepage or the 15 second commercial that airs. Some random person off the street will most likely be familiar with the Daytona 500 or Brickyard 400, but would they know what the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 in Loudon is unless they live in the New England area? Trying to think from the casual fan's mindset, it just seems like some of these races are just another weekend at some track that looks different from the last one they were at. How is that supposed to convince more people to watch?
NASCAR should take some aspects from the marketing efforts of the NFL, or even other successes such as the Olympics or college basketball's March Madness and learn something about making themselves something absolutely unique as possible once again. Make it something that anybody that just has a glimmer of interest can't miss. I'm just tired of seeing events generalized and the officials wondering why their ratings are down every week. The answers are right in front of you. Do something about it!
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