Tuesday, February 10, 2009

NASCAR reaches out to Hispanic audience

Engage Hispanic race fans through speed, success, community
Sports Business Journal February 09, 2009

Hispanics have long been NASCAR’s final frontier. While the sport has gone boldly beyond its Southern roots to become a major force nationally, Hispanics have not learned to love the sport at the same pace.

That’s a huge untapped opportunity. Hispanics are America’s fastest-growing demographic (accounting for 50 percent of population growth in the U.S. since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau), and it would be naïve to assume they’re just like other NASCAR fans.

While NASCAR in the past has done several research studies related to Hispanic fans, there hasn’t been a recent comprehensive, in-depth survey of Hispanic NASCAR fans available to anyone seeking such information.

To fill this gap, rEvolution and Knowledge Networks recently conducted such a multisubscriber survey using KnowledgePanel Latino, with NASCAR itself being a charter buyer.

KnowledgePanel Latino is the first and only online research panel to capture a statistically balanced sample of the Hispanic population. That is, one that includes that part of the Hispanic population that does not have Internet access and is predominantly Spanish-speaking at home, as well as those Hispanics who speak English at home and have Internet access.

As a result, the new study is a must-read for the sport’s stakeholders.

Here are five of the key findings from the report that will help you reach Hispanic NASCAR fans.

1. Your opportunity isn’t to create Hispanic fans; it’s to engage them.

The proportion of Hispanics who are NASCAR fans in the broadest terms (even a little bit interested) is 38 percent — only four points less than the number of NASCAR fans among the U.S. population as a whole. The challenge is that the number of avid NASCAR fans among Hispanics is only a quarter of that of Americans as a whole.

Fully two-thirds of Hispanic fans are only “a little bit” interested in the sport, so getting them more engaged is critical. This task is complicated by the very different demographics of avid and casual Hispanic fans.

2. Speed thrills.

Use speed as the main way to engage those fans. One of the most important reasons Hispanic fans said that they gravitated to the sport was speed. So, whenever you promote the sport to a Hispanic audience that factor should be part of your focus.

The more you can show just how blindingly quick those cars are, the better. Of course, speed shouldn’t be the only message, and the report found several other tactics to engage Hispanic fans that are fairly unique to this demographic.

3. Hispanic NASCAR fans are just as loyal to sponsors as other NASCAR fans.

Because of this, they’re well worth the effort to target. While we typically find that “fan avidity” is the top driver of sponsor loyalty, these less-engaged Hispanic fans are just as likely to say that a NASCAR sponsorship makes them more likely to buy a sponsor’s products as are fans overall.

That is because (as our work in other sports shows) Hispanic fans have a higher-than-average emotional attachment to sponsors and a greater-than-average desire to reward them with their business.

4. Hispanic drivers can be an answer, but only if they win.
Driver Juan Pablo Montoya has a following among
Hispanic fans who have tracked his success
at Indy and Formula One to NASCAR.

Since they’re so much less engaged with the sport, most Hispanic fans don’t even have a favorite driver — unlike NASCAR fans as a whole.

Those few Hispanics who do have a favorite driver gravitate to winners and, in contrast to NASCAR fans nationally, they don’t pay nearly as much attention to personality.

Juan Pablo Montoya is seen as winner in motorsports by Hispanic fans, many of whom followed him from Indy and Formula One to NASCAR. His bad boy image nationally doesn’t matter to these fans.

5. You need to socialize the sport within the Hispanic community.

The NASCAR family has been one of the sport’s biggest assets. Many NASCAR fans nationally are drawn to the sport by a friend or family member, and many cite “feeling part of the NASCAR family” as a key thing they like about the sport.

Hispanic fans relate to NASCAR in a more isolated way — by themselves, through TV at home or through video games, for example — and don’t feel this sense of community to the same extent.

They’re more a collection of lone wolves than a pack. The more you can do to socialize the NASCAR experience (by having, for example, NASCAR race-viewing parties at Hispanic bars), the more likely you are to be able to engage Hispanic fans.

Darren Marshall (dmarshall@revolutionworld.com) is senior vice president at sports marketing agency rEvolution. David C. Tice (dtice@knowledgenetworks.com) is vice president of client service at Knowledge Networks.

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