Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shorten the races? The race length isn't the problem, it is the SHOW!!!!

Ok, so big changes to the points, see previous post to know how I feel about that. Still not enough emphasis on winning. I do like the changes made to qualifying.

What I would like to address today is television coverage and race/season length. Fox Sports Media Group Chair David Hill, along with Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. among others have stated their desire to see race length and season length shortened.

Not suprisingly, I am not a fan of this propostion. I believe that if things are done properly races and the season do not need to be shortened. Is it true that people may have short attention spans? Sure, when what they are doing is boring! If the racing is exciting, people are going to watch. Provided that they actually get the opportunity to see it. Why are tv ratings down? It is a pretty simple answer actually. It is because half of the event isn't actually occuring in front of our eyes. There are simply way too many commercials, and if the network hasn't broken away for commercial, they are busy showing me a pit reporter or the people in the booth or Tim Brewer/Jeff Hammond with the cutaway car showing me how tape works to fix a broken nose piece on the car. Go back and watch tape from the 90's race coverage. You'll see cars on the track and you'll hear the announcers voice, rarely will you see them. Never do you see the camera's pan away from coverage for a 'race break' with an obscure duck or gopher animation dominating your attention. The broadcast has become the show and the race is only a part of it. How sad, becuase it is the race that we are tuning in to see. So lets cut down on the side shows, and show more racing.

As for the amount of commercials during a race, David Hill has stated that the sponsers have spoken, and they do not want to do side by side commercial and race similar to what Versus is doing for their Indy car coverage. I say if the sales department at Versus can sell the sponsers on it, so can Fox/TNT/ESPN. Tell them this is what we are offering, becuase it is what the fans want. If the fans want it, we are going to give it to them. Why? Because if fans don't like what they are seeing, fans won't tune in. If fans aren't tuning in, then ratings are dropping. If ratings are dropping, then fewer people are seeing the traditional commercials which is causing a drop in brand exposure. If a brand would like more exposure, they have the opportunity to be sponsers of the sport, the cars, and the track. Sell TV spot sponsership. Instead of a commercial, sell segments of the race with the company logo featured on the screen during the broadcast. 'This 20 lap segment brought to you by _____________' from the announcers. The sponsers can only buy what you are selling, be a little creative. You still have the opportunity to go to commercial when the caution flies.

So why are tv ratings down? It is because the racing isn't compelling until the last 100 laps of the race. So some people are saying, lets shorten the length then. I say NO. The races currently aren't about battling each and every lap for the lead or to improve your position. The races are about taking care of your equipment, playing strategy, trying to put yourself in the best position at the end of the day to maximize points. This shouldn't be what racing is about. It should be about compete and desire and rubbing being racing, for all laps of the race. It shouldn't be about guys riding around, taking care of their stuff until its 'time to go'. Go from the start! How do you accomplish this? Give bonus points for leading at different intervals of the race. If you're leading at the 20%, 40%, 50%, 60%, & 80% laps complete point of the race, you get 5 bonus points. You can bet with that amount of points on the line, running at or near the front throughout the race is going to become a lot more important to a lot more people! So no, the races don't need to be shorter to keep my attention. They need to be exciting.

So I can see why people are saying the races are too long, if you told me that you were going to sit me down and show me an event for 4 or 5 hours, and the cars are going 200 mph, beating fenders and constantly battling for the lead, driving on the edge each and every lap of course I'm going to watch that. But if I sit down to see that, and what I see instead is 200 of 400 miles of follow the leader racing, with the other 200 miles dominated by commercials and talking heads and cut away cars and cartoon animation and then only see 75 mile of the final 100 that are actually exciting. I'm pretty sure that I would think that the races are too long and the season is too long and I would also only tune in for the last 100 miles. Fix the product and you bring back the fans.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Trying to appeal to 18 - 34 year old males? Start YOUNG!!!

In browsing through various articles in regards to NASCAR this month I have found a consistent theme. It seems that there is a serious shortage of fans in the 18-34 year old male demographic. NASCAR is focused on trying to appeal to this demographic. I read one article that stated the 200'x80' giant TV they were having installed at Charlotte Motor Speedway was in effort to appeal to that demographic. Fair enough, I'm sure a 200' TV screen is quite the spectacle, but if I'm not impressed enough by cars racing at 200mph to come out to the track to see the event live, I'm not sure that a 200' screen is going to seal the deal. Beyond the TV screen, I haven't heard much on strategies for appealing to this demographic. I just know that I'm part of it, and I love NASCAR. The question is why? I believe I have the answer.

 Growing up, NASCAR wasn't televised much in Canada, at least not over network TV that we had out in the country side. So the only races we got to see were the Daytona 500 & the former Pepsi 400. I remember for a number of years we always seemed to be at my Grandparents during the Daytona 500. In 1993, shortly after coming up with #3 as my favourite number using some convoluted formula that I made up using who knows what for who knows what reason. We were at my Grandparents and someone turned the race on, and on the screen was the black number 3 car leading the race, and it happened to be a Chevrolet. It was a match made in heaven and I was hooked. I could imagine racing that car, leading the race! There happened to be quite a number of spins and wrecks in that race and I found that fascinating. Now, not having cable TV and therefore, only getting to watch 2 races a year, you would think that probably isn't a good way to gain fans. But give me a little taste of what I want, and when I have the ability to get more, I'll jump in with both feet. You can imagine where I was on Sunday afternoons when I went away to college and found out the common rooms had cable TV. Yep, right there in front of that TV, each and every Sunday!

