By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
So far in the 2010 NASCAR season drivers have taken the gloves off. NASCAR has overhauled the rule book thus allowing the drivers to police themselves. What we have seen as a result is incredible, yet unpredictable racing week in and week out.
We now have the long awaited rivalries and emotion that the fans have craved for years… yet the ratings and attendance remain as droopy as Marcos Ambrose after the Montreal Nationwide race every season.
It just doesn’t make any sense at all. The product on the track is great, so that should be all we need to put butts in the seats right? Negative.
Monday NASCAR made a huge announcement that will in my opinion make more of an impact on ticket sales and ratings than ‘boys have at it’ ever could.
Following a review of the communication and public relations activity throughout the sport, NASCAR released a press release detailing a an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) department, that as Brian France explains will “Change the way we do business.”
According to the press release, the new communications structure will allow NASCAR to be even more effective on the competition aspects of the sport, an area where NASCAR was regularly cited in the review as being among the best when compared to other major league sports by media in all genres. It also positions the sanctioning body to take a much more strategic and offensive approach to selling the sport in a constantly-evolving traditional, digital and social media landscape.
This move will reportedly add approximately 20 positions to the NASCAR Public Relations team.
The new IMC will be headed by a CCO, to be named at another time. The CCO will report directly to NASCAR’s chief marketing officer, Steve Phelps, who was instrumental in the review of the communications department.
The company in charge of the CCO search is Korn/Ferry International.
Two staff moves have been announced already. Current Vice President of Corporate Communications will move to significant role in NASCAR’s evolution. Hunter will spearhead the movement from a newly created position as Vice President of Special Projects.
Meanwhile the current Managing Director of Corporate Communications Ramsey Poston has declined an offer to take a new position inside this drastic overhaul. Poston will finish out the year with the company, and then take a role as an outside consultant for the sanctioning body.
“As the communications review accurately revealed, Jim and Ramsey have done a fantastic job of moving the competition aspects of our operation to an elite level,” said Phelps. “The strong foundation they’ve built has positioned NASCAR to expand this operation to meet the needs of the future and we are confident their combined experience, expertise and passion for NASCAR will be strong assets in that process.”
Now this announcement isn’t nearly as sexy as the ‘boys have at it’ rule changes, just for the simple fact that fans in general wont really see much of a change. However this is something team owners have urged the sport to do for years. Not to mention this new team should be very effective in captivating the casual fan, which in turn will help keep the sport on the cutting edge in this marketing savvy world.
As we know the hardcore fans are the ones who have stuck through the inception of the COT, and now the back to the roots revival of the past year. Now it is time for NASCAR to re-open it’s door to the casual fan, and that all starts with social media and branding.