LOS ANGELES, Calif. (April 21, 2014)- Continuing their pursuit of new markets and embracing the digital age with a millennial audience, World Stage Racing’s recent visit to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway provided a unique opportunity for a select series of students from the University of Southern California (USC). With World Stage holding a long-standing relationship with USC’s Marshall School of Business, a graduate program dedicated to entrepreneurship and innovation in a rapidly changing business environment, a unique opportunity with NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program allowed the group to take a rare look behind the scenes of the nation’s most popular form of motorsport.
“We pride ourselves on inviting unique and fresh perspectives to the sport,” stated World Stage Racing’s Darryl Wong. “USC’s Marshall School of Business, particularly the Marshall Sports Business Institute, is renowned for its fresh thinking and ability to cultivate some of the most innovative minds in the sports business world. It was great to see so much enthusiasm among our group, especially from a circle who are fairly new to the sport. We can’t thank everyone at NASCAR and the Driver for Diversity program enough for their willingness to open their doors to us, they provided a level of access and insight that was refreshing for our team.”
With World Stage Racing specializing in the target-rich millennial demographic, with an emphasis on minorities, the team brought over a small group of students looking to see how NASCAR embraces the young minority and the resulting effect.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Vodafone McLaren Mercedes (formerly).
…and now, the Verizon IndyCar Series.
With the recent announcement of Verizon replacing IZOD as the title sponsor of the IndyCar series, the racing world was presented with a very positive note about IndyCar, and racing as a whole.
Verizon, long-time partnered with the Roger Penske family of companies, has been a slow but growing partner in the world of motorsports. Partnered with Roger Penske in 2009, Verizon’s trademark black with red streaks adorned the side of not only Penske’s prototype entry in the Rolex Sports Car Series, but also a part-time entry with the team’s third IndyCar entry as well as NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Over the next four years, starting in 2010, the on-track success of IndyCar driver Will Power pushed Verizon and Penske to focus their efforts on a full-season effort with the Australian driver, earning countless victories en route to three consecutive runner-up finishes, narrowly missing out on the driver’s title on every occasion.
When Williams F1, a once-heralded dynasty of the Formula One circuit, recently revealed their Martini livery (and rebranded name to Williams Martini F1), thoughts among racing historians immediately regressed to the glory days of the 1970’s and 1980’s. As Formula One gained popularity on the worldwide stage, the iconic blue, white, and red stripes of the gin/vermouth liquor became a signature part of the sport, only to slowly fade as the expense and nature of the sport transitioned during the late ‘80’s to present day.
Where this is especially poignant in the business landscape of modern motorsport, is it’s the first time in quite a while that we’ve seen a proper retail brand align themselves with a race team in the interest of branding and exposure, with no equity stake in the team (that we know of).
The brand alignment of Martini & Rossi, an elegant, Italian brand, with the sophisticated and world-renowned sport of Formula One is an obvious fit. Yet in an advertising culture that only continues to grow a wider gap against the operating costs of motorsport, it’s becoming more and more rare to see.
Ford. Red Bull. Oakley. GoPro. Geico. Lucas Oil. Monster Energy Drink.
To see any of these brands associated with motorsports is no surprise. All are brands that emphasize the lifestyle that the sport brings: speed, adrenaline, precision…and of course making sure you’re insured.
To a large extent, you also see these brands cross-pollinate in different forms of motorsport: some in NASCAR, others in Formula One, while others can be seen at the local short tracks or branded among drivers around the world.
One sport, however, collects all of these venerable brands under one roof, and has successfully managed to do this for years: the AMA Monster Energy Supercross Championship.
Even though World Stage Racing is a business that emphasizes four wheel motorsports, there are a lot of lessons to be learned on why Supercross works for so many companies:
With a new era of turbocharged Formula 1 engines emerging in 2014, several goings on in the world of NASCAR and IndyCar, and perhaps most significantly, a historic new beginning for sportscar racing in North America, the business of motorsports looks to undergo a significant transformation.
Here are 10 things to look for:
10. NBC Sports Commitment: In recent years NBC Sports Network has made a significant commitment to open wheel racing in the U.S. Continuing a relationship with IndyCar that began with Versus (which became NBC SN), and extending to Formula One in 2013. However, what 2013 proved for many pundits is that whether on NBC, Fox (formerly SPEED), or beyond, the American open wheel audience seems to generate the same numbers. The ratings have been nearly identical from one network to the next, with limited growth. Will 2014 show any progress or simply generate the same numbers? This is a key question for the future of open wheel.
9. Will a Multimedia Package Ever Show Real Fruit: Every racing series has, at different times, tried varying level of streaming and multimedia packages to accompany (or simply provide) a live feed of the race. So far, we have yet to see much materialize that would prove it to be a profitable venture. The question becomes, is there simply no audience beyond television, or not a large enough one to merit the effort and expense? With a more digital and web savvy audience emerging every year, we’ll see if 2014 proves any different.
If there’s an interesting issue in the modern era of GT-style motorsports, it’s the inevitable challenge of running “manufacturer” versus “customer” driven racing teams and cars. While nothing new, and while most fans of sportscar are familiar with the differences, the business philosophy behind an automotive marque’s involvement may not be as obvious to the casual fan.
First off, let’s identify the obvious: manufacturer versus customer driven teams. Most already know this, but a manufacturer, usually known as a “factory” team, is typically an entirely professional, spare-no-expense type of effort. Millions of dollars poured in to research and development, top-level engineering and mechanical support, topped off with the best available drivers. In the modern GT scene, a perfect example would be the Corvette C6.R program. Pratt & Miller Engineering, long known as the motorsport engineering arm of General Motors, performs the majority of R&D behind the effort. You will only find two of these vehicles in North American racing, competing in next year’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship with a strong roster of professional drivers.
Customer driven teams, however, are driven by private money with much looser ties to the vehicle they compete with. The most famous example is Porsche. The majority of Porsche teams in professional GT racing: Alex Job Racing, Magnus Racing, NGT, Park Place, receive little to no financial support from Porsche, in fact it’s the opposite. In the case of all these teams, they literally purchase their race vehicles, as well as majority of spares, from Porsche. The team’s have to provide the majority of their own mechanical and engineering personnel, and the funding for all of this typically comes from an enthusiast team owner, or a driver who provides funding (or in many cases both).