So how did I become a fan in this crucial 18 - 34 year old male demographic? I got hooked when I was 12! So how does NASCAR fix the decline in ratings among this demographic? It isn't a quick fix, it'll take a number of years but I guarantee that it works. Advertise to kids! Put NASCAR ads on all the social media that kids are using these days. Fortunately NASCAR has a video game coming out again. Get NASCAR in the face of youth, get games and apps developed. Lets get Lego & Harry Potter & Spongebob & Xbox etc advertising on the cars. If a childs favourite superhero driver were sponsered by Disney World, I'm pretty sure he'd pick up a bunch of youth in that move right there! Get the tracks to let anyone under the age of 12 get a ticket for free! They're going to spend piles of money at the concession stands anyways, you'll still get your money out of them!

Did R.J. Reynolds teach NASCAR nothing? Get 'em hooked young and you'll have 'em for life! If you want to appeal to the 18 - 34 demographic, you have to first appeal to the youth demographic. When they get to the age NASCAR is looking to appeal to, they'll still be fans!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Daytona 500 has the potential to be BRUTAL!!!

Currently teams are working on how to make the 2 car draft work without the pushing car having to get clean air due to overheating.  Currently the two car draft is 2.5 mph faster than what the pack is projected to be. So there will be cars laying back to avoid ‘the big one’ because it is so easy to catch the pack and move to the front. Stewart-Haas is actually designing one car to be the pusher and Brian Pattie from EGR figures the pushing car can go 10 laps before having to duck out for clean air. Click here for article … That + no real variation in points = follow the leader racing. Watch the last 25 laps, I’m sure they’ll be exciting…  
Personally i just really hate two cars getting together and running away from it all. I'd rather see a last lap mad dash like Jr made last year, not two cars breaking away to decide it between the two of them.

We don't need simple points system, we need one that WORKS!!!

Jamie McMurray made some interesting comments the other day regarding the importance of getting off to a good start to the season. His references to finishing position were in regards to the existing points system. To read the entire article, click here. Here are Jamie's comments:

"On our bad days, we ran 20th, which is not great. But if you finish 20th on your bad days, you still accumulate enough points to make the Chase, if you have enough good days. When you finish 30th, you just can't make up the difference. It's a deep hole.

"If you finish 30th, it literally takes a month of good races just to get even again. On our bad days, we would finish 16th to 20th, and those were days when you went home miserable."

This is before the bad days when finishing 43rd is 17.4% of the winner’s max points. Under the proposed new point system, getting 1 point for finishing 43rd now is only 2.3% of the winner’s points (43), and that’s before bonuses. Here we go, putting too high a value on consistency! If it took a month to recover from a 30th place finish in the old system, one DNF under the new points system means missing the chase. Here’s hoping your favourite driver doesn’t wreck in the Daytona 500. Can you imagine Mr. Five Time himself wrecking at Daytona and missing the chase because of it, never having a shot at the championship? Think 36 races is a long season now? Wait till you’re already practicing for next year in race #2!

What is the incentive to race for the next position if it means only gaining one point in the standings? Sure, if they put a big bonus on the win, second will try for first. But why would you risk a wreck to get to 4th from 5th and going from a 37 point day to a 14 point day? Especially if you're closing in on the chase or the championship and you've built yourself a bit of a cushion? The risk out weighs the reward! Not to mention how much more emphasis is on consistency with this system. Imagine with the new proposed system a driver winning 6 races with no bonus points also has 5 DNF's & pulls a 12.0 average finish the rest of the 'regular' season. He'd have earned approxamately 743 points under the proposed new system. Now imagine a driver finishes in 13th position in all 26 races. He'd have 806 points. Does this make sense to you?

I've put some thought into it, and came up with the following point system which I believe fairly rewards finishing higher in the standings, but does not punish a blown engine or getting caught up in someone else's wreck so severely.

1st -   100
2nd -  90
3rd -   81
4th -   73
5th -   66
6th -   60
7th -   55
8th -   51
9th -   48
10th - 46
11th - 45...
30th - 26
31st - 43rd - 25

5 Bonus points for leading at each 50 lap interval except for the final lap, i.e. 50,100,150...
5 Bonus points for leading the most laps
5 Bonus points for sitting on the pole
No cars are locked in to the top 35
Every race is impound
Fastest 43 cars qualify

With this method of scoring, it keeps competition up throughout the entire race with competitors trying to get to the front to lead at each 50 lap interval (5points) and it rewards running at the front (most laps 5 points) & it rewards improving your position (points pay more and more per position the closer you get to the lead) & it ensures that the best race cars make the race (Impound & fastest 43).
Max points with this system is 155 - (500 laps @ Bristol = 9 x 50 lap intervals @ 5 points each + 5 for the most laps and 5 for the pole) Finishing 31 - 43rd pays 25 points which is 16.1% of the winners points, with no incentive to return a wrecked car to the race track.

I believe if NASCAR is going to mess with the points system, this is the way to do it. What has been proposed will only go back to having someone win the championship with 1 win ala Matt Kenseth 2002. It is important to be consistent, but it's also important to go for the win each and every week. The 43 - 1 points system is not the way to make that happen!