Their livelihood depended on the ability to outrun and outmaneuver federal tax agents and local law enforcement. Reputations were built on who was the best at doing that. It was the Prohibition years, moonshine was their product and cars were their delivery vehicles. Not surprisingly, this led to races between the ‘runners’ seeking the unofficial title of fastest and the bragging rights that came along with that.
Fast forward to the 1940’s – Prohibition was long over but the passion for racing stock cars continued – growing in popularity – on both the East and West coasts. Daytona Beach had been a hotbed for setting speed records since the early 1900’s. In 1947, a meeting across the street from that stretch of beach launched an organization committed to bringing order to the chaos of stock car racing.
What would happen as the result of that organization was beyond the wildest imagination of anyone in that meeting – including the man who had the vision to create the association, Bill France, Sr. The formation of that association has evolved into the second largest spectator sport in the U.S. with 75 million annual television viewers. Drivers are now part of a team – the top nine of which are valued at about $140 million with the highest estimated to be worth $348 million. Those cars hoods now command as much as $750,000 for a single sponsor’s logo – per race. The fans are truly fanatic as evidenced not just by race attendance numbers and TV viewership – but by the over $1.5 billion dollars in annual licensed merchandise sales.
These amazing numbers do not make this brand fearless – this phenomenal success is achieved because NASCAR is a fearless brand. What makes NASCAR a fearless brand? They remain relevant because they c0nstantly improve their competencies and have never passion for their sport.
Fearless Brands’ passions drive a powerful emotional connection with those they serve.
Owners, drivers, crew, track personnel – everyone involved with NASCAR is passionate about racing. Many companies, sports leagues and other entities are passionate about their craft – so this is nothing exclusive to NASCAR. What does differentiate NASCAR is how everyone relates to the fans. There is a shared love for stock car racing – the stars are approachable and down to earth – there is no pretense. This makes NASCAR seem almost like family to the fans.
The love that fans have for NASCAR is evidenced by the numbers of people involved and the dollars they spend. These fans are fiercely loyal to their favorite driver(s) and teams and importantly, that loyalty extends to the sponsors.
NASCAR is considered by many to be a regional phenomenon – appealing almost exclusively to white Southerners. In reality, NASCAR has become a national attraction – last week’s race was in Phoenix and this weekend the race is in Las Vegas. Minorities make up over 20% of the fan base with females accounting for 40%. NASCAR is in 39 states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. There have been exhibition races in Japan and Australia and international viewership is estimated at 150 million people.
Former Washington Redskins Super Bowl winning head coach – Joe Gibbs – is now a successful NASCAR team owner. Brad Dougherty, a seven foot tall African-American basketball star is an analyst and owner of the JTG Dougherty race team. Star rapper “50 Cent” is a team owner having been smitten at the 2013 running of the Daytona 500. Richard Childress sold popcorn at Bowman-Gray Stadium in North Carolina to raise the $25 cost of his first car – he is now one of the most successful owners in NASCAR history.
The point of all of this is quite simple actually. While the NASCAR brand is genuine, authentic and relatable to a widely diverse cross section of people – its real key to success is the ability to extend and share the passion that drives the sport (pun intended :)). NASCAR has established an emotional connection with its fan base that should be the envy of brands everywhere.
What should you take from this? How do you make this success story work for you as you build your fearless brand? Start by being authentic. Make certain that your competencies match your brand promise. Let your passion show – passion is contagious. People that value your brand will relish that passion and it create an emotional connection which will lead to an army of loyal fans.