With the announcement of Monster Energy Drink’s title sponsorship of NASCAR’s premier category, now re-named the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup, a new era has dawned for the series. Perhaps most significantly, in an era of stagnant or declining ratings, at-track attendance struggles, and the continued fight to grab the attention of a digitally engaged, millennial generation, it’s an interesting time for the sport. Here are the key storylines to take away.
Lower Asking Price. With Sprint knowingly leaving NASCAR for an extended period of time, it’s been curious to see the announcement of Monster as the new title sponsor relatively late. The announcement was made in December, indicating a very late closing of the deal, and late start to the series’ re-branding efforts. It’s widely rumored the delay came in the asking price, with NASCAR estimating a nine-figure buy-in, however the Monster deal allegedly came at the low end of eight figures. Is this a sign of an increasingly declining value? It’s tough to argue against.
Reacting to Youth, and the Current Fanbase. Monster, and the energy drink business in general, is largely considered a youth market. NASCAR, on the other hand, has struggled to find the younger generation, as has been reported on repeated occasions. By that rationale, the partnership with a youth-oriented brand is a logical fit, and it’s expected the series will continue to make changes to adjust to this. However, with the “old guard” of NASCAR often resistant to change, how will these changes be perceived as positive towards a new generation vs. abandoning the core fanbase?
Not a Mainstream Brand. Monster Energy is a very successful company, but among more conservative Fortune500 companies, the brand is much more aggressive toward engaging a very targeted market. This includes several niche branding efforts, everything from more aggressive social media and branding attitudes, all the way to controversial items like more provocative trackside models and beyond. Is NASCAR prepared for this step away from a more politically correct culture?
Race Formats, and Will it Help. The first major initiative with the new partnership has already come in the form of the race format. With the races running notoriously long, the series has initiated a new series of mid-race points to attract more interesting storylines and competition throughout the race. The goal is to keep the races more interesting, but again this comes at the expense of abandoning the traditional fan base, and similarly makes the racing even more complicated. Will this help the product? Will this bring a larger television audience? Increased attendance? Time will tell.
It’s an interesting direction for the sport and one the series may not have anticipated. 2017 will tell us a lot about the health of the sport.