Last week, I had a chance to attend the 50th running of the Daytona 500. No…I am not a “car guy” nor was I a previous “NASCAR fan”. I’m just a guy knocking off my list of 101 things all sports fan must experience. Daytona happened to be on this list this year.
I have to say the race was truly a memorable experience (for many reasons) and now I can say (to much chagrin) I am a NASCAR fan. Being a sick and distorted person, of course, I always like to take unique experiences and relate them to what I do for a living. So here are my views of NASCAR, the Daytona 500 as it relates to talent management…
- Success is team-oriented and continuity-based. Jimmy Johnson, last year’s Sprint Cup champion, credits his success to have the same engine-tuner and crew chief in place since he came into NASCAR in 2002. The lack of continuity can be detrimental as we’ve seen with Dale Earnhardt Jr. over the past few years and his struggles (multiple crew chiefs and team changes). Additionally, since NASCAR puts many restrictions on the cars (both for safety and entertainment purposes) team racing is more important than ever. This means drafting, pushing, sharing information, etc. As we saw in the race last Sunday, pushing from a teammate is what won the race.
- NASCAR is an amazing recruiting platform. The military is heavily investing in NASCAR as their key recruiting platform. The US Army, Navy and National Guard have all sponsored cars on either the Sprint or Nationwide Series. The National Guard (in a split sponsorship with Amp Energy Drink) has invested over $25 million annually to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr. What is amazing about the sponsorship (and all sponsorships for that matter) is that every “Junior” fan is a walking billboard for the National Guard.
- NASCAR’s success is centered on the customer experience. NASCAR has done a masterful job at perfecting the user experience. It is a complete experience including viewable garages, accessible superstars, the ability to touch and feel the cars, and a cool device called FanView.
- The entire sport is built around passion…and passion sells. From the drivers to the pit crews to the announcers to the fans. Passion resides throughout the sports and it is impossible not to embrace the passion at a live event.
A few other news and notes…
- Dale Earnhardt Jr is far-and-away the most popular driver on the circuit. By some estimates, roughly a third of NASCAR fans, consider him “their driver”. His popularity is due in part from his father’s reputation and legacy and in part due to his southern roots. Next in the popularity line is Tony Stewart and Jimmy Johnson respectively.
- For those that don’t know the popularity of NASCAR, it has become the most watched spectator sport in America.
- TV does not do justice to the speedway. The cars are incredibly loud, the track has a thunderous sound, and the banks around the turns are mountainous. We had a chance to walk the pits (littered with rubber) and touch the finish line after the race. Amazing stuff.